A mobile applications development author has discovered functionality in iPhone 2.0 software that would allow Apple to blacklist and remotely disable iPhone applications on users’ phones. While the company already retains control over third-party iPhone apps through its certificate signing program, this more targeted system gives Apple the ability to kill specific applications and effectively places all iPhones under potential surveillance as long as they have an active internet connection.
iPhone 2.0 (as well as the updated iPod touch firmware) uses its CoreLocation framework to point to a secure website that appears to contain at least placeholder code for a list of “unauthorized” apps, according to iPhone Open Application Development author Jonathan Zdziarksi.
“This suggests that the iPhone calls home once in a while to find out what applications it should turn off,” he says. “At the moment, no apps have been blacklisted, but by all appearances, this has been added to disable applications that the user has already downloaded and paid for, if Apple so chooses to shut them down.”
4 responses to “iPhone Firmware Contains Built-in Kill Switch”
Sounds dicey to me. If you don’t touch the OS code, I don’t see how they can claim any right to touch your computer. It’s not really a singular device (i.e. phone), as they’ve demonstrated by the touch iPod, so they’ll have a hard time justifying “attacking” your 3rd party software.
It appears very similar to the ancient Xerox case(s) that required you to only use Xerox approved supplies. The ruling basically said that since you owned it, you could use whatever you want with it. So if you can install apps that don’t alter the OS, Apple can get bent. iPhones aren’t leased, and the phone is simply a modem for the computer when you can’t use WiFi.
I’ll bet it’s there for the psychological effect, like the “brick” threat of the first version.
I’d hold off before putting the tinfoil hat on just yet. Look at the flip side of the coin. If Apple didn’t have a kill-switch, and some rogue (or disreputable) app started going bezerker, then there would be howls of “how could Apple let this happen?” I don’t mind Apple, being a huge company, having a killswitch. It’s not like they are going to use it stupidly, and make life miserable for themselves. They are into pleasing customers…