Is the iPhone causing Apple to lose the plot?

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Is Apple losing the plot? I ask this because, having just read this bollocks (Apple wants to make jailbreaking illegal because it supposedly threatens our nation’s cellphone tower infrastructure, and thereby threatens our national security), I’ve read nothing but well-reasoned, anti-Apple invective. Come, let’s explore the phenomenon.

But first: what’s going on? The Electronic Frontier Foundation wants to make iPhone jailbreaking 100 percent legal. It’s your phone, so why can’t you install whatever the hell you want on it? No one tells you what software you can and cannot install on your PC, right? Exactly. Now, Apple doesn’t want jailbreaking to given any sort of legal blessing, because, well, Apple is Apple, and AT&T, its incompetent partner in crime, doesn’t know if it’s coming or going. Want to use Google Voice mobile? Oh, I bet you do, but The Man doesn’t want you to.

Anyhow, Apple wrote to the Copyright Office, and offered this explanation as to why jailbreaking should never be legalized:

…local or international hacker[s] could potentially initiate commands (such as a denial of service attack) that could crash the tower software, rendering the tower entirely inoperable to process calls or transmit data. Taking control of the BBP [baseband processor, which regulates connections between the phone and tower] software would be much the equivalent of getting inside the firewall of a corporate computer — to potentially catastrophic result. The technological protection measures were designed into the iPhone precisely to prevent these kinds of pernicious activities, and if granted, the jailbreaking exemption would open the door to them.

To quote MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, ha!

If the sheer ludicrousness of that statement isn’t apparent right now, then hopefully the following comments I’ve isolated will make things clear. The comments also show a very real strain of animosity pointed right at Cupertino. Combine that with AT&T’s recent foul-ups, and you do start to wonder if Apple is heading in the wrong direction.

The following are from the original Wired article. I think it’s safe to say Wired readers aren’t exactly the frothing-at-the-mouth-with-anger variety.

Then they’re broken. Fix the cell towers. I’d compare this to, say, SQL injection attacks. The solution isn’t to control the users, the solution is to fix the exploit where it exists: the cell tower.

***

Ok, let me see if I get this…

Legal jailbreaking would cause criminals/terrorists to crash things.

But… since when do criminals or terrorists really -care- about following the law? If it’s made illegal, they’ll still do it. It’s not like jailbreaking a phone and getting caught would, even if it were a crime, add that much to a sentence for terroristic activities.

It’s sort of like that part from Heavy Metal, with Captain Stearn. “…and one moving violation.”

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If that were possible…wouldn’t it have happened by now?

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Unfreaking believeable, Apple just confessed their iphones are a threat to National Security and fail to see the repercussions this could have on their business. If any of this is true then I suggest legislation to ban all iphones effective immediately, since iphones are a threat to national security. Legalizing jailbreaking or keeping it illegal doesn’t change the fact that iphones are not secure enough to prevent jailbreaking. So all of those precautions they claimed they took to prevent this from happening was a waste of time since it can be circumvented by anyone just by watching a youtube video.

***

well then Apple should make a proper phone at last..
trillion times more Nokias and other smartphones are being unlocked for years now..
and? no DoS attacks so far..
what’s the deal here?
Apple wants the laws to help it’s business?

***

Let me get this straight… Keeping it ILLEGAL to jailbreak phones will dissuade terrorists and drug dealers from doing these horrible things that Apple claims could be done with their phones?

Really? So a terrorist who would bring down the Cell Phone towers, or a drug dealer who would sell heroin to children, is going to go, “Woah, dude… wait a minute… I’m not going to risk violating the DMCA!”

Apple Legal Team Fail.

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What Apple *doesn’t* say, is:
- this scenario would require an “evil genius” hacker
- can be done with *any* smartphone, not just iPhone
- can be done with eval boards, bare ICs, hacked regular cellphones

It’s a fairly common strategy to get what you want from tech-clueless regulators: create a nightmare scenario involving the issue you want them to address, then claim that the only way to prevent a catastrophe is to regulate as directed.

You would think the regulators would have learned by this time to look at these pleas for additional regulation witha bit more skepticism.

And the following comments come from Slashdot, which, again, I wouldn’t exactly call a bunch of wingnuts.

Worse, trusting the client is always an idiotic plan. Even if it isn’t iSteve’s precious baby, there will always be some phone(s) were the evil unauthorized users have access to the baseband(if nothing else, the people who design phones have to have the baseband interface specs, and I’m sure that sort of thing gets lost/dumpster dived/hacked/inside-jobbed from time to time). Solving cell tower security issues by trying to lock every handset would be like trying to make the internet safe by making Symantec Endpoint Security mandatory for all devices with public IPs.

This is just Apple wrapping themselves in the “Security” blanket to get what they want. Should we expect a series of PSAs about how iPhone jailbreaking aids the terrorists?

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What Apple is saying is wrong. Everybody with any knowledge of the system knows it’s wrong; even if cell towers were susceptible, jailbreaking doesn’t touch the baseband software on the phone. Yet they make the claim anyway, knowing it’s false, presumably because they’re hoping nobody involved in this process at the Copyright Office has the technical knowledge to know it’s BS. Let’s call this what it is: it’s a lie.

Shouldn’t there be some sort of consequences for just lying in a process like this? I know in courts there is perjury, for lying under oath, but what legal consequences are there for lying in this kind of situation?

***

Instead of locking the whole thing down, just lock down the baseband processor. That way people who want to run their own apps can do so without having to jailbreak anything, and the baseband processor won’t have any attention given to it. But of course this would still be a problem with AT&T, who provides the connectivity.

***

We all know the deal. If I wanted to compromise said cellular network, I could use the current published, freely, and openly available jailbreaking techniques. If they legalize jailbreaking of the phones, it is not going to legalize hacking cellphone towers, so the people that are going to do it are already trying. This is just a another preemptive strike by Apple. They are going to lose credibility, because too much press in a short ammount of time for a company can be just as bad as flying under the wire. I think it is time they slip back into the ether and keep quiet for a few weeks.

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This is IDIOTIC. How can any reasonable person possibly buy this argument.

Anyone that wants to bring down a cell phone tower or cell network IS NOT GOING TO CARE whether or not it’s LEGAL to screw with the cell radio baseband software. They are ALREADY attempting to do something much worse.

Let’s be honest here, the “security” aspect of this argument is a smokescreen. It’s blatantly all about the profit!

Furthermore, the cellular network should NOT be so fragile that a single rogue cell phone could take it down (AFAIK it is not). BUT if AT&T is truly insistent on making this argument, then I believe a full investigation by the FCC is mandated. The self-admitted fragile state of their network means that their stewardship of a public resource (radio spectrum) is being poorly managed and truly endangering national security.

Now, I understand this small, statistically insignificant sample doesn’t really represent anything, but it is interesting to see some people beginning to question Almighty Apple.

And I type this on a MacBook, so don’t I’m Mr. Anti-Apple. This is all make-believe to me.

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