If you use an iPhone you’ve probably noticed that the experience is quite ‘locked-down’. You can’t install apps that aren’t on the App Store, you can’t access the filesystem, and you can only open approved file types. These restrictions arguably help make Apple mobile devices more secure than their Android or Windows counterparts, however, there is a way to remove these restrictions. It’s called ‘Jailbreaking’.
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What is Jailbreaking?
Jailbreaking is the process of removing restrictions from an iOS device so that 3rd party apps, which have not been approved for the App Store, can be installed. Jailbreaking is commonly performed alongside installing spyware. It not only allows the spyware to be installed, but also allows it to access features that would normally be protected, such as call history or GPS location.
Is it still possible?
If you’re familiar with Jailbreaking then you probably know that in recent years Apple has gone to great lengths to tackle the issue. Therefore, you could be forgiven for thinking that it’s a thing of the past. However, while it is true that Jailbreaking has got harder with the latest iterations of iOS, it is still possible.
In the not-too-distant past, teams of underground programmers, such as Pangu or Redsn0w would find ways to Jailbreak every new version of iOS as soon as (or sometimes even before) they were released. They would then make it available to the public, usually in the form of a free piece of computer software that could Jailbreak a user’s iPhone when it was connected to the computer via USB cable. Although not quite as easy nowadays, individuals and small groups worldwide still work tirelessly to circumvent Apple’s efforts and free their devices of their restrictions. In fact, at the time of writing, there is currently a publicly-available Jailbreak for almost every version of iOS that has been released.
Recent examples include the H3lix and Saigon Jailbreaks for iOS 10 and the LiberIOS Jailbreak for iOS 11.0-11.1.2. Even the latest versions are not safe with a team at Alibaba Pandora Labs recently demonstrating a successful Jailbreak for iOS 11.2.x on an iPhone X.
The dangers of Jailbreaking
While many may relish the idea of having free rein to modify their iPhone however they please, a Jailbroken device is much more vulnerable to malware and other security threats. For example, the vast majority of iOS spyware requires the device to be Jailbroken in order to function, and as mentioned earlier, a hacker will often Jailbreak a device before installing spyware to ensure they have access to as much information as possible. Spyware on a Jailbroken device commonly has access to calls, texts, emails, photos, browsing history, GPS location and much more.
Is my iPhone Jailbroken?
Normally, it is quite easy to tell if an iPhone has been Jailbroken as a new app called “Cydia” will appear on the home screen. However, if spyware has also been installed on your device then the hacker would most probably hide the Cydia app and other evidence of Jailbreaking in order to cover their tracks, making it much harder to detect.
At Certo, we’ve added Jailbreak detection to our iOS app, Certo Mobile Security, available for free from the App Store.
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