As first promised last year, Apple is now shipping a special type of iPhone that is designed specifically for hackers — a model the majority of people reading this will not be able to get. The iPhone is provided under a security program intended to ultimately help Apple protect its users by tapping the wider security community to hunt down problems. In order for bug hunters to do this, however, they need a phone that gives them a bit of freedom.
Last August during the Black Hat security conference, Apple revealed that it would provide a select group of vetted, eligible security researchers with special iPhones that’ll make it easier to hunt down software bugs. This special iPhone is dedicated entirely to security research, Apple explains on its website, and the company is now accepting applications for the device.
Apple refers to this product as a Security Research Device (SRD), explaining that while this model acts mostly like a standard iPhone, it also provides shell access, lets the researcher choose their entitlements, and supports running any security tools. The SRD iPhones remain the property of Apple — it merely provides them to eligible researchers on a 12-month basis.
Apple restricts how and when these devices can be used — authorized security researchers can’t carry them around as their daily device nor use them for personal tasks. Only the authorized researchers are allowed to access these special iPhones, which are required to stay on the researcher’s premises ‘at all times,’ the company says.
Interested researchers must submit an application to participate in the Security Research Device program, which will involve a review on Apple’s part and ultimately a decision about who gets in. Among other things, Apple requires applicants to ‘have a proven track record of success in finding security issues on Apple platforms,’ according to the program website, ‘or other modern operating systems and platforms.’
Even if you are eligible, Apple warns the number of SRD iPhones is limited and not everyone will get to participate initially.