Breaking out of Apple's walled garden

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Breaking out of Apple's walled garden

Apple's frequent iOS mobile updates have been a headache for a growing group of users -jailbreakers who are concerned they might lose the unfettered access they enjoy to their devices.

These are users who for a variety of reasons, ranging from curiosity to wanting to install whatever software they want, remove Apple's vice-like grip on iDevices, usually by exploiting a software or a hardware vulnerability.

Estiamtes currently place the number of jailbroken iPhones at around 2.3 million.

Jailbreaking is easy - a simple matter of downloading a file to your computer, connecting an iPhone or iPad, and clicking a button.

After a few moments, you have full access to everything on your iDevice - Apple is yet to plug the holes that the popular Evasi0n tool uses to jailbreak within iOS 6.1.2.

Root!

The Evasi0n kit installs the Cydia app which in turn provides access to a treasure trove of other applications, some useful, some buggy.

Some applications worth getting fix iOS interface annoyances and quirks, making the operating system more usable. Or just different: the Wintergarden interface tweaker lets you theme iOS. Others enable the installation of network tools like secure shell.

Once in Cydia, it's easy to see why Apple frowns upon jailbreaking: the apps often don't follow any official guidelines for design and some can be used to pick open carrier locked devices.

A report in Cult of Mac from last year found Cydia paid out $US8 million to developers, with 1.5 million visitors browsing the marketplace each day.

What's more, jailbreaking gives access to software repositories with pirated apps.

Unfortunately for Apple, there's not much the company can do about the practice. While it may invalidate the device warranty in some jurisdictions, it is legal just about everywhere, apart from India. 

Breaking out from Apple's walled garden isn't all fun and games: there are some real security implications involved in jailbreaking. Don't ignore the advice to change the default Apple passwords on a jailbroken iPhone: the passwords are Apple staples and are the same on all iPhones.

As for the apps in Cydia and other repositories, unlike Apple's App Store, you're pretty much on your own when it comes to safety in terms of malware.

Ironically, you can't get a malware scanner on iOS without jailbreaking the device: they're not allowed in the App Store. 

To jailbreak or not to jailbreak

Whether to jailbreak or not depends entirely on your curiosity and risk-taking abilities.

Apart from the above dangers, using unorthodox and unauthorised methods to gain full system privileges could turn your iDevice into an iBrick if something goes wrong: something you may relish if you like challenges.

Jailbreaks don't persist either, and disappear after operating system updates and when you restore to stock Apple settings. If you've paid for jailbroken apps, you may lose access to them after an update. Every now and then, Apple pulls the rug from underneath the jailbreak developers and plugs the vulnerability used to gain full access to iDevices.

Usually however, it doesn't take long before an updated jailbreak tool is out. This has been the case since 2007 and goes to show how hard it is for Apple to stamp out the practice which is winning more aficionados all the time.

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