Hackers threaten iPhone lock

iPhone AT&T network lock-in is target of hackers

It may only be a matter of time until the Apple iPhone is unlocked to work with any mobile operator, with hackers already busy trying to beat the iPhone's network lock system.

Hackers are trying to circumvent Apple's firmware lock on the iPhone that prevents it being used on any mobile network other than that of exclusive partner AT&T . Since Friday's iPhone launch, hackers have been racing to be first to crack the iPhone's security according to a PCWorld.com report.

The progress of would-be iPhone hackers can be viewed on several website forums, including Hackint0sh and the iPhone Dev Wiki.

The Apple iPhone can only be activated when connected to an AT&T account, which buyers can sign up to online via the iTunes store. Unless iPhone owners sign up for an AT&T account, they are unable to use even the most basic features of the iPhone. Deals for new customers start at $59.99 (£30) per month.

Handset subsidies

Locking a mobile phone to a network is a way for operators to recoup subsidies paid on handsets. Handset subsidies lower the headline price of a phone, but network operators factor this subsidy cost into the airtime contract, so the subsidy is repaid over the course of a customer's contact.

The standard iPhone AT&T contract runs for two years. Therefore, if hackers can unlock the iPhone they can theoretically enjoy the subsidised iPhone on whatever (lower cost) network deal they fancy.

Reports of hackers seeking to unlock the iPhone came shortly after warnings that the iPhone will be a prime target for malware writers.

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