Apple confirms iPhone security bug, promises patch

The fix will be part of September update, says Apple

Apple Thursday said it will patch a bug in the iPhone's password-protected locking feature next month in a software update for the iconic smartphone.

"The minor iPhone security issue which surfaced this week is fixed in a software update which will be released in September," said Apple spokeswoman Jennifer Bowcock in an e-mail Thursday.

Bowcock suggested users apply the workaround recommended by several users on the Apple support forum Wednesday. "[Set] the iPhone so that double-clicking the home button will take the user directly to the home screen, which if password protection is turned on, will be the unlock screen," she said.

The flaw, which was first reported Tuesday by a user on a MacRumors message forum, lets anyone sidestep iPhone passcode locking by simply tapping "Emergency Call" on the password-entry screen, then double-tapping the Home button.

By default, a double-tap of the Home button brings up the iPhone's Favorites, a list of frequently-called contacts, and those contacts' information, including phone numbers and addresses. If any of the contacts have e-mail or Web addresses associated with them, the trick allows access to the iPhone's e-mail application and Safari browser, respectively.

The bug also affects the iPod touch.

In January 2008, Apple issued iPhone and iPod touch updates that patched the passcode lock sidestep bug. Newer versions of the iPhone and iPod touch software, however, including version 2.0, the massive upgrade released last month, contain the flaw.

Such "regression errors" are not unknown. For example, last March, Microsoft was forced to re-issue a security update after an earlier version had introduced a calculation bug in the company's Excel spreadsheet.

Bowcock declined to answer additional questions about the regression error, and did not name a date when Apple plans to release the iPhone and iPod touch updates.

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Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
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