Apple 'traitorware' can take your photo and shut down your jailbroken iPhone, iPad
August 25th 2010
- Software locates, snaps user
- Apple can shut down iPhone, iPad
- EFF calls it "traitorware"
APPLE has been accused of creating "traitorware" for trying to patent security software that tracks down people who jailbreak their iPhones and iPads and locks them out of their devices.
Jailbreaking allows users to access software and features for their devices that have not been sanctioned by Apple.
The process was declared legitimate by a US court earlier this month, but Apple said any such interference in their device will void its warranty.
Apple's patent, which went before the US Patent and Trademark Office earlier this week, is for "systems and methods for identifying unauthorised users of an electronic device".
Using the software, Apple can remotely access your sensitive information and data, ostensibly to determine if you are an “authorised user”.
Among the information they can access, the system can take a flashless, undetectable photo of the users' face (with the iPhone 4's front-facing camera) and multiple photos of the surrounding location.
It can also record the users' voice regardless of whether they are making a phone call, monitor their internet usage and record the heartbeat and “vibration signature” of the user.
According to the patent application, if these identifiers do not match the "authorised" user, the system then determines if there is "suspicious behaviour".
Suspicious behaviour, says the application "comprises one or more of hacking the electronic device, jailbreaking the electronic device, unlocking the electronic device, removing a SIM card from the electronic device, and moving at least a predetermined distance away from a synced device".
If Apple decides that all this adds up to unauthorised use they will remotely lock or shut down the offending iPhone or iPad, making it unusable.
It's been labelled by watchdog organisations as dangerous spyware. They even invented a new word for it – “traitorware”.
US civil liberties group, Electronic Frontier Foundation, has called the patent "downright creepy and invasive" and overkill for technology that is to track down a lost or stolen phone - something already possible with the "Mobile Me" app.
"This patented process could be used to retaliate against you if you jailbreak or tinker with your device in ways that Apple views as 'unauthorised' even if it is perfectly legal," it said.
There are obvious financial incentives for Apple putting an end to the legal process and the Electronic Frontier Foundation believe this could be the greater motive behind the software.
“This patent application does nothing short of providing a roadmap for how Apple can - and presumably will - spy on its customers and control the way its customers use Apple products.”
Electronic Frontiers Australia shares their concerns.
“There are huge privacy implications.” Colin Jacobs, chair of EFA told news.com.au
“It raises the risk of what happens if someone gains unauthorised access to the information… if this information is stored then it's pretty clear that someone will come looking for it.”