Jailbreaking refers to the act of freeing an electronic device from its design limitations. Jailbreakers are people that find an electronic device's security flaws and exploit them to install software other than the device's factory-fitted version. A person that jailbreaks their device gets root access to the operating system and all its features.
The terms "jailbreaking," "rooting," and "cracking" are often used interchangeably. However, "jailbreaking" is used concerning Apple devices, "rooting" is used concerning Android devices, and "cracking" is used when talking about hacking software. For instance, people jailbreak iPhones, root Samsung devices, and crack Adobe software.
When a person jailbreaks an Apple device properly, it usually does not affect its core features. However, jailbreaking the iPhone allows the user to access apps and services that Apple has rejected from independent app stores like Cydia. Thus, a jailbroken iPhone can still connect to Apple's App Store or save photos in the cloud.
Anyone can get jailbreak codes and instructionals for free on hacking forums created by communities dedicated to unrestricted device use. Most instructionals are easy to apply, but having some technical knowledge helps. People often use the terms "tethered" and "untethered" when speaking about jailbreaking.
To perform a tethered jailbreak, you must turn your iPhone into a computer and boot it. If you do not connect your iPhone to a computer and boot it with the jailbreaking software, it will remain locked. On the other hand, you can perform an untethered jailbreak without a computer. The iPhone you wish to put into a jailbroken state will have everything it needs from the start.
Jailbreaking occupies a gray legal area. Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act made it illegal for a person to bypass digital locks on software. However, the law exempted jailbreaking phones in 2010 and exempted smartwatches and tablets in 2015. Thus, you can legally jailbreak your iPhone in the US.
Apple, on the other, will not support a jailbroken device since it violates the terms and conditions of use. Thus, if you jailbreak your phone and something goes wrong, you will need to buy a new phone. Also, jailbreaking your phone exposes it to many security issues.
Although you can legally jailbreak your phone, it isn't necessarily a safe idea because jailbreaking leaves your phone vulnerable to hackers.
Apple maintains security in its ecosystem. It checks and screens apps before loading them onto its App Store. It also sends regular iOS updates with security patches - keeping users safe from security threats. When you jailbreak your phone, you sever the connection needed to keep your device safe. You stop receiving security updates. Consequently, there is a chance any sideloaded app you install might compromise your device safety and your personal information stored on the device.
Apple advises customers not to jailbreak their devices as it violates its terms and conditions of use. The company has warned that jailbreaking exposes phones to various risks like:
Apple devices rarely get viruses or other security problems. However, viruses among jailbroken iPhones are a regular occurrence, and you have to fix it yourself when it happens.
Also, when considering the safety of jailbreaking a phone, you must consider who the device belongs to and what information it contains. For instance, if your device is a business phone and your work email is on it, jailbreaking the device puts your organization's data at risk. If you jailbreak your work phone and cybercriminals hack it, your company is immediately at risk of a cyber-attack.
Most companies that give their employees devices usually put security measures to discourage users from risking company data. Their tech teams might lock the phone and only make certain features available. They might perform regular checks to see who might have a jailbroken device.
Apple restricts a lot of usability to create devices that have a seamless look and feel. While this works for millions of users, some might find it restrictive. Jailbreaking a device gives an iPhone user the ability to control their device, add their icons, wallpapers, and menus.
Instead of restricting your device to the things Apple allows, you - as the jailbreaker - have all the relevant rights. You can install your screen savers, add customized icons to the home screen. By jailbreaking your device, you have greater file system access and can easily connect it directly to your PC.
Although Apple's App Store has thousands of apps, there are thousands that it does not allow on the store for security reasons. Jailbreaking your device gives you access to apps that you typically cannot find on the App Store.
A user with a jailbroken device might use an App Store alternative like Cydia. Cydia is a famous storefront that owners of jailbroken phones use to access unauthorized games and networking tools, and VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, features.
For instance, Apple bans retro gaming emulators from its App Store because its users download and play older computer games for free. However, a person with a jailbroken iPhone can easily download a retro gaming emulator on Cydia.
When you get a phone, it can be annoying to have many apps that you never plan to use. Apps like Apple Watch, Games Center, etc., are not for everyone, and they take up memory space.
If you jailbreak your device, you can choose to delete the default apps and install third-party apps. For instance, you might decide to delete Apple Maps and install Google Maps as your default map app.
Apple does not permit users to modify their iOS devices without authorization and warns that doing so violates the iOS end-user software license agreement. According to Apple, their service centers will not accept or repair any jailbroken devices.
So, if you jailbreak your device and it becomes damaged or malfunctions, you cannot request a repair from Apple.
Typically, Apple pushes out automatic updates to all its devices. If you jailbreak your device, you will no longer have access to those updates. Every time Apple updates iOS, you will have to wait till the version for jailbroken devices comes out to update your device. These updates can take time, as jailbreaking is a slow process.
A phone is bricked when it refuses to boot, make or receive calls, or respond to any input. It simply sits around like a brick. Although the process of jailbreaking a phone does not cause it to brick, it exposes it to certain risks that could cause the phone to brick.
Of course, if your phone bricks, Apple will not help you fix or replace it.
Having access to more services is one of the most compelling reasons to jailbreak a device. When you jailbreak your device, you might lose access to essential apps like iMessage, iCloud, FaceTime, Weather, Stocks, and Apple Pay. However, this can backfire as jailbreaking a device can take away access to existing services.
If a third-party app uses Apple's Push Notification Service, it may have issues pushing notifications to your jailbroken device. Also, some third-party providers may refuse to run their apps on jailbroken devices.
Jailbreaking your device creates security gaps, and when enough people jailbreak their devices, hackers can attack them. For instance, in 2015, hackers broke into 225,000 jailbroken devices and obtained their iCloud login details. Of course, hackers find several ways to monetize these details. One of these is selling users’ information on the dark web, which exposes the individual to phone scams.
Apple ensures that its closed ecosystem is secure and that your personal information is safe. When you jailbreak your phone, you not only leave yourself vulnerable, but you open your network to malware, viruses, or spyware.
If you buy a used phone or get one from a friend, you will want to know if it has been jailbroken. Determining this is a simple process. The simplest way to check is to download a jailbreaker checker app on your phone.
One example is the "System and Security Info" app - available on the App Store. Download the app, install it, and scan your device. The app will scan your phone and respond with a "yes" if your device is jailbroken. You will need to pay for the scanner app.
If you want to find out without paying, you can look through the device to see if any of the core apps are missing. Similarly, if you look through the phone and find an app like Cydia, you can be sure that your device is jailbroken.
If you find out that you have a jailbroken device, you can fix it simply by restoring it. There's no need to take the time to manually delete any jailbreak apps - restoring factory settings deletes everything and resets Apple's initial apps.
If you are repairing your device, ensure that you back it up entirely, as the restoration process will wipe the device's memory. The best way to backup your device is to do it locally and on the cloud.
To Backup your device on Apple's iCloud,
To restore factory settings on your iOS device, navigate to "Settings," find "General," and then "Reset." Tap "Erase All Content and Settings."
If this restoration method fails, Apple allows users to use the "Find my iPhone" app to reset their devices' factory settings.
To do this, you have to turn off the "Find my iPhone" on your device and then connect it to a computer with iTunes installed. Once iTunes opens, navigate to the devices' summary page and click "Restore iPhone" to reset your phone's factory settings.
If you connect your device to a computer and still cannot reset it, you can try booting into Recovery Mode. To do this, turn off your phone and turn it back on while pressing its volume rockers (or the sleep/wake buttons on some older models). From Recovery, follow the instructions to restore your devices' factory settings.
Jailbreaking your device gives you more control than what Apple provides to users of its proprietary software and hardware. However, it’s important to bear in mind that jailbreaking voids the terms and conditions of use and exposes you to data breaches and permanent damage.
So, is it worth it? The ability to customize your iPhone, remove bloatware, and use third-party apps might seem like a good idea. But depending on your needs, the downsides to jailbreaking may outweigh the advantages.