Apple products are well known in technology and consumer markets for being reliable, user friendly and secure. iPhones provide users with a visually appealing and simple layout in their home screens, a host of preloaded apps and features, and an official App Store containing a myriad of additional approved apps.
The range of these apps now allows you to connect almost every area of your life to your iPhone. This includes everything from your personal or work emails, online banking, your child’s school or nursery schedule, gym membership, holiday bookings and shopping preferences, to a whole host of social networking sites, dating and connectivity applications.
This may seem like a huge plus for functionality; however, the iOS operating system is actually quite a closed and carefully guarded system. You cannot customize your iPhone to anywhere near the same extent as you can with some rivals, with only a small number of preconfigured options allowed for the appearance of graphics, fonts, or layout appearance. There are also hard restrictions in place blocking unapproved software and stopping the user from accessing some features.
For the average person, the allowed breadth of use is more than enough, but a few more technically minded iPhone users might want to open up the closed system of iOS and see what else they can achieve with their iPhones. This process of removing Apple’s manufacturer restrictions is called jailbreaking. We want to demystify this process a little bit in this blog and answer some key questions; is jailbreaking safe? What are the risks? And should you jailbreak your iPhone?
History of jailbreaking
When the first few iterations of the iPhone came out, jailbreaking was very popular. Those early iPhones had far fewer features and while the App Store was still in its infancy, the apps offered were extremely limited. This led users to jailbreak their devices to allow them to add features, customize their phones and install apps that were available through third party stores or other unregulated sources.
As iPhones have grown in popularity, they have become more advanced and feature rich. The App Store now contains close to 2 million apps for users to download, many of them free or charging a nominal fee. This increased functionality, coupled with Apple purposefully cracking down on the practice of jailbreaking, has made it much rarer. However it is still possible, given the right circumstances. At the time of publication, all iPhones from the 2017 model year or earlier are jailbreakable, and most newer models are jailbreakable depending on the iOS version that they are running.
What can you do with a jailbroken iPhone?
The benefits of jailbreaking an iPhone really only appeal to someone with a good degree of technical knowledge about their phone, or a vested interest in bypassing some security measures that Apple have put in place.
Jailbreaking allows the iPhone to be customized in many more ways than would normally be allowed. You can alter the look and feel of your display, the appearance of app icons and access further customization features that you would otherwise be locked out of. It also allows the installation of “tweaks” to add or unlock additional features.
Perhaps the most appealing benefit is that jailbreaking allows the installation of apps that are not available on the official App Store. This can include free versions of apps you would normally have to pay for, and extended or tweaked versions of social media apps.
While it might be fun to play around with the look and feel of your iPhone and install some additional features, all of this comes at a cost to your security.
What are the risks of jailbreaking?
So, is it safe to jailbreak your iPhone? Overwhelmingly, the evidence says that it is not.
Jailbreaking your phone makes it much more vulnerable to malware and other security threats as you remove some of Apple’s preconfigured lines of defense. While they might seem restrictive to some, Apple’s security measures are there for a reason. Most spyware can only be installed and used on a Jailbroken iPhone, therefore, if you have a jailbroken device you are much more at risk of losing your sensitive data to hackers or cyberstalkers.
One of the ‘benefits’ of jailbreaking is giving you access to third party app stores, but this means that you will be accessing platforms that are rife with viruses and scams. If you are being offered an app for free that you would usually have to pay for, there is a good chance you are paying in another, more sinister way. There will usually be a very good reason for Apple refusing to authenticate and approve an app for the App Store, or a reason that the developers of the app only host their app on third party sites. This could be because the app is carrying malware, or because it harvests the data from your phone to sell or send to hackers.
Another dangerous feature of jailbreaking is that it gives these apps unrestricted access to your device. Usually, an app cannot operate outside it’s remit and will always have to ask your permission to access your camera or location data if this is central to its function. A jailbroken phone is an open book, and these seemingly attractive third party apps can roam freely within your device, accessing anything else that you have connected or saved.
Apple is very well aware of the dangers of jailbreaking. The process can seriously destabilize the operating system of the device, causing it to crash. For this reason, they guard against it as best they can and are constantly patching vulnerabilities and adding security measures to prevent it. However, if you do choose to jailbreak your device, your warranty with Apple will be void, as they refuse to be held accountable for any damage that your phone suffers as a result of jailbreaking.
With the ever increasing number of apps on the App Store and constantly evolving functionality of the iPhone it is hard to see any convincing real world benefits to jailbreaking your phone. There are, however, significant risks to you and significant potential benefits for hackers and snoopers. If you are suspicious that your phone may have been jailbroken without your permission, or you want to check for spyware on your iPhone you can perform a quick and easy scan using Certo AntiSpy.