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Steve Jobs Confirms Apple Can Kill Apps On iPhones

The Apple CEO says it would be irresponsible not to be able to deactivate a malicious program sold through its App Store.
Apple chief executive Steve Jobs has confirmed that a mechanism exists within the iPhone to let the company unilaterally remove software from the smartphone.

Jobs told The Wall Street Journal in an interview published Monday that the capability was necessary in case Apple inadvertently allows a malicious program to be sold through its App Store. Such programs could, for example, steal users' personal data.

"Hopefully, we never have to pull that lever, but we would be irresponsible not to have a lever like that to pull," Jobs said.

Hacker Jonathan Zdziarski was the first to discover the mechanism that periodically checks in with an Apple Web page for applications that should be removed. Until Jobs' comments, Apple had refused to discuss the matter.

Zdziarski's discovery raised privacy concerns among tech bloggers. Zdziarski said he felt uncomfortable with Apple's ability to control what applications were used on the iPhone. "The idea that Apple can choose what functionality my applications should have frightens me," he said.

Zdziarski, author of the books iPhone Forensics and iPhone Open Application Development, offered on his blog a way to disable the functionality using the Pwnage Tool, open source software that enables the iPhone to be used on wireless carriers other than AT&T, the exclusive mobile phone provider in the United States.

While Apple has yet to deactivate any iPhone applications remotely, the company has been criticized for removing applications from the App Store, launched this summer, without explanation. One such application was Nullriver's NetShare, which makes it possible for iPhone customers to use their high-speed Internet connections to provide Web access to a PC.