New bug lets you unlock iPhone for calls

This is not the first time that Apple has had a problem with Passcode Lock

A bug in Apple's iPhone OS gives thieves a way to unlock stolen iPhones and make telephone calls.

The flaw was first reported late Friday on the MacRumors discussion forum and is very much like other, similar bugs discovered in iOS over the past few years. In an Internet video, one user shows how it works on a phone that requires a security passcode before it will work. By hitting the Emergency Call button and then tapping ###, Call, and then quickly hitting Lock, he is able to open up the iPhone's Phone program, look up the owner's contacts and make telephone calls to any phone number.

No other iPhone applications are accessible, however, so the bug can't be exploited to, say, send or read e-mail messages.

WebSense Security Manager Patrick Runald said he tried the hack on non-jailbroken versions of the iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS and found it worked on both products. In discussion forums, users say that the bug also affects jailbroken phones. It has apparently been fixed in the Beta 3 version of IOS 4.2.

This isn't the first time that Apple has had to deal with this type of bug.

Apple will fix the problem next month, according to company spokeswoman Trudy Muller. "We're aware of the issue and we will deliver a fix to our customers as part of the iOS 4.2 software update in November," she said.

Apple has already fixed Passcode Lock glitches twice this year, and two years ago the company also had to fix a similar bug. That patch was part of a January 2008 iPhone security update. For some reason the flaw resurfaced when Apple released the iPhone 2.0 a few months later, and Apple again had to issue a patch.

Robert McMillan covers computer security and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Robert on Twitter at @bobmcmillan. Robert's e-mail address is robert_mcmillan@idg.com

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