The Inquirer-Home

Iphone is locked down tight

Hope of breaking network lock dissolves
Tue Jul 17 2007, 13:26
A POST TO THE IPHONE Development Wiki this morning brings a new sense of pessimism to the world of folks hoping that hack-tastic internetters might be able to break the device's link with cellular provider AT&T.

Traditionally, locks, DRMs and other such systems have met with a strong hacker community with greater smarts than the guys writing the code, and such locks have been ripped open in minutes.

The Ibone, however, has proved tougher. Although the requirement to activate the phone with AT&T has been bypassed - allowing Apple fanatics to purchase a rather expensive WiFi touchscreen Eeyorepod if they wish - so far, the ability to use the phone on a different cellular network has eluded hackers.

GeoHot, the hacker chap who appears to be leading the Iphone hacking community, has revealed that the key to unlocking the handeset lies in the baseband radio chipset. The main cellular lock happens in the baseband firmware itself, and it checks the country code and network code against the first six digits of the SIM card - meaning that a SIM card for Vodafone will fail both the country test and the network test, or a SIM card for Verizons will fail the latter despite passing the former.

Of course, the firmware could be patched - but it's digitally signed, meaning that the phone won't boot if the replacement isn't signed identically, which appears to be something of a conundrum.

Finally, the instruction code to unlock the phone - whilst known - requires each phone's individual network control key, meaning that a one-size-fits-all solution is likely to be impossible.

The downbeat tone of the post suggests that the community may be just about to give up the ghost on this one and admit defeat. If this is the case, it will be notable as the first instance in recent memory where a security architecture has defeated information experts.

Apple might just have this thing wrapped up tighter than Jessica Alba's butt. µ


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