It arrived in a blaze of publicity and had frenzied gadget fans queuing for days before its launch last month. But just weeks after Apple's iPhone was unleashed on American shoppers, researchers say they have discovered how to hack into it and steal personal information.
Experts at Independent Security Evaluators, a computer protection consultancy, claim to have found a way to gain complete access to the phone, billed by its creators, Apple, as the mobile phone of the future.
Researchers discovered the flaw after examining the way the iPhone connects to the internet. They say it is possible to hack in using the iPhone's wireless internet system, allowing full control of the phone, and accessing private information at will.
Charlie Miller, lead analyst at ISE, said it meant the handset was open to abuse. "Within two weeks of part-time work we had successfully discovered a vulnerability," said a notice on the company's website. "The compromised iPhone sent personal data including SMS text messages, contact information, call history and voicemail information over this connection ... we can get any file we want."
There are also suggestions that hackers could make expensive phone calls at the owner's expense, or to turn the iPhone into a remote surveillance device.
Full details of the exploit have not been revealed, but Dr Miller says he will give a full explanation to security researchers at the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas at the end of the month. He says a dossier has been passed to Apple to enable the company to fix the problem.
In a statement, Apple said it was looking into the claims. "Apple takes security very seriously, and has a great track record of addressing potential vulnerabilities before they can affect users," it said.
The security of mobile phones has become a hot topic as they become more powerful and behave much more like computers than handsets. But the arrival of the iPhone, which adds an iPod music player, internet browser and touchscreen to the traditional mobile phone, has upped the game for the security industry.
The hype surrounding its launch has seen dozens of teams of experts trying to find a way to hack into it and grab headlines.
The iPhone is not expected to arrive in Europe until the end of the year, with mobile phone companies across the continent squabbling over who will get the right to sell it first.
Bobbie Johnson, technology correspondent
The Guardian, Tuesday 24 July 2007