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Once more, pop sensation Rick Astley is sweeping the nation. Only this time, the nation is Australia, and he's starring not on the tube, but on Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) iPhone.

Astley's mug is appearing on iPhones Down Under thanks to ikee, an invasive bit of software code that installs a photo of the pop singer on a vulnerable handset and then establishes it as the default wallpaper with the message, "ikee is never going to give you up," eWEEK reports. RickRolling has never been so insidious.

What looks like a joke could quickly become a problem for those who've used software to free their iPhones to work with any carrier they choose, a process called "jail-breaking." Only jail-broken iPhones are suffering from the ikee worm.

If this seems like good news for Apple, trust me, it isn't. But I understand why some would think it is. Each time a worm affects an unauthorized iPhone, it argues for the safety and comfort of preferred providers such as AT&T (NYSE: T  ) here in the U.S.

The problem with this argument is that there are some users who loathe AT&T enough to cut the umbilical. And not just AT&T; jailbreaking is a worldwide phenomenon. China Unicom (NYSE: CHU  ) , an authorized iPhone partner, badly trails China Mobile (NYSE: CHL  ) , whose network could be serving as many as 1 million jailbroken iPhones.

Hackers have to like those numbers. My guess is they'll soon be targeting gray-market iPhones with worms designed to steal, rather than prank.

Where does this leave Apple? Stuck. The Mac maker can't reasonably be asked to support iPhones that aren't under warranty. But imagine what happens if worms become sophisticated enough to jump from jail-broken iPhones to more legit models. Apple needs to get ahead of this issue before it becomes a selling point for Palm (Nasdaq: PALM  ) , Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) , or even Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) .

We're starting to talk as if Apple has created the Windows of the wireless world via the iPhone and its App Store. Now, hackers are starting to act like it.

Apple is a Stock Advisor selection. Dell is an Inside Value pick. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers had stock and options positions in Apple at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. The Fool's disclosure policy has never once lived in a van down by the river.

Read/Post Comments (5) | Recommend This Article (5)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2009, at 3:02 PM, theHedgehog wrote:

    Hmmm, a simple websearch reveals that it's only the people who didn't bother changing the password after they broke out of jail. Dumb, dumb, dumb. It's almost inconceivable that unbroken iphones will be vulnerable.


    If you are one of those users who had jailbroken their iPhones but did not care to change the default password after installing SSH, you might want to do it now.

    A new worm has been infecting those jailbroken iPhones that still carry the same default 'alpine' password.[/quote]


  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2009, at 4:05 PM, Otherview wrote:

    With respect to the author of this article, it reveals only a cursory knowledge of what is happening here. This only affects jailbroken phones that ALSO installed the SSH transfer function and then ALSO didn't change their password. And while of course it's possible, even likely, the iPhone will be the subject of some sort of virus some day, so far in 3-plus years on the market it hasn't happened, which is largely also the case with Mac OS--any virii that exist depend on the user typing in their password first to allow it to install. This is an interesting anecdote, but not an AAPL story.

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2009, at 4:21 PM, kmn5 wrote:

    when it comes to security, RIMM has apple beat.

    Alot of people comment how the bold is slower to browse, but thats only because of the extra layers of security on there.

    Do you really want to logon to your bank account or online brokerage account on a smartphone that can be hacked in 30 seconds!? Yes I've seen it done at the computer security expo that was in Vegas in July.

    When I asked them to demonstrate on my bold, they could not do it, lol

    in the end I don' care about fancy apps or games, I rather have a smartphone that is secure!!!!

    especially when identity theft is now rampant

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2009, at 5:39 PM, mikecart1 wrote:

    Never gonna buy you up,

    Never gonna buy you down,

    Never gonna run around and buy you,

    Never gonna make you cry,

    Never gonna say goodbye,

    Never gonna tell a lie and say I'll buy you... AAPL.

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2009, at 6:03 PM, TMFMileHigh wrote:

    A round of applause for you, mikecart1. I own shares of Apple but that was hi-larious. Well done, sir.

    Foolish best,

    Tim (TMFMileHigh and @milehighfool on Twitter)

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