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7/29/2009
10:50 AM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
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Apple: Jailbroken iPhones Can Crash Cell Towers

As part of a legal battle against the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Apple submitted comments that claim jailbroken iPhones can lead to denial of service attacks and, furthermore, be used to take out cellular towers and the associated base stations. Pure FUD.

As part of a legal battle against the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Apple submitted comments that claim jailbroken iPhones can lead to denial of service attacks and, furthermore, be used to take out cellular towers and the associated base stations. Pure FUD.Apparently the Electronic Frontier Foundation has requested the U.S. Copyright Office to legalize the jailbreaking of iPhones. Jailbreaking iPhones allows users to install software on the device that is not approved by Apple, as well as use it on wireless networks other than AT&T (in the U.S.).

In response, Apple filed a bevy of comments with the court, and made some interesting claims in the process.

First, Apple says that jailbreaking violates the end user agreement of the iPhone, and is a breach of copyright. Before the iPhone can be activated, end users must agree to its terms of service. Specifically, it notes, users may not "modify, or create derivative works of the iPhone Software." As for the copyright claim, "Because jailbreaking involves unauthorized modifications to Apple's copyrighted bootloader and OS programs, it is a violation."

That may all be the truth as Apple sees, it, but what's really interesting is how Apple goes on to claim that hackers can perform amazing destructive feats with jailbroken iPhones. It says, "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. Taking control of the BBP (baseband processor) software would be much the equivalent of getting inside the firewall of a corporate computer - to potentially catastrophic result. The technological protection measures were designed into the iPhone precisely to prevent these kinds of pernicious activities, and if granted, the jailbreaking exemption would open the door to them."

What? Really? Does AT&T know about this? I mean, cell towers aren't cheap, and I am sure AT&T doesn't want hackers to take any of its precious assets out just by modifying their iPhones.

The iPhone has been a target for hackers from day one, and was recently called out for having such poor security. But can an iPhone really take down a cell tower? I suppose anything is possible, but it's a pretty crazy claim for Apple to make in order to protect its own product.

The real story here is that Apple doesn't want the EFF or anyone else snooping around in its code. It wants to retain control of the iPhone and the iPhone ecosystem. This argument demonstrates just how far Apple is willing to go to protect its investments.

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