While it sounds like something you might see in a Western, jailbreaking is actually the act of altering your iPhone so that you can bypass the software restrictions imposed by the iOS operating system. Jailbreaking originally came about to give Apple mobile device owners more freedom in how they use their device. It enables you to make changes to in-built features or download apps that haven’t been cleared by the official App Store.

As you might expect, Apple is against this practice, and they have worked extensively to try and limit the ways in which you are able to jailbreak your phone. However, it is still possible to crack the code.

The practice has had a bit of a resurgence over the last 18 months with a number of new tools released to market including Unc0ver, which enables you to jailbreak the newest iPhone 12 models. While jailbreaking gives you more freedom, it also exposes you to increased risks of security breaches and hacks. We spoke about the risks and rewards of jailbreaking an iPhone in an earlier blog, which you can read here.

There is a notable correlation between jailbreaking and spyware. Most commercially available iOS spyware requires your device to be jailbroken in order to function as it allows a hacker to install unofficial apps onto the device. This means that if someone has successfully jailbroken your phone without your consent, not only can they monitor your activities using spyware but they are also exposing you to other forms of malware.

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Is my phone jailbroken? Here’s how to tell

If you suspect your iPhone has been jailbroken or unlocked and are concerned about your privacy and security, there are a number of ways in which you can check your device:

1. Cydia or Sileo are installed: One way to confirm if your iPhone is jailbroken is to look for an app called either “Cydia” or “Sileo”. These apps are in fact third-party app stores that are usually installed during the jailbreak process. However, it is also important to note that on a jailbroken device, any app icon (e.g. Cydia/Sileo) can be made invisible to the user so it is not a fool-proof method of detection.

2. Other unusual apps: It is also important to check for any other unusual apps that have appeared on your home screen that you haven’t downloaded yourself. Many jailbreak tools include a launcher app which can be run to re-jailbreak the device if the jailbreak has been removed. An example of one of these apps is “checkra1n” which is often installed alongside one of the most popular jailbreaks. If you find an app that you’re not sure about, you should try Googling its name and it should tell you if it’s related to a jailbreak tool.

3. Run a Jailbreak scan: Whilst the first two checks can be a good indicator that you might have a problem, neither of these methods are a fully effective way to see if your phone has been jailbroken without your knowledge. One way in which you can be sure is to run a check with Certo AntiSpy. Certo AntiSpy is able to scan your phone, confirm whether it has been jailbroken and identify apps that might have been hidden for insidious reasons.

How to remove a jailbreak

If you find that your device has been jailbroken, and you didn’t do this yourself, then it’s likely that this was done with malicious intent. As a result, you will want to secure it as soon as possible. By removing a jailbreak, you are able to put a stop to any apps that rely on it to function, protecting you from spyware.

There are a couple of ways you can remove a jailbreak:

1. Perform an iOS update on your iPhone.

2. Perform a factory reset on your iOS device. To do this, plug your iPhone into a computer running iTunes, then reset it from there using the ‘Restore iPhone’ option. However, make sure you create a backup of your device before doing this. And don’t worry, the Jailbreak won’t carry across in the backup.

Hackers with malicious intent not only do you harm for their own means, such as monitoring your activity or stealing personal data, but they also don’t care what other threats they expose you to. Jailbreaking your phone creates increased risk from security breaches and can invalidate your warranty. By remaining vigilant and using tools such as Certo AntiSpy, you can mitigate both the risk from malicious actors and the collateral damage that they cause.