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iOS is one of the most secure, safest mobile operating systems out there, but this security also comes with a lot of restrictions; the App Store is very tightly policed, and it’s impossible to install third-party apps without jailbreaking. But jailbreaking can put you at risk, so it’s important to weigh the benefits and potential drawbacks Jailbreaking & iOS: The Pros and Cons of Voiding Your Warranty Jailbreaking & iOS: The Pros and Cons of Voiding Your Warranty Have you been feeling the need to jailbreak recently? With the latest tools, freeing your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad (not iPad 2) is as easy and accessible as it’s likely to get. There are... Read More . Here are a few potential security risks that you should keep in mind.

What Is Jailbreaking?

In a nutshell, jailbreaking removes the security restrictions on your iPhone or iPad A Newbie's Guide to Jailbreaking [iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad] A Newbie's Guide to Jailbreaking [iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad] Read More . This means apps are given a lot more access to the core functions of the phone, like contact lists and the ability to send emails or make calls. On a stock iOS device, a user has to give permission to an app to get access these functions; on a jailbroken one, that’s not the case.

iphone-jailbreaking

By removing the restrictions that are placed on your device by the manufacturer (much like rooting an Android phone 3 Cool Things You Can Do With A Rooted Android Phone 3 Cool Things You Can Do With A Rooted Android Phone By now you will know that there are a bunch of us here at MakeUseOf that love Android phones. Paul's article on writing an Android app is a good example of how thoroughly we dig... Read More ), you gain access to third-party apps, additional functionality from some of the apps you already have, and a number of system tweaks. This can make your phone or tablet more useful, but it can also create some security problems (not to mention some potential legal ones Is It Illegal To Root Your Android or Jailbreak Your iPhone? Is It Illegal To Root Your Android or Jailbreak Your iPhone? Whether you're rooting an Android phones or jailbreaking an iPhone, you're removing the restrictions the manufacturer or cellular carrier placed on the device you own – but is it legal? Read More as well). And it’ll invalidate your Apple warranty and any AppleCare package that you’ve purchased.

Third-Party Apps Can Be Dangerous

There’s a reason that Apple keeps a very tight leash on App Store apps: because a malicious app can wreak a lot of havoc on your device. It’s always possible that you’ll get a bad app, but if you start downloading apps that haven’t been okayed by Apple for the App Store, the chances of getting malware goes up.

iphone-cydia-icon

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For example, a recent piece of malware called AdThief was discovered in some extensions from Cydia, one of the most popular non-Apple app stores. AdThief committed ad fraud, which amounts to stealing ad revenue from app developers that use ads to make money from their apps. The malware only affects jailbroken devices, but it’s infected up to 75,000 phones so far.

The App Store Isn’t As Secure As You Think

Whether you got an app from the App Store or from a third party, that app has full access to all of the parts of your phone, and this should be some cause for alarm. Obviously you’re more likely to be safe with an app from the App Store, but even well-intentioned or reputable apps can be compromised by hackers or by mistake.

stormtrooper-headphone-cord-iphone

For example, a research team from Georgia Tech showed last year that Jekyll, a malicious app, could sneak past the App Store inspection by using self-assembling pieces of code that activate only after the app has been approved. And while it took a team of researchers to create an app like this, there’s no reason to believe that someone else wouldn’t be able to do it, too. It’s possible that code like this could more easily be constructed to target jailbroken iPhones or iPads, even if Apple learned a lesson from Jekyll.

Everyone Knows the Default Root Password

One of the worst-kept secrets about iOS is its root password, “alpine.” It’s long been known that this is the password, and Apple shows no intention of changing it anytime soon. Having the root password gives a user access to the core functions of the device, and this can be disastrous if an ill-meaning person gets access to yours. Fortunately, this password can be changed from a shell app, but it’s an easy thing to forget to do.

woman-shushing

Many people forget to change the root password after jailbreaking their device and downloading an SSH app. This is absolutely crucial for your security, so if you decide to jailbreak your phone, don’t forget to do this! The process was explained in our article on how to configure an FTP server on your iPad How To Configure Your Own iPad FTP Server [Jailbreak] How To Configure Your Own iPad FTP Server [Jailbreak] If you've jailbroken your iPad, there are many ways to transfer files to and fro between your trusty tablet and your computer. However, most of them require you to open some kind of application on... Read More .

Security Patches Won’t Download

After you’ve jailbroken your iPhone or iPad, you won’t be able to update iOS without reverting back to the un-jailbroken default mode. While this isn’t a big deal, most people who have jailbroken their iOS devices will wait until a new jailbreak is available for the update before they download and install it so that they don’t have to go back to the stock iOS implementation for an extended period of time.

access-prohibited

What this means is that you may find yourself vulnerable to security holes in iOS until a new jailbreak is released, putting you in danger. Of course, if there’s a really significant known security flaw, you could always just download iOS and wait a couple weeks for a new jailbreak, but if there’s a flaw that you don’t know about, you could be putting yourself at risk every time there’s an update.

You also might find yourself unable to access other apps; there have been reports of video streaming, communication, and banking apps that deny access to jailbroken devices.

Is Jailbreaking a Good Idea?

Everyone has to weigh the risks and benefits of jailbreaking for themselves. There are plenty of great things you can do with a jailbroken iPhone or iPad, like using the Activator gesture-recognition tweak Activator Is The Most Important Jailbreak Tweak Available [Cydia] Activator Is The Most Important Jailbreak Tweak Available [Cydia] There is one tweak that is the unsung hero of Cydia. Activator is the backbone of so many Cydia tweaks because it allows for gesture-based controls of almost anything. It can launch apps and do... Read More , customizing your icons with Transparency Transparency Grants You Another Level Of Control Over Your Icons [Jailbreak, iOS] Transparency Grants You Another Level Of Control Over Your Icons [Jailbreak, iOS] Jailbreaking your iPhone is awesome. It would be great if Apple offered a higher level of customization out of the box, but they do not, so we have to jailbreak in order to do cool... Read More , and create a custom lockscreen with LockMS The Free & Easy Way To Customize Your Jailbroken iOS Lockscreen [How To] The Free & Easy Way To Customize Your Jailbroken iOS Lockscreen [How To] While iOS can be customized, some elements of the UI come with minimal customization options, one example being the iOS lockscreen. The only official personalization you can do to it is change the background image.... Read More . In fact, we have an entire list of our favorite Cydia tweaks. If you’re interested in jailbreaking your iOS device and you have no idea how to get started, check out our guide to jailbreaking iOS 7.1.x with Pangu How To Jailbreak iOS 7.1.x & Install Cydia With Pangu How To Jailbreak iOS 7.1.x & Install Cydia With Pangu Last week a Chinese team called Pangu released an untethered jailbreak for iOS 7.1.1. Here's how to jailbreak your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch with the latest payload. Read More .

So now that you know some of the security risks, do you still think it’s worth jailbreaking? Have you run into any issues in the past with your jailbroken iPhone or iPad? Share your thoughts below!

Image credits: Matthew Pearce via flickr, Zach Zupancic via flickrthegilbertchan via flickr, Simon Doggett via flickr, woman putting her finger to her lips for shh gesture via Shutterstock, Peter aka anemoneprojectors via flickr.

  1. Jaycee Hart
    June 24, 2016 at 6:22 pm

    My latest IPad, is air 2.with IOS 9.3.1 Actually I want to jailbreak using Pangu method. However I'm hesitated not because of the security for I use it only for entertainment or seeking something in Google. I just afraid that it will ruin my device, or just make it slower, or easily crashes. My IPad the first generation easily crashes. Will it ruin my IPad? Thanks

    • Dann Albright
      June 27, 2016 at 3:26 pm

      It probably won't ruin your iPad, but if you only use it for simple things, why do you want to jailbreak it at all? If there isn't anything specific that you want to do with it that requires jailbreaking, I'd just leave it stock.

  2. rebecca
    January 27, 2016 at 11:15 pm

    I want to jailbreak my Ipad but am scared of the risks of during that . now I can't decided if this is a good idea anymore

    • Dann Albright
      January 28, 2016 at 7:28 pm

      It's good to know the risks if you're going to do it! Have you decided to jailbreak or not yet?

  3. Phillip North
    October 23, 2015 at 9:11 pm

    I have a first generation iPad that gets no security updates from Apple, as it is stuck on IOS 5.1.1. If I jailbreak it, are there any security patches for new problems posted in the non-Apple repository?

  4. Leo Iannelli
    August 15, 2015 at 5:08 pm

    Did you know that an iOS device can be jailbroken without installing Cydia to gain root access?

    • Dann Albright
      August 17, 2015 at 12:46 pm

      I didn't know that—since I haven't jailbroken my phone, I actually don't really know the exact things you need to do it, but I thought Cydia was pretty necessary. Is there an alternative program that you can use to do the same thing? Or do you just skip Cydia?

  5. George Chorny
    June 29, 2015 at 9:02 pm

    It is interesting that in most cases someone brings up benefits of Jailbreaking it is to have "Transparent Icons" or "New and Exciting Themes" or "Cracked versions of Paid apps" but how about benefits like "Adblock" to hide the pesky ads or "Firewall" to keep track of who is snooping on you, block unwanted connections, or applications which Apple would reject because they either contradict their business model.

    If you're paying attention to what you're downloading and what's going on on your device, you're not less safe than with a non-jailbroken/stock option. There have been enough apps stealing user's credentials and data that slipped through Apple's check. In fact, you give your data to most of them voluntarily - how many of you actually read the EULA (End User License Agreement) terms and conditions?

    tl;dr - jailbreaking is like getting a license to drive a car. If you 're smart and follow the rules you'll be alright.

    • Dann Albright
      July 5, 2015 at 2:21 pm

      Yes, there are a lot of reasons that someone might want to jailbreak their phone; new aesthetic options is just one of the most popular. Plenty of people want the functionality that you mention above, as well. It just depends what you're looking for.

      As for not being less safe than using a non-jailbroken phone, I think that's up for debate. For the most part, you're right, but the fact that security patches won't download can be quite worrying.

  6. Hunter
    May 6, 2015 at 3:38 am

    I've been jailbroken before and I will continue to jailbreak in the feature. JAILBREAKING FTW!!!

  7. Grant
    April 22, 2015 at 5:08 am

    Do you think changing the default password of alpine will pretty much take most of the risk away? Also, you said Apps don't have to ask permission for certain features, is there a way to make it so they do?

    • Dann Albright
      April 26, 2015 at 2:33 pm

      As far as I'm aware, there's no way to make apps ask for certain permissions. That's one advantage of Android. And as for changing the default password, that won't take care of all of the risk, but it will help. I don't know if I'd say "most," but a good portion, sure.

    • Grant
      April 28, 2015 at 5:13 am

      Thanks for the reply, and to people saying he's trying to push you against jail breaking, all he is doing is warning you of the possible risks. This is great info, unfortunately they haven't jail broken anything past iOS 8.1.2 at the moment, but they are working on it.

  8. GEORGE
    April 18, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    I THINK THIS PAGE JUST SAYING DONT JAILBREAK YOU IOS DEVICES THATS BAD. WHY THEY JUST WHANT AS NOT TO HAVE OUR DEVICES JAILBROKEN BECAUSE IT RUINS THEYR SYSTEM SINCE WITH JAILBREAK YOU CAN GET PAID APPS FOR FREE OR STAFF THAT IS PAID BUT WITH JAILBROKEN DEVICE YOU CAN GET EVRYTHING FREE THIS IS WHY THEY DONT WHANT OUR DEVICES JAILBROKEN.

    • Dann Albright
      April 19, 2015 at 3:45 pm

      It took me a long time to get through your comment, but I think I've finally interpreted it.

      If you're saying that we recommend against jailbreaking so that we can make money from apps, you're sorely mistaken; we don't sell any apps. And we have loads of articles on what to do with jailbroken and rooted devices.

  9. rashid
    April 17, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    hello i have a problem after jail break when i slide my screen my phone turned off then suddenly turned on butt when i slide again it turned off again

    • Dann Albright
      April 19, 2015 at 3:45 pm

      Sorry to hear that . . . not sure what the problem would be. Someone else might be able to chime in with an answer, though. If not, you might try taking it to the Genius Bar. Even though you've jailbroken it, they might be able to help.

  10. Martin
    February 17, 2015 at 12:51 am

    I have an internet banking app on my iPad should I jail break with it on there? -Or would it be better not to in a case as such.

    • Dann Albright
      February 17, 2015 at 10:09 am

      I think you're probably safe, especially if you try to keep up with the updates to iOS. Then again, when you're dealing with banking, you probably want to take as many precautions as possible! Overall, though, I'd say chances are good that it's not much of a risk.

  11. Fareed
    January 19, 2015 at 6:48 pm

    Well I found something is useful in IPhone Accessibility settings which is Assistive touch , when I turned it on , I can double click it to get the task manager without do the same on the home button , I just see that touch a lot better than press a lot on the home button.

    Anyways I decided to Wait for Apple to make the new feature I wanted which is close all apps with one touch

    I think that Security is more important than this feature :)
    Thank you so much , you helped me make my decision :)

    • Dann Albright
      January 20, 2015 at 11:47 am

      Ah, that assistive touch should help a lot. Though I think we recently had an article saying that closing apps doesn't save power . . . so maybe you don't need to worry about it anyway!

      Glad to hear that the article has been helpful. Thanks for reading!

  12. Fareed
    January 19, 2015 at 5:18 pm

    What if I only need 2 or 3 features that Apple doesn't provide
    like close all apps in the background with one touch app and the other one works on touch screen and its function the same function of double click home button

    and I really Care about Security , I don't want to get Malware or any other hack ways that shows my location for example or makin' anything on my iPhone 5

    I really thank you very much for this article and I would like you to advice me , Shall I wait for Apple or make jailbreaking !

    • Dann Albright
      January 19, 2015 at 6:03 pm

      Fareed, it really depends on how much you're willing to risk. If those two or three features aren't a big deal, I'd wait. If they're really bothering you, go for jailbreaking. As I mentioned, the risks are generally pretty minor. Let us know what you decide to do!

  13. dragonmouth
    September 10, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    @Dann A:
    "I still stand by my statement that it’s easier to get malware on an Android phone than an iPhone because of how open the OS is."
    That's like saying that it is easier to get malware on a Linux system because of how open it is.

    • Dann A
      September 14, 2014 at 3:23 pm

      To be completely honest, I don't know a thing about linux. However, I think that might be an unfair comparison, as there's no single primary app store for the different desktop OSes. From what I've gathered in researching this article, it's Apple's stranglehold on the App Store that makes iOS, in general, for the most part, more secure than the relatively lax Play Store. Would you agree that that's the case?

  14. Ian Sayabo
    September 8, 2014 at 6:18 am

    jailbroken your iOS devices it can dangerous / and it can be good in advanced user bcuz of many things to do with broken iOS devices by sending a file via Bluetooth and via wi fi direct its available in broken iOS devices before you made the decision to broke it you must understand the consequences that you faced after....

    • Dann A
      September 9, 2014 at 8:35 am

      I'm not totally sure what you're getting at here. However, I totally agree with 'you must understand the consequences'—that's exactly what I'm trying to get at here. There may be some security-related repercussions, and people should know!

      Thanks for reading!

  15. Kevin M
    September 6, 2014 at 1:52 am

    The very same exact thing can be said about Android phones, change the name and you could double your posts! I caution anyone that might believe for a second that just because it is by Apple that it is somehow more secure than Android, that is nothing more than a fairy tail at best.

    • Dann A
      September 6, 2014 at 7:05 am

      There are a lot of opinions flying back and forth about this. ZDNet recently called Android a "magnet for malware," though they also said that iOS isn't necessarily much better (at least for enterprise security). However, I still stand by my statement that it's easier to get malware on an Android phone than an iPhone because of how open the OS is. That's the great thing about Android; you can do what you want. But with flexibility comes vulnerability.

      If you use either of them outside of the limited intentions of the manufacturer, you open yourself up to threats. That much is clear. But it seems to me that if you stay within the manufacturer's intentions (which I'm sure many MUO readers, and probably almost all MUO authors, including myself, do not), iOS is more secure.

    • Kevin M
      September 6, 2014 at 12:05 pm

      What you just said is at the root why this article has little merit to claim something is absolute. They are just opinions and there are no hard facts to say iOS is somehow more secure than an Android. I would say based on the average technical skill level of iOS users in general compared to that of the Android user base, we can safely say that those that use iOS are generally more tech savvy. Therefor there are going to be far less reported issues. The bottom line is you cannot protect ignorant people from themselves and more times than not the infection I find on client systems were caused by user neglect.

      The fact remains Dann and by your own words when you just said "it seems to me" is not enough to lead the title of the article as proof that Apple is somehow more secure and in the end remains your opinion. You (like me and everyone else posting here) have the right to our opinions. However your article makes it out like it is a fact and while it may be fact to you there are no hard stats to backup your statement and make it fact, it therefore remains opinion only and with good conscience you should not be stating as a matter of fact something that is clearly just YOUR opinion and nothing more!

    • Dann A
      September 6, 2014 at 4:20 pm

      Kevin, I understand most of what you're saying above, and for the most part agree with it. As far as I know, there isn't a standard measurement of OS security, so it's difficult to compare. However, I've read a number of experts who say that iOS has a security advantage over other mobile operating systems. For example,

      "iOS is the most secure because attention to security is focused at the app level as much as it is at the operating system level," said Ira Grossman, CTO of end user and mobile computing at Cleveland-based MCPc, a national solution provider specializing in mobile solutions with its Anyplace Workspace.

      "If you don't have a secure app, it doesn't matter how secure the operating system is," Grossman said. "So the fact that the Apple Store is curated, that provides a level of security that you don't get today with the standard Android app store."

      Source: http://www.crn.com/news/mobility/300072707/mobile-security-smackdown-ios-vs-android-vs-blackberry-vs-windows-phone.htm/pgno/0/1

      Also, respectfully, I think you're missing the point here. You say "the title of the article as proof that Apple is somehow more secure," but the title of the article (and the article itself) has nothing to do with how secure iOS is compared to other systems. The article is about jailbroken vs. unjailbroken iPhones.

  16. Philip Bates
    September 5, 2014 at 10:40 am

    Exactly the sort of article I wanted to read, Dann; thank you. I've been considering jailbreaking mine for a little while, mainly because a friend has and it does seem to open up many possibilities, unlocking its potential.

    But the recurring thought has always been: there's got to be bad consequences too. Security is 100% a concern - and I think your article has made my mind up!

    • Dann A
      September 5, 2014 at 3:19 pm

      I'm really glad you found it useful! Fortunately, the developer community around iOS is quite active, so you can stay pretty safe with a jailbroken iPhone. But there are always tradeoffs, and potential security holes are one of them. As some people pointed out, though, sometimes you can actually improve security with a jailbroken phone if a security patch comes out. But you won't be able to download the official security patches. This goes back and forth and back and forth and in circles forever. But I'm glad that the article was helpful, and I'm always happy to hear that I helped someone make an informed decision.

      Thanks for reading!

  17. henry
    September 5, 2014 at 7:45 am

    i guess whoever wrote this is apple's employee :))...bias much?

    • Dann A
      September 5, 2014 at 9:22 am

      Henry,

      I'm not sure why you think the article is biased. I mentioned the benefits of jailbreaking, linked to a number of articles that give tips on how to do it, and mention some of the security risks of doing so. If that's biased, there's no such thing as impartial. Nowhere in the article do I say that jailbreaking is a bad idea.

      So if you could point out to me where I show bias, I'd appreciate it!

  18. Ahmed K
    September 5, 2014 at 6:32 am

    Strange of all my browseing this is the first time i saw root password 2!

    • Dann A
      September 5, 2014 at 9:19 am

      I hadn't actually come across the root password in my browsing until I was researching this article, but that's probably because I've never looked into jailbreaking too deeply. Once I started to, though, it became obvious that it's pretty common knowledge among Apple fans. Good thing to know!

  19. Joseph Z
    September 5, 2014 at 1:27 am

    > In a nutshell, jailbreaking removes the security restrictions on your iPhone or iPad
    For me, In a nutshell, jailbreaking allows you to add and changes features. Time and time again features you would like to have are missing or will never be added because they compete with Apple.
    Did you know that Wireless Sync has added to IOS device before Apple finally decided to add it?
    Did you know that the Notification Center was created before Apple added it?
    These are are a few of the HUNDREDS of tweaks available.

    > Third-Party Apps Can Be Dangerous
    Yep, they can, but as pointed out in the article, even app certified aps can be dangerous.
    Still this is probably the biggest danger you can get from jailbreaking, however I know that Cydia does a good job taking down such aps.

    >Everyone Knows the Default Root Password
    Really?? That's silly. I you can jailbreak an iPhone, you can run sudo passwd root

    >Security Patches Won’t Download
    True. However!! There are examples of how Cydia released patches even before Apple. So not a big deal.

    You have a much greater risk of having problems with your Windows PC, you aren't going to stop using that are you? So yes, I MIGHT get infected, but on a list of things that are dangerous, jailbreaking is at the bottom.

    My 2 cents.

    • Dinatekno
      September 5, 2014 at 4:25 am

      I agree 100% with Joseph Z. I've jail broken all my devices for years. The enhancements and tweaks are worth it. I know how to change the root password too!

    • Dann A
      September 5, 2014 at 9:17 am

      Joseph,

      You do make some good points here; jailbreaking does open up a lot of really great possibilities, and it lets you get ahead of the curve on cool features that Apple might add in the future.

      I tried to make it clear in the article that I'm not against jailbreaking; I just think people should know the risks. Maybe I didn't make it clear enough.

      Anyway, thanks for your 2 cents!

    • Dann A
      September 5, 2014 at 9:18 am

      Dinatenko,

      I'm glad that you think the risks are worth it. That means you know what the risks are. That's all I was trying to do with this article!

      Thanks for reading!

  20. Howard B
    September 4, 2014 at 7:32 pm

    "iOS is one of the most secure, safest mobile operating systems out there..."

    Security researcher: iOS security has been intentionally compromised by Apple http://bgr.com/2014/07/21/apples-iphone-and-ios-security-and-privacy/

    Any iOS device will instantly trust any PC that it's been connected to, and once you've connected it, you can download *anything* from that device, from photos, texts, contacts, and apps, to a *complete backup* of the device, even wirelessly. Pretty big honkin' security flaw, and IIRC Apple says it's "by design."

    • Dann A
      September 5, 2014 at 3:26 pm

      Howard, you bring up some interesting points here. First of all, yes, Apple has a lot of access to what's on your phone. That's part of Apple keeping a really tight hold on its ecosystem, I would say. Obviously it's not ideal, but it's not all that unexpected, either.

      In the BGR article that you linked, it says that the NSA and knowledgeable third parties could take advantage of the security holes in iOS to grab information from the phone . . . and while that's definitely something to be concerned about, it seems like that's probably the case for most mobile systems. The NSA is really good at what they do. No phone is perfect.

      As for the iOS devices trusting PCs, I don't think I know enough to comment on that. Seems like "don't let people plug your device into their PC" is pretty good advice to stop that from happening. And if I remember correctly, you have to specifically enable wireless syncing.

      So yes, there are some issues. But I don't think they stand out as being any more significant than those on any other phone. And when it comes to malware "in the wild," iOS is still on top.

    • anon
      October 22, 2014 at 5:08 pm

      This no longer applies in ios8.

    • Doc
      October 23, 2014 at 8:02 pm

      @anon: "This no longer applies in ios8." Then WTH are those who *cannot* upgrade to iOS8 supposed to do? Having it fixed in (and only in) the latest OS version does *nothing* to protect those stuck on older hardware that can't upgrade. I know of several people with first-gen iPads and iPhones older than the 4S, and older iPod Touches (pre-5G) - they're screwed. Apple should be made to make simple patches for those older versions of iOS still "in the wild," as well as Heartbleed and other major bugs.

    • Dann Albright
      October 24, 2014 at 10:55 am

      Unfortunately, older devices and OSes not getting patched is a fact of high-tech life. It's irritating, but I've come to expect it on a pretty regular basis. While I admire the call for Apple to make "simple patches" (though I have no idea how simple it is to fix something like that), I wouldn't hold out for it.

      Thanks for your comment!

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