NEW YORK — Hackers could take control of an iPhone if its owner visits a doctored Web site or Internet hotspot, security researchers reported Monday.
The vulnerability of the vaunted device, Apple Inc.’s first cell phone, is only theoretical for now. There are no reports of criminals actually taking advantage of the security glitch to remotely access an iPhone.
But if it were exploited, hijacked iPhones could be very useful to the same gangs that take over personal computers and use them to disseminate spam, said Charlie Miller, principal security analyst at Independent Security Evaluators, which discovered the flaw.
“You could have a million iPhones dialing the company’s main line and overwhelm it that way,” Miller said.
In addition, hijacked iPhones could be used to send spam by cell-phone text message, which computers generally can’t. Any personal data on the phones, such as private phone numbers and text messages, would be accessible as well.
The flaw applies not only to the iPhone, which was launched just three weeks ago, but also to Apple computers running Mac OS and the company’s Safari Web browser, a version of which comes with the iPhone. It does not affect Safari running on Microsoft Corp.’s Windows systems.
The researchers at Baltimore-based ISE haven’t released the specifics of the vulnerability to the public, but have provided details to Apple and supplied the company with a patch, a software update for plugging the hole.
On Aug. 2, Miller will present details of the flaw at the Black Hat USA hacker conference in Las Vegas and online.
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