While Cupertino is trying to push the iPhone as a corporate mobile computing platform against rivals BlackBerry and Windows Phone, the Mac-maker may have inadvertently confirmed that the iPhone’s scaled down Mac OS X may not be as secure as it would like corporate America to believe. In denouncing jailbreakers, Apple states that the jailbreaking process actually tinkers with the baseband process:
By tinkering with this code, “a local or international hacker could potentially initiate commands (such as a denial of service attack) that could crash the tower software, rendering the tower entirely inoperable to process calls or transmit data,” Apple wrote the government. “Taking control of the BBP software would be much the equivalent of getting inside the firewall of a corporate computer – to potentially catastrophic result.
Whether Apple is trying to play a strategic game in limiting the number of jailbroken, and subsequently unlocked, iPhones or defending itself against what seems to be a broken system, it may have admitted that iPhones may not be ready for primetime. The iPhone designer linked the jailbroken security exploit to terrorism–more specifically cyber-terrorism–where hackers can gain control of America’s critical communications infrastructure (read: AT&T’s cell towers). Whether any terrorist would want control of AT&T’s towers is anyone’s guess, as Apple’s exclusive carrier partner has been denounced with service outages, data slow downs, and dropped calls with pundits hoping a Verizon launch to be forthcoming with the Mac-maker.
The casual link to terrorism may hinder enterprise adoption of the iPhone as a secure computing platform where trade secrets and contacts are valued intangible corporate assets. Then there’s also the case that no company wants to be responsible for a massive infrastructure meltdown caused by a terrorist attack, all due to Apple’s platform.
Jailbreaking is even a bigger issue than what Apple would want the press to believe. Apple has been recently under fire for being in bed with AT&T. First, due to AT&T’s demands, SlingPlayer, an application that allows users to stream television over the internet, was crippled to only work over WiFi at AT&T’s “request.” More recently, however, Apple canned third-party and the official Google Voice applications from the App Store, which many believe is due to AT&T’s request as Google Voice competes with AT&T’s data (by offering free SMS) and voice revenues. These issues, among others, have pushed a number of people to look to jailbreaking to find solutions to using SlingPlayer over 3G (rather than be tied down to WiFi) and to obtain a third-party Google Voice app. With Apple’s tight lock and AT&T’s beckoning, the jailbreaking camp will only grow, perhaps to the detriment of America’s infrastructure as Apple eloquently puts it.
In addition, for Mac users concerned about Apple’s OS X security, MSNBC also released news of a Mac security flaw. (Thanks SJ Walters for the tip)