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What is jailbreaking and why is it a potential security risk?

If you ever wanted to change your iPhone’s interface, modify its default behavior, or rather download third-party apps that are not supported on the AppStore, jailbreaking is the way to go.

If you ever wanted to change your iPhone’s interface, modify its default behavior, or rather download third-party apps that are not supported on the AppStore, jailbreaking is the way to go.

Jailbreaking means unlocking your phone from manufacturing restrictions made by the company, allowing you to have root access to your device and download any app you wish or customize your phone’s appearance. On the downside, your phone becomes more vulnerable, susceptible to hacker attacks and data leakage.  

Are simple customizations and off-the-market apps worth the risk that comes with jailbreaking? Is there a way for applications to keep your sensitive information safe if you use a jailbroken phone? 

What is jailbreaking? 

 The term jailbreaking ties to the Apple ecosystem, specifically iOS and iPhones/iPad devices. It means making unauthorized modifications to iOS systems, allowing users to gain full access to the operating system's root, make modifications, and customize its features. Other variants of jailbreaking are “cracking” used for software modification and “rooting” in regard to Android phones. Rooting can be described as the Android version of a jailbreak since it aims to bypass protections put in place by manufacturers to install alternative mobile operating systems or generally have full root access/privilege on their device.  

What are potential security risks of jailbreaking? 

While jailbreaking gives you more freedom to use your iOS device as you wish, it also gives your installed apps that run on it more control. One of the highest risks is malware on your device, it gains root privilege and access to all your data.  

Some of the other common risks are: 

  • Security vulnerabilities – Jailbreak eliminates security controls made by the manufacturer, which enables hackers to steal your personal information, attack your network, or introduce malware, spyware, or viruses. 
  • Instability – You can expect frequent and unexpected crashes of the device, crashes and freezes of built-in apps and third-party apps, and loss of data. 
  • Shortened battery life - The hacked software has caused an accelerated battery drain that shortens the operation of an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch on a single battery charge. 
  • Disruption of services – Your phone calls may drop, or you could not make a stable phone connection. 

Consider if your phone holds important information, emails, and contacts from your organization. All that data becomes available for hackers to use and exploit. So not only that your personal data is at risk but also your organization's data and the application itself. Since it is easier to install fraudulent apps on your phone when it is jailbroken, hackers can modify, for example, your mobile banking app, and authorize payments inside the app or send OTP code for payment verification. 

How to protect your device? 

Apple advises not to install any software that compromises iOS. It is a violation of the end-user software license agreement. Also, keep your phone up to date. This is because jailbreaks release after some time so you know that your phone is at maximum security. 

Furthermore, it is quite possible to lose your jailbreak if you update to the latest iOS; since there usually isn’t a jailbreak for the latest releases of iOS. 

If you are unable to update your phone to remove the jailbreak; you should be able to rely on your app that is secure and protects your sensitive info. 

How to protect your mobile app? 

In today’s world, there is an increase in security-sensitive applications, especially mobile banking, gambling and betting, gaming, and enterprise applications.  Such applications should run from a position of Zero Trust (meaning never trust, always verify). That means that security measures should detect jailbreaking and other security breach attempts. 

If you’re looking for a way to protect your mobile apps, look no more. ASEE’s solution comes in the form of App Protector. It provides, among other, detection of jailbreak for iOS devices and rooting for Android. Reaction to detected jailbreak is configurable, so you can choose the most appropriate reaction to a specific threat.

To find out more about our App Protector solution contact us or visit our blog section.  

Author: Karolina Škunca

Karolina is a Junior iOS Software Developer. She works on preventing security attacks on iOS phones and frequently tests ASEE’s applications. Her greatest passions are designing and developing new applications.

App protector download datasheet

In case you're curious, feel free to contact us or download the datasheet. Our ASEE team will be happy to hear you out.

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