Jailbreaking’s risks outweigh benefits

Blair Hanley Frank

Before Apple allowed third party app development in iOS 2, jailbreaking was the only way to get apps developed by other people onto your iPhone. It was also the only way to have copy and paste (rendered moot in iOS 3) and multitasking available. As of right now, however, jailbreaking your phone provides meager benefits at best, and the cost in time, effort and security is simply too great for most people.

In order to jailbreak a device running iOS 4, you’ll need one of three programs: “Limera1n,” “Greenpois0n,” or “PwnageTool.” All three of these use the same technique (known in tech circles as an “exploit”) to break into your phone’s operating system and make it possible to use nonstandard applications. Depending on your computer, your device, and how the stars are aligned that particular day, it may take you multiple tries with one or more pieces of software before you meet with success. I spent easily two hours fighting with my iPhone, trying to get Limera1n or Greenpois0n to work. Neither of them did, but once I decided to take a crack at my phone with PwnageTool (which uses a slightly different process to jailbreak the phone), I finally met with success.*

When it comes to security, there are a couple of important issues at hand regarding jailbreaking. The first is, in order to open up the operating system to make using jailbreak-only apps possible requires the use of a security exploit. The exploit is called that because the makers of jailbreaking software have to use or exploit a security flaw inherent in the latest build of iOS. The other important security concern is that of fake jailbreaking software. Enterprising virus makers have released fake jailbreaking apps that instead of jailbreaking your phone, install a Trojan horse or other virus onto your computer.

Finally, there’s the problem of usefulness. Now that iOS supports thirdparty app development, copy and paste and multitasking, jailbreaking can’t provide any brand-new functionality that is worth the time and potential security problems. My phone does everything I need it to right now, and while it’s possible that a few tweaks here and there might provide enough incentive for some people, I can’t see the major benefits of jailbreaking.

*Important note: I will not be giving step-by-step instructions on how to use each of the different programs. If you’re interested, I’d recommend finding a nice tutorial on the internet.