iOS is one of the most secure mobile operating systems, but many people still consider it to be very restrictive. Jailbreaking can get rid of those restrictions. Before you jailbreak your device, it’s a good idea to weigh the benefits and potential drawbacks. 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. This means apps are given access to the core functions of the phone. Functions 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.
By removing the restrictions that are placed on your device by the manufacturer (much like rooting an Android phone), 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 and potential legal problems.
It will also invalidate your Apple warranty and any AppleCare package that you’ve purchased.
Third-Party Apps Might Be Deceiving
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. If you start downloading apps that haven’t been okayed by Apple for the App Store, the chances of getting malware goes up.
For example, millions of people recently downloaded apps with packaged adware from a third-party app store. A developer had been including the adware in apps like Minecraft, QQ, and Pokémon Go. Users couldn’t tell the difference between the compromised apps and the real ones.
Though there have been instances of malware found on the App Store, this isn’t a problem you’re likely to run into on Apple’s highly controlled marketplace. iOS spyware has also made an appearance on jailbroken devices, much in the same fashion.
Your Accounts Are Vulnerable
In 2015, a piece of malware called KeyRaider stole over 225,000 Apple account details. Because a jailbroken device doesn’t keep apps from accessing information they shouldn’t, a compromised app can access any information on your phone. That includes your Apple account information, banking apps, PayPal user details, and anything else it can find.
Even if you don’t keep financial information on your phone, there’s always your Apple account. And with that compromised, someone could be buying apps and making in-app purchases with your credit card. It’s not the worst thing that could happen, but it’s at best very annoying. At worst, it could cost you a lot of money.
Everyone Knows the Default Root Password
One of the worst-kept secrets about iOS is its root password: “alpine.” 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. Fortunately, this password can be changed, but it’s an easy thing to forget to do.
And if you forget it, someone else can take advantage. If they get root access with that password, they can do pretty much anything they want with your phone. Changing the password is crucial for your security, so if you decide to jailbreak your phone, don’t forget to do it. The process was explained in our article on how to configure an FTP server on your iPad.
KnownVulnerabilities Aren’t Patched
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. This isn’t usually a big deal. But many people who have jailbroken devices will wait until a new jailbreak is available before they update. That way, they don’t have to go back to the stock iOS implementation for an extended period of time.
But this means you may find yourself vulnerable to security holes in iOS until a new jailbreak is released. It could be a lock screen exploit that allows an intruder physical access to your phone, or it could simply be a vulnerability with the Messages app that causes devices to crash when parsing a particular string.
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. If there’s a flaw that you don’t know about, though, you could be putting yourself at risk every time there’s an update.
Is Jailbreaking a Good Idea?
Now that Apple has added so many features to iOS that people used to jailbreak for, it hardly seems worth it. Siri can now interact with other apps. You can install things like Kodi. You can even play Pokémon on your iPhone. But some people will always want more functionality. You’ll have to decide for yourself if you think it’s worth the security risks, but it’s becoming less and less necessary.
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 in the comments below!
Featured image credit: Matthew Pearce via Flickr.
Article updated 30 January 2017.