Killing The iPhone Kill Switch

from the inevitable dept

Well, it was really only a matter of time. After Steve Jobs confirmed that Apple had included an application "kill switch" in the new iPhone to disable any app it wanted remotely, someone was bound to kill the kill switch. And, indeed, apps are popping up that will let you disable the kill switch -- though only on a "jail broken" iPhone. Still, it does make you wonder how useful the kill switch really is when it can be so easily disabled.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Kevin Donovan, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 1:00pm

    Let Users Decide

    Why doesn't Apple allow competent users to opt-out of the kill-switch? If I want my iPhone to be open to all the dangers of the big bad developer community, then let me.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Mr. Magoo, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 1:14pm

    Re: Let Users Decide

    Because Apple does things their way and refuses to believe that there is any point in allowing users to do it any other way.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    James, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 1:16pm

    Is this even legal?

    I mean, I own the phone and everything in it. How can they choose to disable anything on my phone?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Evan, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 1:20pm

    Re: Is this even legal?

    You most certainly do not own everything on your iPhone. All the software is licensed, not sold, and the terms are almost certainly very much in favor of the developers and publishers, not you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Computer Bob, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 1:29pm

    Kill the Kill Switch

    Why would I want Apple, the feds, or any hacker who figures out how to turn on the Kill Switch to be able to disable any of my iPhone apps at any time?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 1:31pm

    Re: Re: Is this even legal?

    Of course, there is argument as to whether or not such arrangements are even legally defensible...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Computer Bob, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 1:34pm

    Kill the Kill Switch

    Why would I want Apple, the feds, or any hacker who figures out how to turn on the Kill Switch to be able to disable any of my iPhone apps at any time?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    James (profile), Aug 18th, 2008 @ 1:34pm

    Re: Let Users Decide

    Would you be willing to opt out of any support not hardware related?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 1:36pm

    Re: Kill the Kill Switch

    Because you are a fanboy, plain and simple!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Rich Dude, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 1:45pm

    I am rich

    They kept killing my I am rich program so I had to buy it 3 times. Now that it's dead, can I get my money back?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Jack, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 1:58pm

    re: Is this even legal?

    The days of ownership are coming to an end for the common man. While you weren't looking, manufacturers put a text file on program you bought, and all of a sudden the thing you thought you bought was it fact no longer bought. Let it continue, and soon you will no longer own a thing. Your shoes will be licensed for use only between business hours. The shirt on your back will be rented, and your car will be disabled when your subscription payment goes a day past due.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 1:58pm

    Re: Re: Is this even legal?

    A good case for open source and the GPL

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 2:08pm

    It makes total sense if you consider why it's there

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    iRock, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 2:50pm

    New app available...

    I am creating a new app called iKill. It is going to kill everything that kills (except itself :) ).

    In your iFace iJobs!!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Zaphod, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 3:52pm

    What I believe the world needs.

    What the world needs is an open platform phone, that keeps all the purchased (carrier supported) data and voice communications stuff behind a hardware wall, and lets the 802.11x and bluetooth be directly accessed.

    The supporting platform should be some version of linux, and memory upgrades, and storage should be using standards based hardware (such as SD cards for storage).

    But whatever the case, the subscriber system should stay out of the rest of the phone, and have no ability to cripple it's functionality. The carrier should sell data, and that's it.

    Someone make this phone, and you will own the world.

    Zap

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Phibbles, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 4:12pm

    Re: What I believe the world needs.

    Good one Zaph... Id be first in line for one of your phones.. :-)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 4:22pm

    Re: What I believe the world needs.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    an0m0ly, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 5:22pm

    Re: Kill the Kill Switch

    Why?

    My guess is Apple is looking for an easy way to shut down any virus threat. Microsoft showed that with market share comes attacks.

    I'm not saying that they came up with a good solution, just looking for motivation.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Nick, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 5:32pm

    The ongoing dilemma

    It's the same dilemma faced by any tech company with a mass roll out of hardware/software - protect users from themselves and malicious wares, whilst not restricting hardcore techies from hardware and software level access to the device they own. Remember that 95% of iphone users will never know about the kill-switch and never need to. The rest of us complain when we have to deal with software that restricts - but we will be the same people to complain abouts Apple's foresight and security measures if a bug swept the world and took out a bunch of our iphones.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 5:38pm

    Re: Re: Is this even legal?

    Evan -> "You most certainly do not own everything on your iPhone. All the software is licensed, not sold, and the terms are almost certainly very much in favor of the developers and publishers, not you."

    And that is why I have not "licensed" an iphone.
    There are plenty of alternatives, some may even be a better deal - go figure.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    icon
    pferland (profile), Aug 18th, 2008 @ 7:10pm

    Re: Let Users Decide

    That is not was Apple is, they don't let the user decide at all. Their products are targeted towards the user that doesn't know / care to know how to use something.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    icon
    Jon (profile), Aug 19th, 2008 @ 6:08am

    Missed the bigger issue

    At the end of the day, Apple is the least likely to use this. Apple is a big company that will have to face the consequences of their actions if they do use it. It is all of the crackers of the world that are going to put a dent in iPhone user's day.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    icon
    chris (profile), Aug 19th, 2008 @ 1:40pm

    Re: Kill the Kill Switch

    "Why would I want Apple, the feds, or any hacker who figures out how to turn on the Kill Switch to be able to disable any of my iPhone apps at any time?"

    because the iPhone is sexy awesome and you will trade your freedom, your soul and your dignity to have one.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Don't fool me, Aug 21st, 2008 @ 6:20am

    Re: The ongoing dilemma

    Any SW added to "protect" users will be promptly disable by hackers...

    Apple is acting that this old saying: Don't be afraid We are from the government. We are here to help .)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    security geek, Aug 21st, 2008 @ 7:54am

    Isnt it obvious?

    It has always been said that if you have access to the hardware that the software cannot be protected, so this hack was not only obvious but expected.

    As a security expert I am far more concerned about covert invasions of privacy like this. IF they can install a "kill switch" they can also install a monitoring application to report back. Don't think for one second that Patriot Act proponents havent been lusting after the ultimate surveillance state - and Apple is NOT the first computer manufacturer to put hidden code in their operating system to enable remote access. Another, bigger company has done it ...

    To the nay-sayers, I say ... just remember that the thing that enabled Hitler to gain power was his surveillance state - oh yes ... the Stasi in Germany tapped the phones of everyone and used the information to suppress opposition. This is WELL Documented in history. And Those who fail to remember History are Destined to Repeat It.

    Welcome to the Information-Control Age.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    insightful dodger, Aug 21st, 2008 @ 8:52am

    The REAL story behind the story

    There are two issues here. The first is the legal issue of ownership and control over the device. The second is whether Apple making an unauthorized access or modification of a computer, is subject to the same US Laws that everyone else is.

    The phone is sold, not leased or rented - its not legally within Apple's rights to stop a user from doing whatever they want with the device. Legally you can do with a computer what you want, up to the point that you infringe on other people's or companies' rights. So this means you can not use the iPhone legally to mess with the phone network - or to hack others - but given that restriction, if you own the hardware, then Apple has NO LEGAL BASIS to restrict what applications you can load and run. Apple's intellectual property rights in the software do not extend to control over the end user - in legal terms this would be tantamount to saying that you can bypass individual freedoms in the Constitution by writing a contract to do so. Apple has no legal right to remotely intrude on a piece of hardware that it sold - {sold meaning that they gave up all their rights to it and transferred them to another).

    It is also not within Apple's rights under Copyright law to restrict what you can DO with their operating system - in this case, whether you can load other applications not owned or licensed by Apple - the Federal Court upheld that in the Browser Wars case between Microsoft and Netscape. You can't enforce a software monopoly legally.

    IF someone hacked into Apple and disabled their applications it would be decried (and vigorously prosecuted) as a Federal Crime. The reason their actions with the iPhone 'kill switch' are comparable to a Federal Hacking Crime are the following: (1) its a covert, non-disclosed and in the language of the law, UNAUTHORIZED (authorization being a permission granted by the Owner of the computer) action, done without the consent or permission of the owner, and (2)it can cause Damage to the intent of the end-user (from the perspective of the OWNER of the computer).

    It is not similar to security or anti-virus software. This is NOT what anti-virus or security protection software does - those applications are user installed, fully disclosed, and most importantly - the end user can OPT OUT.

    What makes this illegal in my mind is that it was not disclosed thus bypassing the consumer's right of consent to this external control. Absent that consent, subsequent access, particularly to disable software that Apple does not own, is totally Unauthorized and in violation of the law (both criminal, 18 USC 1030, as well as anti-trust). Up Front disclosure would at least implicitly require the consumer's consent (or acquiescence).

    Apple, hiding this feature was just WRONG. Shame on you.

    (and I like Apple).

    Its time our society stops being technophyte novices and go back to holding the individual responsible for what they do - with software - just as the individual is held responsible for what they do physcially.

    The philosophy of allowing a company or a government to control what we do has been rejected since the founding of the United States - in fact, it was the Reason the country was founded.

    People who steal software are called software priates; we need to coin a new phrase to describe companies that try to control individuals - Software Megalomaniacs?

    There IS a balance between privacy and individual rights, but as a society we haven't found it yet. I think I've made the case that the Apple approach isn't it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Jasper Bryant-Greene, Sep 5th, 2008 @ 9:41pm

    There is a very easy way to opt out

    There is a very easy way to opt out. Don't buy the phone.

    If you don't agree with the terms on which the phone is sold and software is licensed to you, that's fine. Nobody is forcing you to.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Oliver Gordon, Aug 7th, 2009 @ 4:35am

    I think the WORST thing about it is...

    The worst thing about that is that lets say I have paid £15 for one of the office suites, and apple kill it. I wont get my money back!

    This is just another case of apple being greedy, just like with AT&T to kill off Google

    SHAME ON THEM!

    You know like shame on the simpsons with the finger

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 20th, 2009 @ 11:00am

    I am not entirely sure we can blame Apple for making a kill switch, for hiding it, or for securing a right (legal or not) to terminate an application. Here's why:
    I don't think Apple has any interest in shutting down useful, healthy, non-threatening applications. They have no objective there, and quite frankly, they must be too busy to care.
    They did, however, open their development platform, and therefore compromise the security of all iPhones. First, hacking, phishing, and identity theft- whatever the case may be, iphones are susceptible. If a particular virus was raging over iphones via a certain application, it would be responsible of Apple to cut them. Apple's remote Access to your iphone probably will never affect your usage (remember- it is meant to be hidden).
    Think about it like the emergency exit door on a plane. "OMG, they put a door that you just pull a handle, and it pops open in flight! You could kill all the passengers!" Not exactly the point........

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This