Experts at IT security and data protection firm, Sophos, has
reacted with bewilderment at news that the author of the iPhone
worm which changed innocent users' wallpaper to a picture of Rick
Astley has been given a job - by a firm developing iPhone
Earlier this month, the
first ever iPhone virus appeared, changing the wallpaper on
infected phones to an image of the 1980s pop star, gobbling up
bandwidth and Rickrolling jailbroken iPhones.
Although it was written without criminal intent, the worm
inconvenienced hundreds of users in Australia. It was estimated
that approximately 17,000 - 25,000 iPhones might be at risk of
infection. The source of that estimate? A Sydney-based firm called
Mogeneration, which is now reported to be hiring Towns to work as a
developer on future iPhone applications.
Ashley Towns announced on his Twitter page earlier today that
Mogeneration had decided to give him a job:
"Yey! I got the job! I'm now an iPhone
Computer security experts, however, are not celebrating.
"It's very important that a clear message is sent out that
writing viruses and worms is not cool, and not a route into
employment," said Graham
Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "It's ironic
that the owners of iPhones that have not been jailbroken may now
find themselves running code written by a virus writer. Customers
of Mogeneration may well ask for an explanation for the hacker's
employment - and those who were inconvenienced as a result of his
worm may wonder when they will be compensated."
Sophos notes that a later, more dangerous iPhone worm (which
attempts to steal banking information and hijacks infected iPhones
into a criminal botnet) used the source code of Ashley Towns' Ikee
worm as a template.
"What disheartens me is that Towns has shown no regret for what
he did. He admitted specifically infecting 100 iPhones himself,
letting his worm loose in the process. Now his utterly
irresponsible behaviour appears to have been rewarded. Will Towns
be offering a token $5 compensation to those he infected for the
inconvenience he caused? I doubt it," continued Cluley. "There are
plenty of young coders out there who would not have acted so
stupidly, are just as worthy of an opportunity inside a software
development company, and are actually quite likely to be better
coders than Towns who made a series of blunders with his code."
Ashley Towns is not the first malware writer to have gained
career progression from the viruses he has written.
In 2001, the mayor of the town of Sneek in the Netherlands
suggested that resident Jan de Wit, who wrote the Anna Kournikova
worm, should be
offered employment in the town's IT department. Five years ago,
Sven Jaschan, who authored the widespread Netsky and Sasser worms,
caused outrage in the IT community when he was
hired by a German security firm.
In 2007, the Chinese creator of a virus which changed icons to a
picture of a panda burning joss-sticks was
offered a job paying a million Yuan ($133,155) salary by a
company who had been infected by his malware.
Sophos is headquartered in Boston, US and Oxford, UK. More information is available at www.sophos.com.