It seems just yesterday I was reporting on the new hardcoded bottom that was shipping with the new iPhone 3GS that was reported to be ‘unhackable’ or ‘jailbreak-proof’. Not to be drawn in, I reported that I expected to see a hack before to long, knowing that the iPhone Dev Team, a group of iPhone hackers, was on the case.
True to form, Eric McDonald, a member of the Dev Team, told Wired, “It’s not going to be impossible to jailbreak even if the exploit we used is gone.” He went on to explain that the latest batch of iPhone 3GS units can still be jailbroken using current tools. The exploit used to help jailbreak older iPhones, “24kpwn”, only makes it easier to boot the hacked devices.
The bootrom that Apple added to the new device did do something to interfere with the workings of 24kpwn, but only partially. If your jailbroken iPhone shuts down or requires a reboot, it must be tethered to a computer to get it to start up. That means that if you’re out and about and your jailbroken phone runs out of battery juice, you better have a laptop in your trunk.
The true end result of the new bootrom is that it makes owning a jailbroken iPhone more of a hassle. The only problem is that the Dev Team will find a new exploit in short order that allows untethered booting again, rendering the bootrom obsolete.
Apple knows it’s an uphill battle. Steve Jobs said in September of 2007, “It’s a cat and mouse game. We try to stay ahead. People will try to break in, and it’s our job to stop them breaking in.”
This type of activity is not unique to the iPhone, the same type of exploits are created for almost all gaming consoles, and any other device that has an operating system. Sony and Microsoft have both been facing this problem with their gaming consoles. The PS3, PSP and the X-Box 360 have all been hacked to allow them to play digital and backup copies of games, as well as perform other operations they were not designed for.
In the end, most hacking has the undesirable effect of making the device unstable. If you jailbreak your iPhone, don’t go whining to Apple to fix it if it goes all wonky. It also makes the more stable, legitimate stuff more expensive.
After all, even with the plethora of Apps available, there is only a handful worth really having. You would spend more on a week’s worth of lattes.