Australia crime official warns of iPhone security risk

October 21, 2010 by Amy Coopes
Police stand outside an Apple shop as the iPhone 4 is launched in Sydney in July 2010. A senior Australian crime official has raised serious security concerns over popular smartphones such as Apple's iPhone, which he warned was particularly vulnerable to hacking and information theft.

A senior Australian crime official has raised serious security concerns over popular smartphones such as Apple's iPhone, which he warned was particularly vulnerable to hacking and information theft.

John Lawler, head of the Australian Crime Commission, said the virtual world had brought "boundless opportunities" for crime gangs and mobile technologies were giving criminals "previously unimaginable" reach.

He singled out the as especially at-risk, explaining that it was the "third most used system in the world" for businesses and "deployed or piloted by more than 70 percent of Fortune 100 companies".

"Yet IT managers are swimming against the phone's tide of popularity because they can't centralise installation and updates as with other software," Lawler told a conference on Tuesday.

"This overwhelming desire for instant services (comes) at the expense of security safeguards."

Lawler said criminals could breach unprotected devices or fool users into giving access to malicious programs which planted viruses or could harvest lucrative information for fraud.

The "explosive" advent of mobile technology had also triggered a shift in from hard-drives to online "cloud" sites like Hotmail and Gmail, posing complex problems for crime-fighting agencies, he added.

"People are embracing this because they can access applications or data from anywhere in the world via any number of devices other than a computer," said Lawler.

"With cloud computing, where is the computer system? Where is the data? How do we gain access? How do we deal with cross-jurisdictional issues? Where is the victim and where were they when the crime occurred?"

An entire criminal enterprise had sprung up around Apple's smartphone, he said, with an imitation iPhone racket in Italy and sophisticated siphoning scam worth 4.5 million pounds (7.1 million US dollars) linked to devices in London.

The comments come after the German government banned ministers and senior civil servants from using iPhones and BlackBerrys to guard against cyber-attacks.

In Australia, a student breached iPhone security last November with a worm which spread from phone to phone along wireless networks, and could have been used to read text messages, emails and other information stored on the device.

Lawler said fraudsters were increasingly targeting social networking sites for identity theft, seeing the Internet as "technological pipelines flooding with rich data that can be turned to profit".

Cyber security was an issue likely only to intensify as technology advanced, he said, which would "undoubtedly bring even more opportunities" for criminals.

"Strategists predict that so much of our information, entertainment and even our body data, our emotions and senses could be streamed through one, individual and embedded device," said Lawler.

"What will organised make of that?"

Apple's spokeswoman in Australia was not immediately available for comment.

Explore further: Internet under attack by zombie computers

Related Stories

Internet under attack by zombie computers

January 8, 2007

Computer code writers in Europe are the chief suspects in the creation of programs that turn other computers into zombie-like slaves for Internet crimes.

Cyber criminals cloak their tracks

February 13, 2008

The 2007 X-Force Security report from IBM finds a disturbing rise in the sophistication of attacks by criminals on Web browsers worldwide. According to IBM, by attacking the browsers of computer users, cyber criminals are ...

Germany warns of Apple security problem

August 4, 2010

(AP) -- Several versions of Apple's iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch have potentially serious security problems, a German government agency said in an official warning Wednesday.

Criminals, spies swamp cyber world: experts

August 4, 2010

Finally the world has a hacker-proof communications device. The bad news? It's a brick in a glass case. The joke, told to a cyber conference Tuesday in New York, illustrates what top US experts describe as the dire state ...

German ministers told to avoid BlackBerrys, iPhones

August 9, 2010

The German government said Monday ministers and senior civil servants have been told not to use iPhone and BlackBerry mobile devices as the interior minister warned a "dramatic" rise in cyber attacks.

Recommended for you

Inferring urban travel patterns from cellphone data

August 29, 2016

In making decisions about infrastructure development and resource allocation, city planners rely on models of how people move through their cities, on foot, in cars, and on public transportation. Those models are largely ...

How machine learning can help with voice disorders

August 29, 2016

There's no human instinct more basic than speech, and yet, for many people, talking can be taxing. 1 in 14 working-age Americans suffer from voice disorders that are often associated with abnormal vocal behaviors - some of ...

Apple issues update after cyber weapon captured

August 26, 2016

Apple iPhone owners on Friday were urged to install a quickly released security update after a sophisticated attack on an Emirati dissident exposed vulnerabilities targeted by cyber arms dealers.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Oct 22, 2010
Typical lard-arse crap to create FUD with users so they'll allow the passing of draconian laws & then supplant "Big Brother", toxic, security software under the guise of security & protection. You complete jerk-off!

How many people do you think actually fall for this tripe? Why do you think so many Australians, approx 90%, are against the net filter? Go away!
not rated yet Oct 23, 2010

At least when the government spies on me, I get to vote for who is in charge (President, congress, governor, etc.)

When criminals, corporations, and private businesses spy on me, I have no say so at all.

If someone is going to be spying on me anyway, I'd much rather be able to vote for who it is.
not rated yet Oct 23, 2010
On the other hand, may as well get used to being spied on, because everyone is spying on everyone now.

Now that these hand held devices come complete with TWO cameras and a microphone, everything we say or do in public, or even in private, is being monitored by someone, whether it's an individual, a company, or a government, whether for honest, peaceful purposes, or to frame you for a crime, or to enslave you to some company or government through some form of bribery or manipulation, they are spying on you non-stop.


I want the government to have more surviellance power so that they can prevent more violent crimes, rapes and murders, and more quickly solve those which can't be prevented. Domestic murder and rape kill more Americans each year, or ruin more lives each year, than the 9/11 attack and all U.S. casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan combined for the past 10 years, yet by comparison, we spend mere peanuts fighting these domestic crimes.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.