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iPhone Worm Turns Phones Into Botnets

November 23, 2009

Security company F-Secure has revealed that a second worm has hit the iPhone that specifically targets people in the Netherlands who are using their iPhones for internet banking with Dutch online bank ING, BBC News reported.

The worm redirects the bank’s customers to a site with a fake log-in screen for the application.

However, only “jail-broken” phones — a modification that enables the user to run non-Apple approved software on their handset — are affected by the hack. The phones at risk also have SSH (secure shell) installed.

Users of SSH and other similar programs can remotely connect to an iPhone and, among other things, transfer files. Users must change their default password – “alpine” – once they download the service or they are especially at risk.

F-Secure warned that the new worm is more serious than the first because it can behave like a botnet, enabling the phone to be accessed or controlled remotely without the permission of its owner.

Mikko Hypponen, F-Secure’s research director, told BBC News that the new worm is only the second iPhone worm ever and the first that’s clearly malicious.

“There’s a clear financial motive behind it. It’s fairly isolated and specific to Netherlands but it is capable of spreading.”

He said the worm could jump from phone to phone among owners using the same wi-fi hotspot. Although the number of infected phones was thought to be in the hundreds rather than thousands.

A new warning will put be put on the bank’s official website, according to a spokesperson for ING Bank, who said they are also briefing their call center personnel.

“It’s important to remember that the worm only affects jail-broken phones and it is only aimed at customers in the Netherlands,” she said.

The first iPhone worm, called ikee, was harmless, but also targeted jail-broken iPhones that were SSH enabled. Users with infected phones found their wallpaper replaced with a picture of 1980s popstar Rick Astley.

Ashley Towns, the creator of the ikee worm, said he wrote the program in order to raise the issue of iPhone security.

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