So most people with an iPhone, iPad, or iPod have probably heard of the term jailbreaking. Heck, maybe you’ve even jailbroken a device before. But what does jailbreaking actually mean, and what is the process behind it?
Now on the surface, jailbreaking might seem as simple as plugging a device into a computer, clicking a button, waiting a few minutes, and bam the jailbreak is done.
But in reality, it’s a little more complex than that…
What Does Jailbreaking Actually Mean?
It means gaining the ability to install custom third-party apps on your device. That’s all it means. It’s completely legal, but Apple does not want you to do it because they want to control the user experience.
They want to make it the same for everyone. Simplicity is one of Apple’s key selling points so they don’t want people to go in and customize and hack their device and risking a bad user experience. But I personally believe if you shell out cash for a device and you pay for it, and it’s yours, you own it, you should be able to do whatever you want with it.
How Does an iOS Device Boot Up?
How does an iOS device boot up? It basically goes through a chain of trust.
This is a series of signature checks that makes sure everything that’s running is approved by Apple. And it happens in the following order.
- First is Boot ROM, which is also called Secure ROM. And this is the first important piece of code that runs on an iOS device.
- The second is Boot Loader. This is responsible for loading the main firmware.
- The third is the Kernel, and this connects the operating system to the actual data processing done at the hardware level.
- The fourth is iOS. This is when the operating system is loaded and you see the “Slide to Unlock” screen.
So now you know about the bootup process let’s move on to the juicy stuff.
How Jailbreaking Works
The jailbreak itself involves obtaining control of the root and media partition of the device. This is where all iOS’s files are stored. And in order to be controlled, the “private/etc/fstab” must be patched.
Now the “fstab”, that controls the permissions of the root and media partition on the device. The default security setting is set to Read-Only so you can view but you can’t modify. So in order to modify you need to change that to Read-Write.
The main problem is not getting the modified code in but getting it through certain checkpoints. Apple put in these checkpoints to verify if a file is actually legit or if it’s from a third-party. Every file is signed with a digital signature or key, and without it the file is useless.
So how do you get these keys? Well since Apple doesn’t give them out very easily, you either have to undo the lock by patching every single checkpoint or bypass through a backdoor, with the former being more difficult than the latter.
What’s stopping a jailbreak? Well, the signature checks are the main roadblocks in the jailbreak process.
While the kernel is loading there are tons of signature checks happening to make sure every file has been approved by Apple.
Specifically, there are many signature checks throughout the boot process that look for a signature file. If the file is correct, the boot up will continue and finalize. If it’s not, it will either crash the device or it won’t even execute that file at all.
Main Objective in Jailbreaking
Now obviously the main objective is to either patch the checks or bypass them. The common way is to bypass them because patching them would take up way too much time.
So this brings us to the two main exploit categories. The first one is the boot ROM Exploit. This is done during the boot ROM, and it can’t be patched by a normal update. It can only be patched by new hardware.
Since this is before almost any checkpoint, the modified code is put in and this creates a gateway to bypass all the signature checks or simply disable them. The second exploit is the Userland Exploit. Now, this is done during or after the loading of the kernel, and it can easily be patched by Apple. Since it’s after all the checks, it puts the modified code directly into the openings and back into the kernel.
These openings are not easy to find, and once found they can be patched. Userland Exploits have been the most common exploit because they are easier to find, and they’re software based.
So those are all the things behind jailbreaking. And as you can see, jailbreaking is not an easy task and takes a lot of time and effort. And if you’re not worried about voiding your Apple warranty or if you don’t even have a warranty, I would recommend you trying jailbreaking out if you haven’t already.
Top 5 Reason to Jailbreak your iPhone
Here, I’m going to give you a few reasons why I think you should jailbreak.
- Full Customisability – You already know that the Apple store has some good apps, however, jailbroken phones have many options of customizability compared to normal phones. Cydias hub of cool apps will allow you to fully customize your device to how you like it.
Here’s an example…
So we’ve all had that moment where something’s happening in front of us and we wanted to get a picture or video, but first, we have to scroll and find our camera app, tap camera, wait for it to open and press ‘Take’.
By the time all that happens, the moment’s usually gone. Snappy allows you to access your camera 6 times faster. By holding down the top bar, your camera will open in 1 second.
Using your camera will never be the same.
Note: No applications come pre-installed on your device if you were to jailbreak. All jailbreaking does is give you the option to install these kinds of applications.
2. Fully Reversible – Before you jailbreak your device, you’re going to have some fear in you because of the consequences of jailbreaking.
If you decide that you want your iPhone to go back to how it was, you can just connect it to your computer, sync it up, then hit Restore in iTunes.
3. Fast and Easy – One of the best parts about jailbreaking is how quickly it takes to do it. With apps like jailbreakme, you don’t need any sort of software downloaded into your computer, you just need a web browser. This only takes a few minutes compared the few hours it would take using a rubbish software.
4. Free Tethering – Cellular carriers can offer you a service called tethering which allows you to use your iPhone as a broadband modem or hotspot in order to connect your laptop to the internet.
If your device is jailbroken, you can do this for free due to apps like MyWi.
5. Access the iOS File System – When you Install an SSH client, you are able to transfer data from one device to another in a network. With an SHH, you are able to connect your phone to your computer. This will then allow you to fix corrupted files and install games that are in Cydia.
5 Reason Not to Jailbreak your iPhone
Jailbreaking is one of the coolest things to come to iOS but sadly not everything is fun and games. So for those of you that are still on the ropes trying to decide if jailbreaking is right for you, I’ll give you the top 5 reasons why you shouldn’t jailbreak.
- Too Technical – Sadly jailbreaking is not for everyone. Even though it’s very easy to jailbreak any device, it still requires a little bit of tech knowledge and aside from that, not everybody’s out there to try to do their best with the iPhone.
They just want to run the specific apps that they like and they’re really not after tweaking things, you’re not annoyed by the fact that the settings are all stuck in one menu and they’re not easily accessible.
Aside from other things, it sadly isn’t something that everybody’s out there for and if you consider the average iPhone consumer, I’ll tell you it does make sense for not everybody to want to jailbreak.
Your iPhone is exposed to malware and well, side loading applications don’t only allow you to sideload city apps.
2. High Level of Threat – When you jailbreak your iPhone or iOS device, you are making your device vulnerable to malware attacks. All the security features that Apple have implemented into the App Store and iTunes App will be completely removed. Whenever you install apps from a third party source, you don’t know whether that programme is going to contain malware or not.
3. Complicated User Experience – If you want to update to a newer version of iOS, you can’t do it over the air anymore you have to pretty much get rid of the jailbreak, upgrade to the newer version of iOS, and then restore the device and it just makes everything complicated.
Aside from that, there are some applications that don’t quite work with jailbreaking your device like Skype for example. You will get a message from Skype saying you can’t use the app anymore because your iPhone is jailbroken.
You can actually still use it but I wonder if it’s actually safe to use Skype if your device is jailbroken.
4. Bricking – When you jailbreak your iPhone, there a chance that you’ll experience “bricking”. Bricking makes your iPhone unusable so the only way you can solve this issue is to wipe and restore your device again.
5. Voiding Warranty – As I mentioned earlier, jailbreaking your iPhone isn’t an illegal thing to do. However, in order for Apple to deter people from doing it, your warranty will now be void meaning Apple won’t be able to fix your device or replace it if anything goes wrong. As soon as you jailbreak your device, your warranty is void.