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An Apple iPhone virus is on the loose in Australia. According to reports it's an odd one; it replaces your wallpaper with a picture of singer Rick Astley and an inoffensive slogan. It affects only jailbroken phones, in other words phones whose owners have fiddled with the operating system to allow the use of any software.

There are a number of ways of looking at this. First, it's a relief I use my non-jailbroken iPhone 3G, with all the protection Apple and 02 can muster on it. Second, what a peculiar thing to do - just put a virus out there that doesn't do any harm, just illustrates the possible damage malware could do if it were sent out by someone who isn't very nice.

This in turn raises the awkward scenario - that some virus writers may not be the idiot psychopaths everyone believes. I know an ex-hacker who started very early on, hacking into a member of the British Royal Family's bank account. He didn't do it maliciously, he wanted to highlight the fact that it could be done - and in doing so he believed (and so do I) that he was doing a lot of people a substantial favour, as nobody understood the risks at the time. He is now a security consultant.

I do wonder whether this instance is so different. It appears that someone well-meaning has put an infection out there that doesn't damage anything, just nudges data around a little and puts an extra picture and text onto a phone. The implication, clearly, is that you could suffer dreadfully if you don't address this; it seems benevolent in intent.

A nice virus, who'd have thought it. Coming soon: the happy plague!

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