Jailbreak iOS 6.1 today, or wait until Sunday?

Filed Under: Apple, Featured, iOS

The cat-and-mouse game between Apple and its diehard technical fans continues.

Apple released its latest mobile operating system version, iOS 6.1, on Monday. By all accounts, customers haven't been shy in applying the update.

Not to be outdone, a process for jailbreaking iOS 6.1 was announced the same day.

Jailbreaking is where you remove some or all of the artificial restrictions that make iOS a closed platform. In particular, a jailbroken device no longer limits you to software from Apple's own App Store.

App Store software is very strictly regulated. Notably, it can't do anything that adds functionality into the operating system itself, and all updates have to go back through the strict approval process.

So, no kernel drivers, and thus no third-party security software of the anti-virus, HIPS or behaviour blocking sort.

One argument against jailbreaking is that keeping your phone "jailed" greatly reduces the risk of of malware infection. The prevalence of malware on the much more open Android platform is held up as evidence that an unregulated software marketplace comes at a price.

One argument for jailbreaking is that, hey, it's your device, so why should Apple get not only to choose what software you're allowed, but also to take a cut of 30% on every paid app?

The malware argument is an interesting one, because the only known in-the-wild iOS infections have required jailbroken devices. So jailbreaking must increase risk.

But there have only been two known in-the-wild iOS infections, Ikee and Duh. So jailbreaking doesn't increase risk much.

Anyway, the App Store isn't a security guarantee. For example, App Store software called Find and Call stirred controversy last year when it was labelled malware by some observers.

Our own Vanja Svajcer disagreed with the tag malware on strict semantic grounds, but nevertheless chided the app as insecure and careless about its customers' privacy, satirically criticising its functionality as "pretty ugly behaviour":

In short, jailbreaking isn't desperately risky and unconscionable, and in many, if not most, jursidictions, it's perfectly legal.

Your IT manager probably won't allow it, and it's hard to complain about that, at least for devices on which work data is processed and files stored. You almost certainly don't need a jailbreak in order to do your job properly, so it represents a needless additional risk.

But if you want to try it on your own iOS 6.1 device, the choice is yours.

At least, it is if you have an older device - specifically, one with an A4 processor, such as an iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, or iPod touch 4. (The iPad 1 has an A4 chip, but can't run iOS 6 in the first place.)

You can also only manage what's called a tethered jailbreak at the moment. That's where you have to plug the device in (that's the tether) every time you reboot it. If the device reboots while you're away from your computer, you're sunk because few, if any, apps will work.

Word on the street is that an untethered, or persistent, jailbreak is due this Sunday, for those who are willing or have to wait.

Jailbreaking is a minority pastime, but nevertheless a popular one, at least with Naked Security cognoscenti.

In recent polls about jailbreaking on the new Windows RT platform and on iOS, our readers voted overwhelmingly in favour:

Personally, I think that Apple would win more friends than it would lose by officially tolerating jailbreaking.

I admit it's unlikely that Apple will ever do that, but then again, at one time it seemed more than merely unlikely that there would ever be an iPad mini...

Image of bent jail bars courtesy of Shutterstock.

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15 Responses to Jailbreak iOS 6.1 today, or wait until Sunday?

  1. Guest · 976 days ago

    "One argument against jailbreaking is that it greatly reduces the risk of a malware infection." Shouldn't that read "it greatly increases"?

    • Paul Ducklin · 976 days ago

      Thanks for the comment - I have rewritten the sentence to make it clearer.

      I meant that you reduce the risk by avoiding a jailbreak...

  2. lorraine · 976 days ago

    In the US, it'll be illegal to jailbreak a smartphone as of this weekend...

    • Paul Ducklin · 976 days ago

      Technically, I think it'll become illegal to *unlock* a phone (not just a smartphone) in order to use it with a different carrier. (Unlock is to the voice/data functionality as jailbreak is to the operating system.)

      Some devices are sold unlocked; others have no lock (e.g. a Wi-Fi only iPad); yet others can be unlocked for no or a small fee by the carrier.

      So you could have a locked-but-jailbroken phone. You can then run any software on it, but only connect online through one carrier.

      Ironically, IIRC, iDevices bought from apple are unlocked-but-jailed. And Apple won't help/doesn't want you to unjail them for love or money.

    • Jeremy · 976 days ago

      The land of the free is a joke. What happens when you want to travel overseas. Local sims are so much better.

  3. Brian Aardvaark · 976 days ago

    The consumer is already getting overcharged for monthly fees and data transfer. When I go to another country and want to take my phone with me, why should I pay their rip-off roaming fees too. That's just crazy. It's my phone, I bought it so I can unlock it or jailbreak it if I want.

  4. Jeremy · 976 days ago

    I must say i've been so happy since I moved to Android (more customisation allowed so no need to jailbreak) also I bought the phone outright which works out to be cheaper. If Apple doesn't act quick it will return to the pre iPhone era.

  5. Luke · 976 days ago

    I'm not an IT at all, I'm just a normal person ^^ This question might be silly, but what I don't quite get is do you really need that jailbreak, if you want to use your iPhone in your normal life? Because I can get any news app, I can get any sports app, any TV app, I can listen to any music I want even without having to buy it. What makes an iPhone so much better if it is jailbroken? And what do you need your smartphone for if you need desperately an Android which seems more free (the only freedom I know about is that you can arrange the apps the way you want, incredible! :O Congratulations on that!) or a jailbroken iPhone?

    • Jay · 976 days ago

      Only reason I would want to jailbreak an iPhone right now is to tether it's internet to my laptop.

    • JWL · 975 days ago

      Do *you* really need that jailbreak? It sounds like the phone operates the way you want, so you don't need the jailbreak.

      Others (mainly us IT folks / geeks) want total control of our devices. We like customizing them and adding whatever we like to them.

      Want to dress your phone up to look like Windows / Linux / Mac / Commodore 64? Jailbreak and you can do that. Want to install an adblocker to keep ads from appearing in Safari? Jailbreak and you can. Want to run the original Super Mario Brothers through an emulator on your phone, so you can relive your childhood? Jailbreak and you can. If in my line of work I need access to a unix terminal when I'm troubleshooting a network problem, I have one in my pocket with my jailbroken iphone.

      It's not for everyone, and the majority of the population will never have a need to. But those who want to should be able to. I bought my car, I should be able to install any engine / transmission / stereo / lights I so choose. If I want to install an aftermarket part not made by the OEM, I should be able to.

      • Luke · 975 days ago

        Thanks a lot for your answer. I was just wondering what you IT guys needed it for. I won't ever use it, obviously. It sounds nice, though, especially the adblocker tool!

        • JWL · 974 days ago

          It's actually an easy process anymore, especially on the older ( 4 and below) iPhones.

          If you have a secondary phone you want to play around with, either find a geek friend to help or try it out yourself. If you don't like the jailbreak you can always restore to factory Apple software and specs.

    • Besides music, you can download and use every app for free. Its just $0.99 app for you but imagine loss of Rovio if even one quarter of people got Angry Birds for free. Besides. There are apps as expensive as $400 too (though that one was complete crap, haha). Imagine getting it for free.

      Second. It puts the Apple's whole Application Delivery Model to shame. eg. Many companies spend a lot of money to test their apps. If you jailbroke all your devices, its just a matter of shared drive.

      Jailbreaking gives your phones wings, you can tether your wifi ipads/laptops, open unlimited tabs in safari, create custom lock screens, unlock Game Center achievements, etc etc But it is all on the cost of something very precious. Memory. Your device is very highly moderated for the use as you get it. If you can open only 8 tabs at once, its because the device is not optimized to take more load than that. If you are allowed more tabs, its gonna use memory from other apps and hence make your device slower. So, the ideal condition of your iphone is actually the way you get it.

      BTW, When Apple has given you liberty to play non-DRM protected music and media, it expects you to 'buy' CDs or download legally. You are breaking law again if you're just downloading it for free.

  6. Nick Beacham-Watts · 976 days ago

    I have had jail broken Androids now for four years. I use antivirus AVG and security software Cerberus. Have never had a moments trouble and yes I have used quite a number of different ROMs. Android 4.1.2 Baseband 19100XLQ6 Kernel 3.031, I think this is all being greatly exaggerated!

    • Sootie · 975 days ago

      They are always very quick to complain about the "Malware problem" on Android at every single partal opertunity they can find, even if the article has nothing to do with android (say for example this one on ios) they will somehow find a way to complain about the horror of android malware even though its completly irrelivent

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About the author

Paul Ducklin is a passionate security proselytiser. (That's like an evangelist, but more so!) He lives and breathes computer security, and would be happy for you to do so, too. Paul won the inaugural AusCERT Director's Award for Individual Excellence in Computer Security in 2009. Follow him on Twitter: @duckblog