Apple SDK release unlocks iPhone security issues

Apple's upcoming release of a software development kit (SDK) for the iPhone may allow developers to write applications for the mobile device, but it could also open a Pandora's box of potential security issues.

In a prepared statement released Wednesday on Apple's website, Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs said the SDK will reach developers after the New Year.

"Let me just say it: We want native third-party applications on the iPhone, and we plan to have an SDK in developers' hands in February,” he said.

He said it will take Apple take that long to develop the SDK "because we're trying to do two diametrically opposed things at once --­­­ provide an advanced and open platform to developers while at the same time protect iPhone users from viruses, malware, privacy attacks, etc. This is no easy task.”

The SDK will allow third-party developers to create applications that run on the iPhone without manipulating a vulnerability in the iPhone's Mac OS code. Doing so can lead to considerable security issues, said noted hacker H.D. Moore.

“Using a security vulnerability to enable third-party development is nothing new, but in the case of iPhone, this can be a problem," he said last week in a blog post.

The SDK development comes with a caveat, Chris Andrew, vice president of security technologies at security firm Lumension, said.

“As long as the [iPhone] is a closed platform, it's not a very big attack target, but once you can get other applications on it, there's potential for exploits, just like those we see for any other platform,” he said.

Jobs warned that it's only a matter of time until the iPhone is a target for hackers.

"Some claim that viruses and malware are not a problem on mobile phones - this is simply not true. There have been serious viruses on other mobile phones already, including some that silently spread from phone to phone over the cell network. As our phones become more powerful, these malicious programs will become more dangerous. And since the iPhone is the most advanced phone ever, it will be a highly visible target,” he said.

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