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History of Jailbreaking

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Aug 10, 2018

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History of Jailbreaking
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  • Hey guys, it’s Greg with Apple Explained, and today we’re going to explore the history
  • of jailbreaking.
  • We’ll start with some background information – like what jailbreaking even is and why
  • people would want to jailbreak their device – and then we’ll take look at the different
  • software used to jailbreak over the years.
  • And finally, we’ll get Apple’s response to this whole concept.
  • This topic was the third place winner of last weeks voting poll and if you didn’t get
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  • your activity feed and you can let me know which video you’d like to see next.
  • So, basically, jailbreaking is a type of “privilege escalation.”
  • Now that’s a pretty technical term so let me break it down.
  • User privilege refers to how much access a user has to any given system, in this case
  • iOS.
  • And when you jailbreak your iPhone, you gain additional access to parts of the operating
  • system that were previously restricted – so you’re achieving an escalated level of privilege
  • on your device, so privilege escalation.
  • And this is usually achieved by exploiting some kind of design flaw or bug in the operating
  • system.
  • So to sum it up, jailbreaking is a way for users to do a lot more with their iPhone than
  • what was previously possible.
  • The term “jailbreaking” originated with iOS, which began pretty much as soon as iPhones
  • were released, but it’s been used to describe privilege escalation in other systems as well,
  • like Playstation.
  • Similar tools have been developed for other systems in recent years.
  • For example, “rooting” became a popular process among Android phone and tablet users
  • to escalate privileges on those devices.
  • Thanks to a huge community of hackers, developers, and coders that love to tinker with technology,
  • there’s been a way to jailbreak pretty much every iteration of iOS within a short time
  • of their release.
  • Now there are a few different types of jailbreaks: untethered, which is the most desirable of
  • them all since it allows you to run apps and tweaks and reboot your device with no consequences.
  • Tethered, which requires a computer each time the device is rebooted.
  • And semi-tethered, which allows you to reboot your device, but you may not be able to run
  • any jailbreak apps.
  • More recently, semi-untethered jailbreaks have become available, where the device needs
  • to be jailbroken every time you reboot, but it can be done by an app on the device instead
  • of requiring a computer.
  • So, there are several reasons why someone would want to jailbreak their device.
  • When the first iPhone was released, users quickly noticed that they didn’t have administrator
  • privileges – and this limited quite a few functions of the device for more savvy individuals.
  • Apple claimed good reason for these limitations – which I’ll explain in detail later – but
  • the pull towards unlimited access was too strong.
  • First, jailbreaking would allow users to fully customize their devices.
  • That meant installing alternative character input systems, accessing the command-line
  • for apps to make changes, and fully customizing the interface.
  • In addition to customizing apps already downloaded, jailbreaking allowed users to download apps
  • and software that weren’t available in the App Store.
  • Although most of the apps rejected from the store contained harmful tools like malware
  • and spyware, which meant you had to exercise caution when downloading unauthorized apps
  • from a jailbroken device.
  • Finally, one of the biggest motivations for jailbreaking was the lack of carrier compatibility
  • for the original iPhone.
  • Up until 2011, AT&T was the exclusive wireless carrier for iPhones.
  • And this was a problem for a lot of users, who didn’t want to be locked into expensive
  • contracts with an exclusive carrier, change carriers from their existing plan, or had
  • bad cell service with AT&T.
  • Jailbreaking was the most effective way to allow the iPhone to be used on different wireless
  • networks.
  • But users trying to escape AT&T still ran into issues with early termination fees, importing
  • “never locked” phones from other countries, and being forced to activate a contract before
  • leaving the store with their device.
  • Despite attempts by Apple and various carriers to prevent jailbreaking for this purpose,
  • it was and still is used to allow the iPhone to be activated with carriers outside of what’s
  • officially available through Apple.
  • Alright, so now I’m going to talk about some of the early versions of jailbreaking
  • software.
  • The first jailbreak is credited to a young man named George Hotz.
  • He was seventeen years old at the time in 2007 and, using an eyeglasses screwdriver
  • and a guitar pick, managed to remove the piece of hardware that tied the carrier to the phone
  • and use his first-generation iPhone with T-Mobile.
  • Shortly after, a group of hackers uploaded a Youtube video showing an iPhone playing
  • a custom ringtone, proving that they’d successfully accessed the protected operating system.
  • Sparked by these two events, the jailbreaking movement was born.
  • And yet another hacker group called the iPhone Dev Team released jailbreak software in October
  • 2007 that allowed for minor adjustments and hacks to be installed onto an iPhone.
  • This version, called JailBreakMe or AppSnapp, was accessible through JailBreakMe.com and
  • just required the user to “Swipe to Jailbreak” to start the process.
  • At one point, hackers would simply walk into the Apple store and jailbreak phones on display
  • so often that Apple blocked the JailBreakMe website on their in-store wifi.
  • At this point, there was a lot of interest in the jailbreaking community.
  • Apple responded by discouraging users from jailbreaking their devices, saying that it
  • could cause significant harm and the company released several updates to repair the vulnerability
  • jailbreakers were exploiting.
  • However, hackers were always quick to come up with a new jailbreak shortly after a new
  • iOS update was released.
  • Steve Jobs referred to the constant back-and-forth as a cat and mouse game – and he wasn’t
  • sure if Apple was the cat or the mouse.
  • The iPhone Dev Team released a new version of what it then called “PwnageTool” for
  • iPhone OS 2 in 2008, and with it introduced Cydia – a platform for finding, downloading,
  • and installing software on jailbroken devices.
  • Now, Cydia has been one of the most important developments in jailbreaking history.
  • It was developed by a guy named Jay Freeman, and essentially became the first app marketplace.
  • Cydia allowed users not only to download apps, but to install tweaks, customize content,
  • and use their iPhone like never before.
  • Users could install ad blockers, change themes, make calls outside of the AT&T network, and
  • change up data storage settings.
  • The partnership between Cydia and JailbreakMe would remain strong for several years.
  • Following Cydia’s release, the iPhone Dev Team became a small community of hackers making
  • pretty significant money.
  • Their relationship with Apple was strained and complicated, Freeman and other hackers
  • would often show up to the Worldwide Developer’s Conference and one of their team members,
  • Ben Byer, actually turned out to be an Apple employee himself.
  • New iPhone releases continued to be hacked within days of their release – iOS 3.1.3
  • and 3.2 came with the release of Spirit, a one-click tool developed by Nicholas Allegra,
  • who later released JailBreakMe 2.0 for the iPhone 4 – another one-click tool that was
  • accessible via the Safari browser.
  • Other hackers entered the jailbreaking world over the years, and several other software
  • versions were created for new iOS and iPhone releases.
  • Some of these tools included Limera1n and Absinthe.
  • Nearly every release has had its own jailbreak, and the same small group of hackers has usually
  • had something to contribute.
  • However, as time passed, jailbreaking became less popular since Apple began integrating
  • more jailbreak features into iOS and opened up wireless contracts to more carriers.
  • What was once a popular maneuver for almost 10% of iPhone users has now become mostly
  • a hobby.
  • Nonetheless, there are currently a few popular tools out for jailbreaking iOS 11 – Electra,
  • RootlessJB and LiberiOS.
  • Electra is a semi-untethered jailbreak and was developed by CoolStar for iOS 11 in January
  • 2018 – but it didn’t initially support Cydia.
  • A new version was released in February of 2018 with Cydia support, and could be ran
  • on iOS for iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch as well as tvOS on Apple TV.
  • LiberiOS is another semi-untethered jailbreak that came out just before Electra in December
  • 2017.
  • And Rootless JB was released later, in July 2018.
  • Again, the popularity and functionality of jailbreaking have declined significantly in
  • recent years, but you can still expect to see a new tool for every iOS version.
  • Now, the legality of jailbreaking has always been a gray area.
  • After Cydia’s rise in popularity, Apple officially declared jailbreaking illegal,
  • citing copyright law.
  • However, just one year later in 2009, the Librarian of Congress ruled against that claim.
  • But the battle didn’t end there.
  • Apple continued year after year to fight jailbreaking – both with patched iOS upgrades and with
  • attempts for litigation.
  • However, the hacking has proved far more difficult to eliminate than Apple initially expected.
  • The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA, is opened up every three years for the public
  • to discuss exemptions like jailbreaking.
  • In 2012, the U.S. Copyright Office accepted a DMCA exemption for jailbreaking, stating
  • that, while Apple is free to try countermeasures against it, jailbreaking doesn’t actually
  • violate any copyright laws.
  • In 2015, that exemption was expanded to include not just iPhones but tablets, as well.
  • As Colombia Law professor Tim Wu stated in 2007, “unlocking Apple’s superphone is
  • legal, ethical, and just plain fun.”
  • Of course, not everyone thinks that jailbreaking is fun.
  • Apple obviously has had a problem with it from day one, and that problem got bigger
  • when revenues from the App Store were effected because of pirated content from Cydia.
  • As soon as people started hacking, Apple released a statement claiming that jailbreaking causes
  • serious issues for devices and users.
  • Today, there’s a page on their support website that says: “Unauthorized modification of
  • iOS can cause security vulnerabilities, instability, shortened battery life, and other issues,
  • which include dropped calls, unreliable connections, and disruption of services like iMessage and
  • FaceTime.”
  • While they may have some selfish reasons for keeping people from hacking their mobile operating
  • system, there is some truth to Apple’s claims – there have been several data breaches
  • of jailbroken iPhones, including a massive leak of 220,000 Apple usernames, passwords,
  • and device information in 2015.
  • Others have voiced concerns that jailbroken devices are susceptible to surveillance and
  • tracking by government officials, including local law enforcement agencies and the Federal
  • Bureau of Investigation.
  • But whether or not the government is tracking jailbroken phones, one thing is for sure – jailbreaking
  • voids your device warranty.
  • Any iPad, iPhone, iPod, or Apple TV that has been jailbroken can be denied service by Apple
  • – regardless of when or from where you purchased it.
  • So, if you’re considering jailbreaking your iOS device, it basically comes down to this
  • – unlocking your iPhone, iPad, or iPod may give you access to a few fun tweaks, free
  • and blocked apps, or additional carrier options.
  • But, most of its benefits have diminished over the years as Apple has made iOS a much
  • more fully featured and capable operating system, not to mention that jailbreaking can
  • open you up to some serious risk and exposure.
  • On top of that, the DMCA exemption is up for review this year – and jailbreaking may
  • not remain legal forever.
  • Overall, jailbreaking has a rich history that was truly built from the ground up.
  • Individual hackers and hobbyists with mostly positive intentions have managed to outsmart
  • Apple year after year, and each new iOS update poses a new challenge to overcome.
  • Cydia remains the largest and most popular platform for jailbreak software management,
  • and is now available in over a dozen languages.
  • As the iOS 12 beta goes public, we can only guess what new tools will be available to
  • jailbreak future Apple devices.
  • So that is the history of jailbreaking, and if you want to vote for the next video topic,
  • don’t forget to subscribe.
  • Thanks for watching, and I’ll see you next time.

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Description

basically, jailbreaking is a type of “privilege escalation.” Now that’s a pretty technical term so let me break it down. User privilege refers to how much access a user has to any given system, in this case iOS. And when you jailbreak your iPhone, you gain additional access to parts of the operating system that were previously restricted – so you’re achieving an escalated level of privilege on your device, so privilege escalation. And this is usually achieved by exploiting some kind of design flaw or bug in the operating system. So to sum it up, jailbreaking is a way for users to do a lot more with their iPhone than what was previously possible.

The term “jailbreaking” originated with iOS, which began pretty much as soon as iPhones were released, but it’s been used to describe privilege escalation in other systems as well, like Playstation. Similar tools have been developed for other systems in recent years. For example, “rooting” became a popular process among Android phone and tablet users to escalate privileges on those devices. Thanks to a huge community of hackers, developers, and coders that love to tinker with technology, there’s been a way to jailbreak pretty much every iteration of iOS within a short time of their release.