Last week, a Google security researcher announced that he’d be releasing the goods that are needed to jailbreak the latest iPhones. For years, it was pretty easy to get all the customisation options of Android on iOS, but the developer scene has since dried up. Even if you don’t plan on jailbreaking your phone, there’s reason to celebrate.
Jailbreaking is just a method of exploiting a vulnerability in Apple’s mobile operating system that gives an iPhone the ability to install any app you like, customise the interface, run emulators, and basically do anything that Apple has decided it doesn’t like. We haven’t seen a major public jailbreak since iOS 10 for several reasons, so when Google’s Ian Beer announced that he’d be releasing the necessary tools to crack open the iPhone, the jailbreak community rose from its grave in anticipation.
Beer works on Google’s Project Zero, a unit focused on discovering security issues and informing other developers that something needs to be fixed. The team gives other companies at least 90 days to fix their crap and then releases the information to the public. In this case, Beer found an exploit in iOS 11.1.2 that was fixed on December 2. On Monday, Beer followed through on his promise to give away his findings and tweeted a link to the code.
As soon as the link was out, hackers got to work turning it into a full jailbreak. The thing about Beer’s release is that it’s for research purposes only. For now, the only way to take advantage of it is to know what you’re doing and sit there with your phone tethered to a computer. Others will have to do the work of turning this into a convenient app with one-time jailbreaking. This work is already being done and shouldn’t take too long.
The news brought a couple of surprises. One is that the exploit apparently works fine with tvOS 11.x and Apple TV 4K, which could mean that the Apple TV will become a lot more useful – that is, able to do illegal or prohibited tasks. The other good news is that while Beer said he only tested it on iPhone 7, 6s and iPod Touch 6G, “adding more support should be easy.” In other words, an iPhone X jailbreak should be around the corner.
Generally, this is going to be of most interest to tinkerers. If you just have to have an iPhone that acts like an Android, and if you’re willing to take on the security risks that come with running an outdated, cracked system, you’ll be flying high soon. But there are also people out there who just like to make devices do things they aren’t supposed to do. These people can be very helpful to us all. Give them the tools to play around with Apple’s OS, and they might find more things to report to Apple and keep us all safe.
This is a rare occurrence, at least in part, because quietly reporting bugs can be a lucrative business. Beer is unique in that he gets paid to release this stuff to the public. If you want to play around with a jailbreak, you’ll likely be stuck in iOS 11.1.2 for a while.