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iPhone Update Locks Unlocked Phones

Apple's recent iPhone Update update has been confirmed by numerous sources to re-lock iPhones that have been unlocked by users, and to reset phones that have third party software installed (but which are not unlocked). In amongst the security fixes provided by the update (Safari, Mail, and BlueTooth) some users are reporting additional functionality, such as integration with some in-car audio systems.

It seems that the big problem for a number of users is that certain unlocking methods not only unlocked the phone for use on any network, but also changes the IMEI number to a specific setting. Depending on where a mobile device is being used, changing the IMEI number may be an offence as it affects the ability to identify devices on the mobile networks (and may lead to other problems). Even if modified iPhone users change their SIM card, they will still be stuck with the modified IMEI record, which is enough to prevent the devices from functioning on a network.

Not all hope is lost, as the iPhone hackers are busy working on new versions of their unlocking software that will work with the 1.1.1 firmware update, and provide functionality back to the phones that have been disabled as a result of the update. Users who are currently stuck with a disabled phone apparently are not completely out of luck. It seems that SSH'ing into the phone still works and is a valid means to recover the data still on the phone.

Apple had been indicating for some time that unlocked phones would be locked at some future time, so the end result should not have come as much of a surprise to many end users. The response from the marketplace has been mixed so far, with a fair split of responses supporting the resetting of phones (based largely on the IMEI issue and the need to ensure a common hardware / software base as part of any update) and those supporting the ability of users to unlock their phones (citing various legislation from across the globe allowing phone users to unlock their handsets - though most is not applicable at this stage due to the iPhone not being available in those markets at this time).

Users who choose not to apply the 1.1.1 firmware update will still be vulnerable to the issues patched by the update, so it is essential that any iPhone owner fully makes themselves aware of the risks and benefits associated with patching and not patching their device.

29 September 2007

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