Jailbreaking – It is basically stepping up of privileges for the user. In laymen’s term privilege refers to how much access a user has to the OS.
Apple is notorious for giving its users very little privileges when it comes to customization of their devices. And, for a large part of the iOS history as soon as iPhones were released, users have found a way to jailbreak their devices to use their devices at their full potential.
To sum it all up, Jailbreaking is a way for users to do a lot more with their iPhones than what is originally possible with out of box iPhone.
In this article, we will look through the history of iOS jailbreaking which began as soon as the first iPhone was released.
Motivation For Jailbreaking!
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 App Store contained harmful tools like malware and spyware, which meant you had to exercise caution when downloading unauthorized apps for 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 the 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, 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. However, users trying to escape the 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.
iOS Jailbreaking History
The first jailbreak is credited to a young man named George Hotz. He was 17 year 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 used 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 only 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 vulnerability, the 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 the Apple was the cat or the mouse.
The iPhone Dev-Team released a new version of what it then called “Pwnage Tool” for iOS 2 in 2008, and with it introduced Cydia — a platform for finding, downloading, and installing software on jailbroken devices.
Emergence of Cydia
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 the 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. The relationship with Apple was strained and complicated, Freeman and other hackers would often show up to the Worldwide Developer’s Conference and one of the 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 always 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 13 — unc0ver, Hexxa Plus, and CheckRa1n.
The popularity and functionality of jailbreaking has declined significantly in recent years, but you can still expect to see a new tool for every iOS version.
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 voilate 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.” But 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 a 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.
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 and 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. However, Jailbreaking is still very much alive and kicking.
you can read more about the reasons why you should jailbreak iPhone in 2020? in our other blog post.