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A bug in Apple iPhones was discovered that could relay iMessages to strangers’ phones.
The flaw meant that stolen iPhones would continue to receive iMessages that were sent by and delivered to victims who used iMessages on a replacement device.
iMessages was an Apple proprietary system for iOS 5 and an alternative to SMSes that allowed iPhones to send text and multimedia for free over a data network.
The flaw, first reported by users on web forums after the October release of iOS 5, appeared to bind a victims' iMessages to an iPhone once the service was activated.
Phone numbers and Apple IDs must be registered to use the service, a requirement that may contribute to the privacy breach.
The bug persisted even after a firmware restore, Ars Technica reported.
Apple has remained silent on the issue.
The effect of the flaw was graphically demonstrated by Gismodo after it published a series of raunchy text messages and lewd photographs sent and received by an Apple engineer who fell victim to the flaw.
It appeared the engineer inserted and later removed his SIM card while repairing a customers’ iPhone.
The iMessages continued to be received after the iPhone's firmware was restored.
iOS security expert and senior forensic scientist with viaForensics, Jonathan Zdziarski, told Ars Technica the flaw may result if iPhones read from a cache which contained a user's Apple ID and phone number that was built when iMessage was first registered.
He said this could explain why the bug persisted after a firmware restoration.
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