Monday, August 11, 2008

Steve Jobs Confirms iPhone Kill Switch

Apple CEO Steve Jobs has confirmed the existence of the so-called "kill switch" capability, some form of application blacklist built into the new 3G iPhone. Jobs came forward with the information following last week's ruckus over early reports of just such a function.

The admission came from Jobs at the bottom of a story in today's Wall Street Journal about Apple's first month of sales at its App Store.

Apple needs it in case it inadvertently allows a malicious program -- one that stole users' personal data, for example -- to be distributed to iPhones through the App Store. "Hopefully we never have to pull that lever, but we would be irresponsible not to have a lever like that to pull," he says.

Hacker Jonathan Zdziarski was the first to discover the mechanism that periodically checks in with an Apple Web page for applications that should be removed. Until Jobs' comments, Apple had refused to discuss the matter.

Zdziarski, author of the books iPhone Forensics and iPhone Open Application Development, offered up information on his blog on how disable the functionality using the iPhone Dev Team's Pwnage Tool.

So far there are no confirmed cases of Apple deactivating any iPhone applications remotely, however the company has been criticized for removing applications from the App Store without explanation. One such application was Nullriver's NetShare, which makes it possible for iPhone customers to use their high-speed Internet connections to provide Web access to a PC.

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