x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Hackers break 3G iPhone lock

The new iPhone has been cracked by hackers and the device is likely to be on sale in the UAE by the end of the month.

To protect this lucrative revenue stream and keep the device closed to outside software developers, Apple locks the iPhone with a combination of security features in the device's software and firmware.
To protect this lucrative revenue stream and keep the device closed to outside software developers, Apple locks the iPhone with a combination of security features in the device's software and firmware.

Hackers have succeeded in unlocking the new Apple iPhone 3G only 24 hours after its official launch, which means the device is likely to be on sale here by the end of the month. Apple, which considers the unlocking of the iPhone a violation of its terms of use, has signed exclusive iPhone distribution agreements with network operators across the world. But no such deal has been made for the UAE. Regardless, cracked versions of the original iPhone, unlocked to be compatible with non-partner networks like Etisalat and du, have been on sale here for more than six months, and the new model will almost certainly follow suit.

Yesterday iPhone Dev Team, a web community for phone hackers, revealed an updated version of its phone-cracking software that works on the new 3G iPhone. Local interest in the new phone is high. Magnus Nystedt, the president of EmiratesMac, the Apple user group in the UAE, said he was getting queries about availability of the new device "all the time". Under the unique business model pioneered with the first iPhone, distributor networks share a portion of revenues earned from iPhone customers with Apple.

To protect this lucrative revenue stream and keep the device closed to outside software developers, Apple locks the iPhone with a combination of security features in the device's software and firmware. In the US, the company now requires buyers to activate the phone, together with a two-year network contract, in the store when making the initial purchase. This will significantly reduce the number of devices being cracked and exported.

But the huge demand for the device means that these measures are unlikely to halt the flow of iPhones to unauthorised markets. Countries like Switzerland and France, where the phone will be sold without contracts, will become major sources of cracked phones. And such devices are hot sellers, despite their premium price. In markets from Dubai to Bangkok, the unlocked first generation iPhone sells for US$600 (Dh2,200) to $800, a markup of more than 40 per cent.

Although the new iPhone is almost half the price of its predecessor - being sold for as little as $199 - resellers in the UAE said they would sell the new device at current prices of at least Dh2200. "People want the new iPhone because it is the new thing, and they like the idea of 3G," said Mr Nystedt, referring to the phone's compatibility with the high-speed 3G mobile network that covers most of the UAE.

But he warned that users on prepaid or regular billing schemes who used the phones without a 3G data package could be in for a shock when their bills arrived. With use of the 3G data network priced at up to Dh20 per megabyte, loading a YouTube video clip or graphic-heavy website on the iPhone could cost more than Dh50. Users of hacked iPhones here face hefty charges: a monthly 3G data package from du including 200 megabytes costs Dh245, and packages from Etisalat offer up to 10 gigabytes for Dh460.

In comparison, 3G iPhone data packages range from $30 per month in the US for an unlimited data plan with AT&T, to $172 per month in Australia for one gigabyte of downloads on the Optus network. @Email:tgara@thenational.ae