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Thursday, August 28, 2008, 01:00 pm PT (04:00 pm ET)

Apple: iPhone security holes, contacts lag, GPS quirks to be fixed soon

A third software update for the iPhone 3G due next month will fix a broad assortment of problems and security issues that users have reported with the handset, say company spokespeople and a pair of alleged emails from chief executive Steve Jobs.

Most critically, the September update will patch a gaping security hole brought to light this week by the diligence of a MacRumors forums member. The vulnerability allows an individual to effortlessly bypass the iPhone's built-in passcode protection and then spider their way through personal information contained in contacts lists, text message histories, and emails.

A similar but less severe exploit was discovered by David Park earlier this month. He noted that the iPhone's auto-lock function could be altered repeatedly without prompting for the phone's pre-set pass code.

"Here's how the flaw is exposed," Park explained on his blog. "Let's say the owner of the iPhone sets the device to auto-lock after 1 hour of inactivity, and 30 minutes after [the] last usage a thief steals the phone. The thief can now change the iPhone auto-lock to lock after the maximum setting of 4 hours and keep doing this until he takes everything he needs off the device."

On Thursday, Reuters cited an Apple spokeswoman of saying the company is aware of the first flaw and is readying a fix. Meanwhile, Park said he forwarded his own discovery to the iPhone maker and received a reference number, assuring that the company is aware that issue as well.

Separately, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs appears to be taking a proactive role in the damage control surrounding a number of other outstanding iPhone software issues, both from his office Mac and via iPhone while on prowl.

In addition to a recently publicized email regarding an in-the-works fix for third party app crashes, Jobs allegedly fired off at least two other responses to customer complaints in recent days. The first was in response to gripes about persistent lag in the iPhone's contact list, in which the customer wittily remarked to the Apple chief that "I bet you even have the issue on your iPhone." Jobs reportedly responded by saying a "Software update coming in September" fixes the issue.

A second alleged mail from Jobs was received by a customer who fired off a litany of software-related complaints, in which he also accused the Apple co-founder of using his customers as "beta testers." Jobs reportedly responded by saying Apple is "working on a software update for September that should fix most of" the problems, which ranged from network weakness and drop calls to disappearing media items and GPS quirks.