iOS 7: Apple’s war against jailbreaking now makes perfect sense

“Apple has been locked in a long-term war of attrition against iOS jailbreakers,” Adrian Kingsley-Hughes reports for ZDNet. “At the WWDC 2013 keynote speech, Apple unveiled a new iOS 7 feature designed to combat iPhone theft, and suddenly Apple has a good reason to battle against jailbreaking.”

“Although not mentioned in the keynote, I’m assuming that Activation Lock will work for iPads and iPod touch devices too,” Kingsley-Hughes reports. “Activation Lock is a long way removed from the frankly pathetic security features built into current releases of iOS, which can be bypassed by wiping the handset, or jailbreaking the device.”

Kingsley-Hughes reports, “Since jailbreaking involved bypassing the security features that Apple has built into iOS, a feature like Activation Lock would be useless if all the thief had to do was jailbreak the handset in order to bypass the security feature. Now Apple’s long-term war against the jailbreakers makes sense. Perfect sense.”

Read more in the full article here.

24 Comments

    1. Jailbreaking is necessary so I can occasionally tether without losing my grandfathered unlimited data plan. Given the average data usage on my three phones (2.5gb, 2.2gb, 1.5gb) a family share data plan doesn’t make $ense over three unlimited plans and none of the other providers has AT&T’s raw data speeds.

      1. You can tether with the grandfathered “unlimited” data plan, I do (you do have to pay an additional feature charge)

        You want to tether for free? That’s called stealing.
        So your statement becomes:
        “Jailbreaking is necessary so I can steal stuff”

        Yup, I think that statement likely covers 98% (perhaps more) of jailbreakers.

          1. Yes, it is stealing. You purchased those GB’s as data to be consumed via the iPhone. If you want to consume those GB’s via a different platform, such as a PC, then you are violating the terms of your contract. That is stealing. You are a thief. Theft of service. Criminal.

        1. Not on AT&T which requires you to switch to a family shared data plan before they’ll let you tether.

          Otherwise I agree 100% – I have no patience for folks that want to steal. Regardless of how discriminatory AT&T or Verizon or whatever pricing is, you agree to it when you sign up.

          What you should be doing is lobbying your representative to increase the regulations on wireless carriers and to create regulations to stop this.

          1. I have enabled tethering many times on my AT&T unlimited plan. The difference is that for an individual or non shared data family plan you have to pay an additional fee to enable tethering on a per device basis.
            Unless they have discontinued that service since the last time I enabled it you can get add tethering to any iPhone on any individual or family plan.

  1. Jailbreaking is not just about adding a new skin to your home screen or an app that Apple won’t approve. Jailbreaking, if Apple allowed it, will quickly move into the malware realm, where seemingly innocuous apps install malware.

    Let’s suppose you need physical access to an iPhone to install a virus, but that after it was installed it could propagate itself via iMessage to other people in your Contacts. An enterprising malware distributor could steal someone’s iPhone from a Starbucks, install the malware, and then contact the owner and tell them they found their iPhone at that Starbucks and return it to them. Sure, it’s work to get the first one installed, but thereafter it could spread automatically and quickly.

    Apple is correct in working to prevent jailbreaking because it can lead to so many nasty, dangerous activities. Just look at Android’s growing malware problems, and it’s quite obvious why Apple has a closed system with a rigorous app approval process.

    I do wonder how many apps submitted for approval to Apple have some sort of malware baked in?

    1. It’s not just security; it’s about assuring a consistent user experience. I’ve jailbroken 2 iPhones (a 3GS and 4) and have noticed lag increase over time afterwards. In both cases, I restored back to stock iOS.

      Apple is a company that’s very serious about controlling user expectations, in terms of both security and usability.

    2. @Bizlaw,

      Your comment mixes the state of jailbreaking today, with a hypothetical, what if all iPhones were jailbroken.

      First off, no, you couldn’t install a virus on my jailbroken iPhone even if you had physical access to it. That isn’t to say that a jailbroken iPhone can’t get a virus, but rather my jailbroken iPhone is locked down and more secure than before it was jailbroken. You can’t do anything with my iPhone except wipe it without entering the pin code and entering the wrong code results in sending me an email with your photo and location.

      However, you also mention that the virus could spread automatically and quickly to other iPhones. This is where you’re mixing jailbroken and unjailbroken states. Maybe this isn’t your intent, but it’s reading as if you’re stating that a jailbroken iPhone is a vector to malware for non-jailbroken devices.

      If this were true, jailbreaking wouldn’t be required as anyone could install a malware app as an enterprise app today and use that as a vector.

      I’m all for Apple continuing to jail the iPhone, and yes, Android is a total friggin mess in this regard. I really don’t want that, but… The jailbreak community and users present no risk to the jailed users.

      1. You are correct about jailbroken iPhones posing no threat to non-jailbroken iPhones. However you are incorrect about your phone being more secure than a stock iPhone. You may have more locks to a physical user of the device, but the very software that you used to break the iPhone in the first place puts a software vulnerability into the system that can be used even with a web page drive by. Hence you are actually less secure.

        1. I think you’re confused.

          Are you talking about the web page exploit that was used in jailbreakme? That was an exploit that all iPhones were susceptible to and had you jailbroken your iPhone, you were able to patch it prior to Apple releasing the patch for non-jailbroken iPhones.

          If you believe there is a current web page drive by exploit that only targets jailbroken iPhones, please cite your source.

  2. There’s no motivation I can think of to hack Activation Lock besides to facilitate phone theft. Hopefully the Jailbreaking community will keep their distance. I think most of them just want to unlock and tinker with iOS devices that people legitimately own.

    1. The jailbreakers will totally steer clear of this. See my comment below for why the author was totally misinformed to connect the two to begin with.

      While anything is hackable/breakable, I don’t see this getting hacked. There’s no incentive really at all. If one has the skills to do it, they could make much more money with much less effort and zero risk.

      It makes no sense for someone to figure out how to hack the system and then go out and start stealing iPhones themselves. On the other hand, there’s a huge difference between selling/distributing software that would hack the system and selling/distributing software for jailbreaking.

      Selling or distributing software that would hack the system would result in you winding up in prison for a very long time on charges way beyond the DMCA.

      The jailbreaking community on the other hand is all about enabling stuff and being free of restrictions for what people can do with the devices they own. Even piracy isn’t tolerated by most groups.

  3. Every jailbreak is really a potential malware exploit. You can argue that Apple should provide a method for installing alternate firmware, but I don’t see how you can argue that they shouldn’t stamp out exploits.

    It’s a credit to the Jailbreak community that there hasn’t been a disaster with iPhones yet. Some of the exploits have been scary. (e.g. the “just visit this web page” jailbreak from a couple years ago)

    1. I totally agree. I love my jailbroken iOS devices, but totally understand that each exploit that was used for jailbreaking was an exploit that Apple needed to patch.

  4. If people have your hardware, security doesn’t filing matter, does it? And if you wipe something, to get access to it, you are talking about theft, aren’t you? So make up your mind, Hughes. Are you talking about physical security, software security, or theft?

  5. The author of the original article is terribly misinformed. First off, there hasn’t really been a war with jailbreakers. Apple *could* shut out jailbroken iPhones completely, but they never have. Instead, Apple releases iOS updates that include patches to the holes that jailbreaking tools exploit. But that’s only because those holes are security holes or bugs that Apple would patch to begin with even if people weren’t using them to jailbreak. Additionally, Apple has yet to release an iOS update solely to patch holes used for jailbreaking. Again, they could, but they don’t bother.

    “the frankly pathetic security features built into current releases of iOS, which can be bypassed by wiping the handset, or jailbreaking the device.”

    Uh, no. Currently, an iPhone can simply be turned off in order to prevent Find My iPhone or be placed in a container that blocks all signals. It can then be wiped, and re-activated*. Once that is done, the iOS device can be used by a new user without fear of getting caught. Jailbreaking has absolutely nothing to do with anything at this point. While the new user thief can use the iOS device now without getting caught, they can choose to install Angry Birds, update Facebook, tweet, or if available, jailbreak. Neither Angry Birds nor jailbreaking is a required part of the process for the thief not to get caught.

    *It is possible today to call some carriers and notify them that the iPhone has been stolen. Given all the device information, the carrier has the ability to block re-activation, and jailbreaking won’t help any more than installing Angry Birds on it.

    What Apple is doing now is tying the activation system into Find My iPhone. When you now go to activate your iPhone, it checks to see if it’s been reported stolen via Find My iPhone. If it has, it won’t activate. Jailbreaking won’t get around this. This check is based on the hardware of the device itself.

    This isn’t to say that thieves won’t be able to hack the system, but what they would do would be completely unrelated to jailbreaking. I’m not terribly worried about the system being hacked. It seems like it would be far more work, and increased risk than it would be worth for a thief. Someone with the skills could make far more money doing something else, and there’s very little incentive for this as a target to begin with.

    One final note on jailbreaking versus security and theft…

    Jailbreaking can increase security in several ways. Sure, it gives users the ability to be foolish with their device, and even enable SSH with root access with a common password, but if one knows what they’re doing, or if they’re not foolishly enabling things like this, security can be enhanced. For example, my iPhone can’t be turned off without entering the activation code. If you enter a wrong activation code, an email is sent to me with your photo and location. Sure, a pro-thief can still get around all this, but it’s something that has caught others in the past.

    Regardless, I’m loving the new anti-activation security feature from Apple and look forward to having it implemented across all their iPhones. And, I fully expect jailbreaking to continue without any interference between the two.

    TL;DR: jailbreaking has nothing to do with this. The author is misinformed. Hackers may break the anti-activation system, but it will be totally unrelated to jailbreaking.

    1. Assumably, (I haven’t seen details) the actual owner of the phone can do a full reset (by verifying using his iCloud password) and then the phone would be ready to be newly activated.

  6. We don’t know.
    It will be effective even if you can just jailbreak it away. I don’t think Apple is in a real war, they have not exerted much effort. I don’t care for jail breaking at all but I think it sells phones to some that would never have bought on otherwise which is good.

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