How will jailbreaking affect my iPhone?

iOS jailbreak: this is how it works

Halyna Kubiv

iOS can be freed from restrictions by jailbreaking it. When cracking it, the hacking community always uses new tricks.

EnlargeThis is how jailbreaking works on iOS devices.
© istockphoto.com/TommL

Apple designed the iOS mobile operating system for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch families and for the Apple TV set-top box as a closed system. The hardware together with iOS, Apple ID, app and media shops, iTunes and the online storage service iCloud form a closed Apple cosmos with strict rules. For example, it is not possible to change the launcher under iOS as with Android in order to give the system a new user interface. In iOS, you can only adapt what Apple intended - nothing changes in iOS version 7 either.

This is how the jailbreak works

A jailbreak - comparable to rooting an Android smartphone, for example - can unlock some operating system restrictions. For this purpose, the security functions are tricked and the user rights of the system manipulated in such a way that apps from the alternative app store Cydia can be installed using security leaks (exploits) in iOS. Here you can also find apps that Apple has refused to accept in the official App Store. A jailbreak is also a prerequisite for removing a SIM lock card. And pirated apps can also be used after a jailbreak.

According to legal experts, patching in Germany is not clearly regulated. However, private users can safely remove the lock and download legal apps.

Although there are only a few known problems in connection with serious jailbreaks such as Evasion, Apple regularly points out that security gaps are exploited for jailbreaks that could also lead to other problems, for example app crashes and excessive power consumption.

Evasion in action

EnlargeEvasion tool: Jailbreaks for current Apple devices with iOS are currently only available up to iOS version 6.1.2.

A jailbreak is a deep intrusion into Apple's mobile operating system. Before starting the process, make sure that your own data and settings are currently saved on your Windows computer via iTunes. So you can quickly restore them to the mobile device if something goes wrong with the jailbreak.

Current jailbreaks are carried out using free tools from the Internet. Evasion and Redsnow have proven themselves. Both tools set up the app store alternative Cydia automatically in the framework.

The jailbreaking process itself is not complicated for the user. To do this, the iOS device is first connected to the computer and the jailbreak software started, then the steps shown on the screen are carried out. The program recognizes the corresponding iOS device and offers the user only one active button, namely "Jailbreak". The process itself only takes a few minutes, in the meantime you have to be patient and do nothing else on the PC if possible.

Tethered and untethered

So-called "tethered jailbreaks" are quite inconvenient for the user, as they have to be reloaded after restarting the iPhone or iPad. Only "Untethered Jailbreaks" like Evasion are permanently active and are also available after rebooting the iOS device.

A jailbreak with Evasion and other tools only works for devices up to and including iOS 6.1.2. Apple has cleaned up the newer versions 6.1.3 and 6.1.4 in such a way that no target for a hack has yet been found.

If you have already installed iOS 6.1.3 and 6.1.4, you can jailbreak a downgrade after installing an older official iOS version.

In the course of the release of iOS 7, the cards will be reshuffled in the head-to-head race between the jailbreak developers and Apple. Experience has shown that the jailbreak teams react quickly to updates from Apple.

Security concerns

Apple's iOS is a stripped-down version of Mac OS X that has been adapted for the smaller devices. Apple first implemented some security mechanisms such as sandboxing for iOS and only then prepared them for OS X. The user and the downloaded apps have no access to the root files. In addition, a third-party app can only access its own files.

A jailbreak cancels out these security mechanisms. The apps downloaded from the App Store are signed by Apple. The unlocked iOS no longer checks signatures, which means that apps can be loaded from Cydia, but also that malicious software can be executed on the iPhone. For this purpose, an SSH server with a standard password is automatically activated on the iPhone with the jailbreak. This practically means that every user with a little background knowledge can get root access to the unlocked iOS device - even remotely via WLAN.

Withdraw jailbreak

If you created a complete backup before jailbreaking, you can easily reset your device with it. Before that, you have to bring the normal iOS back to the iPhone. This can be done with the available iOS update or with the restore option in iTunes. When restoring via iTunes, the iPhone is set up as a new device. Then you can upload the saved data to the iPhone.

Danger from supposed jailbreak tools

In the course of the release of the latest 6er versions 6.1.3 and 6.1.4, Apple closed almost all iOS vulnerabilities that were used for the jailbreak procedures that were common up to now. Because of this, there are no jailbreaking tools on the internet for the two latest iOS editions. That means: Neither the iPhone 5 with iOS 6.1.4 nor the iPhone 4S and the iPad range with iOS 6.1.3 can be cracked by jailbreaking. However, this does not prevent dodgy contemporaries from offering supposed jailbreak software for these iOS versions for download. Two types of fake iOS jailbreaks are currently common on the Internet:

EnlargeFake jailbreak: Alleged jailbreak versions for iOS 6.1.4 do not work and in some cases even contain malware.

Fake tools: These pretend to be a real jailbreak program that also runs on iOS 6.1.3 and 6.1.4. For this purpose, a well-known jailbreak program name and the respective user interface are usually imitated. However, nothing happens when you use the programs and the iPhone is not unlocked. The user is only fooled.

Malware: Malicious software is often hidden behind the alleged jailbreak tools. These programs trick the user into unlocking iOS. Often such applications are then published under the good name of real jailbreak utilities such as Redsnow. In fact, when the tool is called, Windows is secretly infected by the malware it contains.

iOS 7: Shortly after the release of iOS 7, fake tools adapted to the new iOS version are likely to be circulating in unofficial download portals and newsgroups.