Jailbreak Wars: Episode V – Apple Strikes Back

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Following the recent release of blackra1n for Windows and even more recent release of it for the Mac the jailbreak war has gone into a new loop with reports coming in about the jailbreak not working on some 3GS phones.

Further investigations showed that without little fuss or any press coverage, Apple updated the bootROM on the latest 3GS iPhones. What does this have to with jailbreaking? Well, it’s simple: the 24kPwn exploit used in the current method of “untethered” jailbreaking has been rendered ineffective. This is true both for the blackra1n by Geohot and the PwnageTool by the Dev-Team. The good news is that a “tethered” jailbreak is still possible. This means that you can still do the procedure, but you’ll need to have the iPhone connected to the PC or Mac running balckra1n at each reboot as with an iPod Touch 3G.

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So that’s a strike from Apple. Yes, it’s only a matter of time until a workaround is found, since the same thing happened with the 2G iPod Touch. It is just a minor setback. But let’s look at the bigger picture. Regardless of what Apple is saying about stability, security and all that other jazz, the main issue with jailbreaking is the ability to a) unlock the phone and b) install cracked apps.

There is little that can be said about the first problem, but following the recent studies all points to the fact that Apple may soon reassess their partnership strategy and start shipping unlocked phones.

The second problem is much more interesting. Most of the currently available apps have extremely simple DRM protection and numerous tools have been created to crack the apps automatically. At the same time, while not widely used, more complicated protections, like Kali, have been created by various developers, most of which have not been overcome to this day. Unfortunately, most developers think that app security should be handled by Apple only.

As part of the solution of this problem, Apple added in-app purchases in the 3.0 firmware, which require additional approval from the AppStore to activate and are not easily overcome. And just today, they announced that free apps will also have In-App purchases. This really is a logical and long-awaited step since it works to solve many issues with the App Store AND alternate distribution methods. A lot of developers will now be able to provide free shareware versions of their apps with In-App purchases to get the full version. This will serve both to free the AppStore from the many Lite versions, as well as the +40, +100, +200 point MMORPG applications and to heighten security. And while this will not solve the issue completely, it’ll make it difficult enough to crack the app that many people will think twice whether it is actually worth it.

What will be the outcome? Well, we’ll just have to see. But for now, I would say that Apple has won this little battle and constructed some good defence positions for future skirmishes.

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