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Technology: Hacking the iPhone for Espionage

No, it’s not enough that you can hack your iPhone to operate on the T-Mobile network, or launch third-party applications, or play games. No, someone had to go and demonstrate how you can — quite easily, with some know-how — turn an iPhone, or any smartphone, into a full-blown spy gadget. Go warm up your missile-laden Aston Martin, and then watch security expert Rik Farrow show you how it’s done:

No, it’s not enough that you can hack your iPhone to operate on the T-Mobile network, or launch third-party applications, or play games. No, someone had to go and demonstrate how you can — quite easily, with some know-how — turn an iPhone, or any smartphone, into a full-blown spy gadget. Go warm up your missile-laden Aston Martin, and then watch security expert Rik Farrow show you how it’s done:

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Article: Hacking the iPhone

I have an iPhone. I’ve also owned BlackBerrys, Treos, and even an awesome little Palm-based thing called the Samsung i500 that never quite caught on. But never once did it occur to me that someone could use it to record the mundane details of my daily existence. And now that it does occur to me, courtesy of Rik Farrow, I have one thing to say. This is pretty awesome.

I know, I know — the upstanding thing to do is abjure piracy and hacking. But to acknowledge that the device in my pocket is capable of spying on me is also a tacit acknowledgment that the device in my pocket is very, very close to being a full-blown personal computer. Watch as Rik penetrates the iPhone; when he first logs in, the Terminal shows him system information for the device. Just when you notice the screen describing the iPhone’s kernel, Rik reminds us that the commands he’s using are the same for any Unix, Linux, or Mac OS X-based computer. This thing, like the entire generation of smartphones it accompanies, are increasingly based on viable, robust platforms, rather than piddling, proprietary software.

Would it be better if they were ironclad? Sure, but nothing is. Just as the utility of the Internet overshadows the nuisance of viruses, the upward march of the smartphone is a worthy cause, despite its occasional vulnerabilities. The solution, of course, to the immutable personal computing device: awareness. If you know not to click on that suspicious e-mail attachment from a Zimbabwean Prince, the chances of your computer (and now, your iPhone) coming down with a flu are greatly reduced. I, for one, will put my idiocy to the test, eager to see what convenience — and perhaps, scandal — the next generation of phones can bring me.

About the author

I've written about innovation, design, and technology for Fast Company since 2007. I was the co-founding editor of FastCoLabs.

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