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An Overview of Jailbreaking and the iPhone 5 | Mobile Technology

An Overview of Jailbreaking and the iPhone 5 | Mobile Technology

The iPhone 5, like many of its predecessors has already been jailbroken, it just hasnÔÇÖt been shared with the rest of us yet. Understandably so the hackers that battle it out with Apple to keep their newest iOS cracked are reluctant to release their fix while they look for another workaround. They are reluctant to give the mobile technology giant any help in finding and patching their exploits. There are many hackers that have been working on jailbreaking their newest bits of mobile technology since the iPhones release. At the moment the bug they are utilizing for their own personal devices works, they just want to avoid giving away the secret with iOS 6.1 about to release. Chances are that the iPhone 5 will see a jailbreak before the release of the next iPhone, but it may take till the end of the year.

What is Jailbreaking?

For those that may not know, jailbreaking is a process that removes the limitations set by Apple on their devices through the use of software or hardware exploits. It grants you root access to the iOS allowing you to download otherwise unallowed applications, extensions and themes that are not available in the Apple Store. Unlike the Android counterpart, jailbreaking is required for Apple devices to use any software not authorized by Apple.

The Olden Days

Finding exploits isnÔÇÖt like building a mobile application or website where you can see progress as you plod ahead. Instead it is much more like panning for gold in the dark, there may be nothing to be found. When jailbreaking was new, it was a very competitive market. The hackers involved would battle it out in teams (Chronic Team and iPhone Dev Team) or on their own in order to be the best and wow each other with their newest releases.

Nowadays jailbreaking is much more of a collective effort as the opponent shifted to the mobile technology giant, Apple. Instead of withholding information from each other, most of the hackers involved share their code on GitHub, but not as they did. Instead of sharing everything most hackers share only what they think the others need to know. This has created an almost calmer hacking scene for jailbreakers, but things seem to be a bit different with the hardened iOS 6 and the iPhone 5.

The Delay

There are factors other than finding bugs and the releasing of the jailbreaking tool that are slowing down this process. One of the more challenging obstacles to overcome is finding someone competent enough to test a method who is also trustworthy enough not to leak the information to the public. This can be a quick process, but it is becoming harder and harder to find these individuals. It used to be easy to find bugs in the bootrom, the first important piece of code that runs when an iPhone starts, and gain quick access. This would enable hackers to have full control over their mobile devices for as long as it existed.┬á The bootrom has been shrinking for a while now and it is to the point that hackers canÔÇÖt even get a dumb of the code within which was integral to finding bugs and exploits. The iPhone 5 has made this even harder by hiding the bootrom when it starts up making it much more difficult to find these bugs.

What is Needed?

Without the bootrom exploit, hackers are forced to find many more bugs to penetrate the right systems enough to gain control of the device. There are three parts required to gain access, a code injecting exploit, an increased privilege level and a kernel injection exploit. The first allows you to put necessary code into the OS. Increasing your privilege level lets you change things on the OS on the phone. The Kernel injection bug grants unrestricted access and tells the kernel to stop checking code signatures. In addition to all of that Apple recently starting using a kernel ASLR which you have to cover come as well. This is a lot more than just getting into the bootrom and finding a few mistakes you can take advantage of.

Rinse and Repeat

As each new iPhone came out, the search for the new bugs and exploits began. With each new version the few hackers pit themselves against Apples development team tasked with fixing bugs and preventing holes from being released to the public. This process has gone full circle with each release, rinse and repeat. Until a very memorable day shortly after the iPhone 4ÔÇÖs release, the iconic Limera1n exploit was shared with the world for both the iPhone 4 and iPad. This important bootrom exploit lasted for the entire lifetime of the device rather than being able to be patched with software. The only way for Apple to combat this exploit was to stop production and fix it in the next batch. This mixed with a userland exploit from the jailbreaker, comex, created a tool that is now used to jailbreak the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPod touch 3G, iPod touch 4G, iPad 1g and the Apple TV 2G. This is what lead to Apples fixing of the bootrom bug and the current predicament with the iPhone 5. The iPhone 5 has fixed the current bootrom bugs which were found mostly in the USB setup code, but now there is potential as Apple added the new Lighting connector to their phones which have all new code. Except hackers have yet to be able to peak into the bootrom to check it out.

Will They Use It?

The question now is, is there a need for a jailbreak on the iPhone 5? Aside from the public tool being released quite late into the devices lifespan, Apple has addressed many of the issues that jailbreakers were after. They have even allowed the iPhone to be unlocked for use on services like T-Mobile. Some of the features are still not free like mobile hotspot, but is it worth the time and effort just for that perk? For the users who preferred to pirate mobile apps and other content, many of the piracy communities are closing or being shut down. Could the iPhone 5 jailbreak resuscitate new life into the dwindling community? Or will it slowly die off as the need for such a fix drops off? We will have to see.

 


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