iOS 7: Apple's war against jailbreaking now makes perfect sense

iOS 7: Apple's war against jailbreaking now makes perfect sense

Summary: iOS 7 has a new feature called Activation Lock that essentially renders a lost or stolen iPhone worthless unless the owner inputs their Apple ID. Just jailbreaking would render this feature dead in the water. The days of iOS jailbreaking are almost over.

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TOPICS: Mobility, Apple, iOS, iPhone
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Apple has been locked in a long-term war of attrition against iOS jailbreakers. Apple would release a new version, and the jailbreakers would get to work cracking it using vulnerabilities, which Apple would then fix.

And so the cycle went on. Apple releasing updates, and the jailbreaking community poking holes in them again.

Today at the WWDC 2013 keynote speech, Apple unveiled a new iOS 7 feature designed to combat iPhone theft, and suddenly Apple has a good reason to battle against jailbreaking.

The new feature is called Activation Lock, and what this does is prevent a thief from bypassing the iPhone's Find My iPhone and lockscreen passcode by wiping the handset. Even after being wiped, the handset needs the owner's Apple ID in order to be used again.

(Source: Apple)

Although not mentioned in the keynote, I'm assuming that Activation Lock will work for iPads and iPod touch devices too.

Activation Lock is a long way removed from the frankly pathetic security features built into current releases of iOS, which can be bypassed by wiping the handset, or jailbreaking the device.

Since jailbreaking involved bypassing the security features that Apple has built into iOS, a feature like Activation Lock would be useless if all the thief had to do was jailbreak the handset in order to bypass the security feature.

Now Apple's long-term war against the jailbreakers makes sense. Perfect sense.

While in most cases people jailbreak iOS devices for benign reasons, such as to allow them to be able to get access to third-party apps not present in Apple's App Store, jailbreaking can also be used nefariously, for example, to run pirated apps or to gain access to the personal data stored on a handset.

While I've been a fan of users having the ability to jailbreak their devices – devices that they after all have paid for and own – Apple's announcement of Activation Lock has caused me to change my stance.

While I continue to believe that the jailbreaking community should be free to pursue jailbreaking without fear of prosecution, I now feel that Apple has a duty to do everything in its power to thwart jailbreakers at every opportunity. After all, theft of mobile devices, especially those with Apple logos on them, is reaching epidemic proportions, and the best way to put a damper on these thefts is to make stolen hardware valueless. Activation Lock goes some way to doing just that.

This also means that Apple will need to step up its game with respect to patching jailbreak vulnerabilities in iOS 7. No more can it leave them in place for weeks, and sometimes months. For Activation Lock to be effective, Apple will need to patch iOS jailbreak exploits in a timely fashion.

If Apple is taking this seriously, the days of iOS jailbreaking are almost over.

UPDATE: Some people think that passcode protect the iPhone from being accessed. Tools exist that can crack the earlier handsets, and failing this, the handset can just be wiped and returned to a blank state. If the iPhone has been stolen, then after wiping it can be sold.

The point I'm making is that a jailbreak crack in iOS could be a way to bypass Activation Lock, which is why Apple needs to block off such exploits.

Topics: Mobility, Apple, iOS, iPhone

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117 comments
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  • Nobody Wants to Jailbreak

    But we do want, insist actually, on root access for devices we own. If you can't log in as root, you don't own the device. Just give me the option to turn on root access using my Apple ID. Closing holes that allow for unauthorized privilege elevation is a good thing. Disallowing authorized use of the full functionality of a device is a bad thing.
    txscott
    • I back this statement 100%

      Yup.
      QMaverick
    • Absolutely

      Now if they say they don't want to support it, i'm fine with that. I never call for support anyway as typically I know more about my device than some whomever I will get when I call verizon. So I'm perfectly comfortable with the attitude that if I root/jailbreak the device I become my own tech support - I am anyway. They just need to make that clear so that people who really do need that support understand what they are getting into.
      cornpie
      • Getting there though....

        Have a look at Infuse on the App Store (for scraping)

        Or NPlayer for playing MKV files GPU accelerated...
        philcarroll0
    • If you have used XBMC On An Ipad or ATV

      Then there is a very good reason to jailbreak as something this useful with such a degree of freedom will never make it into the App store.
      Alan Smithie
      • Oops replied to wrong post above....

        This was meant for you, Alan ;)

        Have a look at Infuse on the App Store (for scraping)

        Or NPlayer for playing MKV files GPU accelerated...
        philcarroll0
    • You should rethink what you said

      If nobody wanted to jailbreak, how come over 5 MILLION people used evasion alone? Because In the way you said it. A person who wants "root" acess would actually take advantage of the open operating system. Unlike the 12 year old who wants to have that "cool" cydia tweak his friends have.
      nbenedetto
      • You should rethink what you think he said

        If you have root access you would not need evasion for installing tweaks, you would have root access to do it yourself.
        thaylin
        • You should rethink what you think he said

          But Apple is a control freak. They will never allow root access, which is why we jailbreak.
          snarfoswald
    • Petition to Tim Cook

      Let's start a petition for Apple to give use Root access
      osokona
    • If I can't root/jailbreak then I am selling it.

      I am not keeping a device that I can't control and don't own. If I would have globbed iOS6 I wouldn't be in this mess now, more than likely when iOS7 is JB ill just keep that version indefinitely. (Yes you can do that, even after they stop signing it)
      RJFlorida
  • really hummmm.

    I have owned 3 I phone and have never had my iPhone stolen the screen has broken 4 times but never had it stolen. and yes i do travel out of the country got it wet but never stolen.
    medric
    • I've had electronics stolen.

      I've had my share of electronics stolen. I had a rather expensive graphing calculator stolen when I was at college. One place where I worked had cars broken into and GPS devices stolen.

      It happens. It's more common in some neighborhoods than others.

      It's not necessarily about traveling to a different country, but rather about not paying attention. Never leave a device out in the open where it's easily stolen. Most thieves are opportunists, and if you leave them an opening, they'll take it.

      And it's not like thieves live in foreign countries - my calculator was stolen in the USA, and the GPS incident happened in the USA as well. Thinking that foreign countries are more prone to theft is a bit of a fallacy.
      CobraA1
      • sticky fingers get stuck

        I know of a guy in college that got his smartphone stolen a couple times. He retaliated, maybe not against the same thief, by applying super glue to a defunct iPod and leaving it in his car.

        The glue skins over pretty fast, but the thief apparently was fast enough to take the iPod before it had become too un-sticky because 10 minutes when he came back it was gone. One can only hope the guilty was stuck with it a while.

        If anyone thinks that's cruel, consider that in the 1970's and early 80's, when decent car stereos forst came out, that some people used to glue a razor blade on the back of the unit to deter theft. No comment on legalities but it was done.

        The worst thing is that theft occurs at all. That's the shame.
        opcom
      • Hmm?

        @CobraA1, did you imply that the USA is not a 'foreign' country? What do you mean by that?

        Thinking that everyone on the Internet hails from the self-appointed 'Land of the Free' is actually the fallacy here.
        Infernova
        • Get over it.

          No matter where you live, other countries are -- by definition -- foreign.
          Barry Fruitman
  • Nope

    I am sure that the jailbreak devs would make a Activation Lock aware jailbreak. The Jailbreak community is not about piracy and stealing, and it is not something that they want to be associated with. Also, if a jailbreak would make that feature null then its not a very good feature. On another note, jailbroken devices are more secured than non-jailbroken, and the community response a lot quicker to patch a vulnerability than Apple does.
    mghanrahan
    • Agreed

      Well said.
      QMaverick
    • Thieves probably do jailbreak.

      "The Jailbreak community is not about piracy and stealing"

      That being said - the information to jailbreak is public, and I can pretty much guarantee that the more intelligent of thieves will use that information to jailbreak the device. A good community is not automatic immunity to misuse and abuse.
      CobraA1
      • I doubt it

        True though it may be that the info is public, it takes the dev team (or whatever you want to call them) month and months of work and many sleepless nights i'm sure, to find vulnerabilities and use them to make a program to give the user super-user access. and these are people that have been creating the jailbreaks since there was jailbreaking. So i would not be too worried about some other person crafting their own.
        pccapso