Jailbreaking iPhones – Freedom or Folly?

 Author(s): , Posted on October 27th, 2011

“There’s an app for that.”  How did we cope before we had that for an answer to so many of life’s questions downloadable into a cool gadget that fits in the palm of our hand?  Everything from maps of the stars to personal fitness trainers, games to productivity tools, GPS navigation to social networking.  Today’s mobile devices have revolutionised the way that we live our daily lives.

But does the hunger for new apps make us more vulnerable to cybercrime?  Apps are far more than colourful icons on your smartphone.  They are powerful pieces of software code that you have downloaded onto your device.

Our appetite for the latest app seems to be pushing us, and our phones, to break boundaries.  For several years “Jailbreaking” iPhones has been a popular way to gain full access to the operating system in order to download apps not available through the official Apple App Store. You can read more about a recent Adelaide business that was hit by flash SMS hack via a jailbroken iPhone.

“Why Should We Be Restricted To Only Buy Our Apps From Apple? We Want More Freedom!”
Well here’s something to consider:  When you ‘jailbreak’ you might not be the only one you’ve given access to your phone and the data you keep on it – or more scarily the corporate data and systems it allows you to access.

Cybercriminals have quickly figured out that by offering “non official” apps they can encourage users to jailbreak their phones, and make them vulnerable to exploitation. This could include your phone being used for surveillance and hacking.  It is the modern version of the old nasty trick of leaving a free USB stick in a hotel for unwitting business travellers to use, only to find that it unleashes viruses onto their laptops and corporate systems.

And just like the increasingly sophisticated SPAM campaigns that try to trick us to reveal personal data, clever social engineering is being used to make us think it is OK to unlock the built-in protection on our mobile devices.

If you run a search on “jailbreaking iPhones” you will get mountains of instructions on how to jailbreak and why it’s so “cool”.  But interestingly, more and more of the posts from 2011 are starting to discuss the potential risks.

If your iPhone is a personal device and you never use it for work then it’s up to you if you want to take the gamble.  But if you use it to discuss or access company information — no matter if it was purchased by you or your employer – think again.  Do you really know what is buried in the code of that non-official app you are downloading?  It is not worth the risk for towards organization and personal data.

There’s probably an app to work out the odds…

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About the Author

John Kendall is the Director of the Border and National Security Program for the global public sector practice at Unisys. Based in Canberra Australia, John has overall responsibility for Unisys border and national security initiatives around the globe. Read all Posts





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