The latest iteration of Apple’s iOS platform, iOS 7.1, launched on March 10 with an updated look and new features, as well as some key improvements to the security of the operating system. For this, you can thank hackers. Or, more specifically, you can thank the hackers who help people jailbreak their device.
The practice of jailbreaking, which is the process of bypassing Apple’s iOS restrictions so that a user can introduce new functionalities and aesthetic changes through unapproved third-party app stores, is as old as the iPhone itself. Many feel that this back-door process is necessary given the somewhat limited personalization options offered by Apple devices, but jailbreaking does carry risk. If the modification goes awry, your phone could easily become a very expensive paperweight. Additionally, bypassing and removing key parts of Apple’s built-in security makes your iPhone an easier target for hackers and malware.
After going through the complicated process of jailbreaking their iPhone and iPad, people must also understand that additional work is necessary to re-secure their jailbroken device. For example, the jailbreaking process sets a common default password for Secure Shell (SSH) application that must be changed. Ordinarily, users have no interaction with this feature, as it comes automatically installed and works in tandem with other security measures like PIN codes.
Without changing the default SSH password, a jailbroken phone runs the risk of falling victim to any malicious individual merely connected to the same network. In fact, one enterprising Dutch hacker held several iPhone users’ phones hostage by replacing their background image with a threatening message manipulating this vulnerability. Theoretically, the hacker could have executed any command they wanted, even remotely wiping the phone—all the more reason to check for jailbreaking and back up your contacts with security programs such as McAfee® Mobile Security for iOS, which will notify you immediately if your phone has in fact been tampered with in such a way.
And yet, despite these inherent risks, jailbreaking is wildly popular among those who want greater control over their Apple devices.
However, the release of iOS 7.1 may have put the brakes on the jailbreaking community, so to speak. Apple frequently patches the holes that jailbreakers exploit to modify phones based on the work of other jailbreakers before them, and iOS 7.1 is no different. It takes longer and longer for the jailbreaking community to successfully crack Apple’s code for every iOS update. It took roughly 10 months to release the jailbreak for iOS 7. Now, with previously used doors closed to them, it will take jailbreakers even longer to find new paths.
Anyone who has jailbroken their device will likely have to eventually decide between updating to the latest Apple-approved operating system, or holding onto dated hardware and software to maintain their freedom from Apple. Old software is another security risk in and of itself and it’s up in the air whether customization or safety will win out among users.
Have you jailbroken your device and taken other steps to secure it? Let us know in the comments.