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Apple says its iPhone 3G S is "ready for business", however one leading hacker calls it "useless" for business users, thanks to its woefully poor encryption and security. He says the phones pose a serious threat to companies adopting them. Still, some companies say it's worth the risk.  (Source: The iPhone Blog)
The iPhone yet again experiencing criticism over poor security

Jonathan Zdziarski, an iPhone developer and a hacker who teaches forensics courses on recovering data from iPhones, hasn't been very impressed with the iPhone's security -- or lack thereof.  Mr. Zdziarski has indicated that iPhone OS v3.0 is a bit better when it comes to security, but he says with only a few pieces of readily available freeware you can easily crack it in under two minutes.  That news must be concerning for the corporations and government agencies that support the hundreds of thousands of business iPhones Apple says it has sold.

Mr. Zdziarski says the iPhone's security woes are entirely unnecessary and are the result of incompetence.  He states, "It is kind of like storing all your secret messages right next to the secret decoder ring.  I don’t think any of us [developers] have ever seen encryption implemented so poorly before, which is why it’s hard to describe why it’s such a big threat to security."

His statements stand in stark contrast with Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook's cheerful news that 20 percent of Fortune 100 companies have purchased 10,000 or more iPhones apiece and that multiple government organizations had purchased 25,000 iPhones apiece.  Mr. Cook had bragged, "We’re seeing growing interest with the release of iPhone 3.0 and the iPhone 3GS due in part to the new hardware encryption and improved security policies.  The phone is particularly doing well with small businesses and large organizations."

Mr. Zdziarski says these entities might be in trouble as the encryption on the phone is so poorly implemented a simple software tool makes it as easy to view encrypted files as unencrypted ones.  Thieves could extract live encrypted data from the phone in a mere 2 minutes, and have an entire raw disk image in about 45 minutes.  Interestingly, the iPhone itself helps with these tasks – it begins to decrypt data on its own automatically after the extraction process has started.

Corporate users often edit finance spreadsheets and other corporate documents on their phone, as well as using the phone to make transactions with corporate credit cards.  All of this information is easy pickings for hackers thanks to the phone's woeful security.  Mr. Zdziarski surmises, "If (companies are) relying on Apple’s security, then their application is going to be terribly insecure.  Apple may be technically correct that [the iPhone 3GS] has an encryption piece in it, but it’s entirely useless toward security.  We’re going to have to go with the old imperative of ‘Trust no one'.  And unfortunately part of that is, don’t trust Apple."

Still, some companies say that the risks of deployments are worth it.  States Lance Kidd, chief information officer of Halton Company, an industrial equipment provider, which lets its employees use iPhones, "Your organization has to be culturally ready to accept a certain degree of risk.  I can say we’ve secured everything as tight as a button, but that won’t be true…. Our culture is such that our general manager is saying, ‘I’m willing to take the risk for the value of the applications.’  It’s like business continuity.  You prepare for disasters. You prepare for if there’s an earthquake and the building breaks down, and you prepare for if there’s a crack in [information] security."

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RE: Gone...
By inighthawki on 7/24/2009 2:15:55 PM , Rating: 5
Agreed, last i checked, when it comes to things like earthquakes and naturaly disasters, you engineer the building to withstand the force, and the same can be said about the security of an electronics device. This is merely a bad excuse for a lack of security on the iphone. Just like the architecture of a building, the architecture of software can in fact be designed to counter problems like security.

RE: Gone...
By 91TTZ on 7/24/2009 4:06:23 PM , Rating: 5
Agreed, last i checked, when it comes to things like earthquakes and naturaly disasters, you engineer the building to withstand the force, and the same can be said about the security of an electronics device.

This isn't fully true, either. When designing earthquake-proof buildings you design them to withstand a certain level of force. The designers know that it's still possible for a huge earthquake to take down a building that was designed to withstand lesser earthquakes. It wouldn't be economically feasible to build structures so strong that they can withstand rare freak quakes.

You need to accept a certain level of risk. You'd bankrupt yourself trying to plan around everything.

RE: Gone...
By Samus on 7/24/09, Rating: -1
RE: Gone...
By GaryJohnson on 7/24/2009 10:59:41 PM , Rating: 3
Greater levels of earthquake protection can cost exponentially more than lesser levels.

On the other hand, it doesn't necessarily cost more to use a better encryption scheme than a crappy encryption scheme. Maybe they had a ligit reason for doing it the way they did, or maybe they didn't.

RE: Gone...
By elgoliath on 7/26/2009 1:46:26 AM , Rating: 2
And you would be right if the guy who said that is the one making the phones/applications. He's not.

Why fire a guy for being realistic? You can never be 100% secure, so firing guy for saying as much is a bit much.

RE: Gone...
By inighthawki on 7/24/2009 11:10:58 PM , Rating: 2
I do understand this, though i was assuming what i said was going to be taken lightly, as you obviously cannot build something that is completely resistant to any force of nature, much like it's impossible to have a 100% secure device. Even with some of the best designed software, there is still room for the risk of human error, though some of it can be secured via software architecture and security models.

“And I don't know why [Apple is] acting like it’s superior. I don't even get it. What are they trying to say?” -- Bill Gates on the Mac ads

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