Jailbreaking Will End Life As We Know It: Apple

Apple continues to give end users reasons to jailbreak their iPhones, by rejecting applications that are pretty darn useful, for various reasons (in this case, because it might affect AT&T revenue). Of course, jailbroken iPhones might destroy the world as we know it, if Apple is to be believed.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is using the Copyright Office's triennial exemption process to try to get an exemption for iPhone jailbreaking. The process is moving along, and with the Copyright Office asking for clarification and both the EFF (.PDF) and Apple (.PDF) responding.

Apple has, in the past, held that jailbreaking is illegal. But Apple goes further, using scare tactics as well as legal arguments to try to persuade the copyright office.

Did you know that jailbroken iPhones can bring down cell towers? Here's what Apple said (emphasis mine):
For example, each iPhone contains a unique Exclusive Chip Identification (ECID) number that identifies the phone to the cell tower. With access to the BBP via jailbreaking, hackers may be able to change the ECID, which in turn can enable phone calls to be made anonymously (this would be desirable to drug dealers, for example) or charges for the calls to be avoided. If changing the ECID results in multiple phones having the same ECID being connected to a given tower simultaneously, the tower software might react in an unknown manner, including possibly kicking those phones off the network, making their users unable to make phone calls or send/receive data. By hacking the BBP software through a jailbroken phone and taking control of the BBP software, a hacker can initiate commands to the cell tower software that may skirt the carrier’s rules limiting the packet size or the amount of data that can be transmitted, or avoid charges for sending data. More pernicious forms of activity may also be enabled. For example, a local or international hacker could potentially initiate commands (such as a denial of service attack) that could crash the tower software, rendering the tower entirely inoperable to process calls or transmit data. In short, taking control of the BBP software would be much the equivalent of getting inside the firewall of a corporate computer – to potentially catastrophic result. The technological protection measures were designed into the iPhone precisely to prevent these kinds of pernicious activities, and if granted, the jailbreaking exemption would open the door to them.

Finally, like Apple, AT&T’s support organization is burdened by users of jailbroken phones who encounter functional problems with the phone that result from jailbreaking. Such users often call AT&T to report such problems, believing that they may be the result of problems on AT&T’s network. AT&T is then forced to spend significant resources investigating and diagnosing the problems to determine whether, in fact, there is a problem with AT&T’s network or service.
In short, all those dropped calls and poor service that occurred last year when the iPhone 3G was introduced were because of jailbroken iPhones. Shame, shame.

As far as the claims about the BBP, that would only occur if someone wanted to unlock an iPhone. Jailbreaking is a requirement in order to unlock the iPhone, but jailbreaking itself does not "equal" unlocking.

Wanting to make sure it added more fuel (fright?) to the fire, Apple on Thursday added a support article to its site warning about jailbreaking. The article is titled "Unauthorized modification of iPhone OS has been a major source of instability, disruption of services, and other issues."

Ouch, watch out.

What the article goes on to state is a number of instability issues:
Device and application instability: Frequent and unexpected crashes of the device, crashes and freezes of built-in apps and third-party apps, and loss of data.

Unreliable voice and data: Dropped calls, slow or unreliable data connections, and delayed or inaccurate location data.

Disruption of services: Services such as Visual Voicemail, YouTube, Weather, and Stocks have been disrupted or no longer work on the device. Additionally, third-party apps that use the Apple Push Notification Service have had difficulty receiving notifications or received notifications that were intended for a different hacked device. Other push-based services such as MobileMe and Exchange have experienced problems synchronizing data with their respective servers.

Compromised security: Security compromises have been introduced by these modifications that could allow hackers to steal personal information, damage the device, attack the wireless network, or introduce malware or viruses.

Shortened battery life: The hacked software has caused an accelerated battery drain that shortens the operation of an iPhone or iPod touch on a single battery charge.

Inability to apply future software updates: Some unauthorized modifications have caused damage to the iPhone OS that is not repairable. This can result in the hacked iPhone or iPod touch becoming permanently inoperable when a future Apple-supplied iPhone OS update is installed.
Jailbreaking is just a software modification that can be undone by restoring the iPhone. Similarly, a ROM update will "jail" the iPhone again. While most users don't see a performance hit when running a jailbroken iPhone, they do see an whole new universe of applications they can install on the iPhone.

These are all generalities, of course. It is possible that badly coded application could indeed cause an issue on your iPhone. In general, however, these are all scare tactics by Apple.

Are you scared yet?
Tags:  Apple, iPhone, ATT, Hack