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Security, Your Phone and Why Apple May Be Crying on Microsoft’s Shoulder

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Is Apple really that good at security? We’re about to find out.

For ages, the “fan boys” who think Steve Jobs is a god and nothing that comes out of Apple is ever anything less than revolutionary, have delighted in tweaking Microsoft for any missteps the giant in Redmond might make. Included in those jibes have been Windows security flaws, which the fan boys were free to ridicule because their beloved Macs were, by and large, immune.

That immunity was less the result of god-like tech skills from Apple and than an “intense burning apathy” (bonus points if you can identify the citation) on the part of most hackers. Why hack the Apple OS? It’s not like anyone would notice … Microsoft was a much bigger and more enticing target.

But now, thanks to the iPhone, Apple has a big old target on its back, at least in the mobile market, and hackers love nothing so much as a big target. According to an article in yesterday’s New York Times, jailbroken iPhones (iPhones modified by their owners to run software not approved by Apple) have already been targeted.

While the iPhone attacks were only pranks, Nokia owners have been targets of digital theft, as hackers made small charges to owners’ wireless accounts through their phones.

That would seem to indicate that attacks on iPhones are coming soon, as will be attacks on other phones and, ultimately, on the networks themselves. The iPhone might be particularly attractive as a target since its owners are already conditioned to seeing $.99 charges on their accounts all the time.

Part of the burden will fall on carriers, who will have to secure their networks, and on Apple, RIM, et al. who will have to secure their application stores. But more of the burden will fall on users who will have to be careful how they use WiFi, cellular networks, and even Bluetooth.

And as mobile ecommerce grows it will be interesting to see how the security arms race develops. The big names in desktop security are being joined by start-ups focused on mobile security, so you’ll likely soon have a malware protection subscription on your mobile to match the one on your laptop or desktop.

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