Posted by: David Harley | August 9, 2010

Apple, iGadgets, and the AV industry

USA Today has an article about Apple’s forthcoming Vera Lynn patch (“Don’t know where, don’t know when…) to address the recent JailbreakMe hack for jailbreaking iGadgets.

F-Secure’s Mikko Hypponen suggests that there is probably malware already under development to take advantage of the underlying flaws that make the hack possible. He is probably right: past experience indicates that there is a lot of criminal interest in the iPhone (in particular) that has translated into a variety of attacks.

Avira’s Sorin Mustaca suggests that Apple may have to share iOS coding with anti-virus firms, to make it more feasible for the AV industry to produce effective scanning for the iPhone and its siblings. I have a lot of sympathy with that view: I’ve long said that Apple is not doing itself or its customers a favour by assuming it can handle all the security issues around its product by itself, and some have speculated that Apple is trying to maximize PR advantage by staying hands-off from the AV industry because it “doesn’t have a security problem.”

But I suspect that the mobile Safari and iOS kernel flaws currently highlighted do not constitute a tipping point. The vulnerabilities are being addressed because that’s what responsible vendors do when a vulnerability is discovered. Apart from Apple’s interest in discouraging jailbreaking, it must be aware that they open up the platform to other attacks – Lord knows enough people have pointed it out to them… But as long as it maintains the position that iGadget security can be fully addressed by app whitelisting through the App Store, and doesn’t feel any need to cater to the needs of those who go ahead and jailbreak anyway, it has no particular incentive to sully its image by sharing iOS code and information with an “irrelevant” AV industry. If there is going to be a tipping point, my guess is that it will come with more (and more effective) attacks from approved apps. And while such attacks have happened, there hasn’t been one of a sufficiently high public profile to derail the iTrain. Yet.

Hat tip to Sorin Mustaca for pointing out the USA Today article. 

David Harley CITP FBCS CISSP
Mac Virus Administrator

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