In a move that is sparking hysterical reactions from mainstream journalists and tech bloggers, the Dev-Team's @comex has released the source code
of his JailbreakMe "star" exploit, which made use of vulnerabilities recently patched by Apple in iOS versions 4.0.2 and 3.2.2. With pundits calling the public release of @comex's work 'dangerous' and making dire predictions of imminent "attacks," one could wonder why Apple, Inc., which left second generation iPhones and first-generation iPod touches vulnerable in the new release, is being spared from criticism. The only recourse for users of older devices - of course - is to jailbreak.
JailbreakMe relies on a hole in Mobile Safari
that lets @comex's code break out of the "sandbox" and get root on an iOS device. What 4.0.2/3.3.2 did was to patch the CFF hole and block @comex's IOSurface root escalation exploit... for any device that can run those versions of firmware, that is. Any device older than an iPhone 3G or a second-gen iPod touch
is still out in the cold. In response, @saurik is working on a patch
that will protect jailbroken devices. Until that Cydia package is ready, the tweak that @cdevwill created
will pop up an alert if any other code attempts to use a similar exploit.
Which brings us to @comex's release. Mainstream tech news sites have reacted with shock and dismay, with Computerworld warning of the "evil uses
" the now-useless exploit could be put to, darkly claiming that "It may not be long before comex's work is turned into a weapon for attacks that gain "root" access, or complete control, of iPhones and iPads." The article further cluelessly states that "Apple's desktop operating system includes the FreeType font engine." (It doesn't
puts the FUD right up front, in the title of an article posted at 5:40 am: "Malicious Attacks Coming Soon
Tony Bradley also somehow decrees that it's "ironic" that another Dev-Team member is working on a patch for the users that Apple ignored. Is that like rain on your wedding day, or a free ride when you've already paid, Bradley?
The benefit of open systems to improving security has been clear for some time, at least to experts who don't work at One Infinite Loop. Whitfield Diffie, one of the inventors of of public-key cryptography and the former head of security at Sun Microsystems, calls BS on software makers' claim their code is more secure because it's secret. As Diffie wrote in Risky Business: Keeping Security a Secret
, "it's simply unrealistic to depend on secrecy for security in computer software." Until Apple opens its system, the only way to find and fix the vulnerabilities is through the efforts of people like @comex and Charlie Miller. All the hysteria is just a case of blaming the messenger, rather than focusing on the real security problem in iOS: secrecy.