The History Of Jailbreaking [Feature]

The Cat And Mouse Game Continues

With Apple released iOS 3.0 in March of 2009, jailbreakers had to go back to the drawing board. The iPhone Dev Team released a jailbreak for the newest software, but a jailbreak for the iPhone 3GS was not released until George Hotz returned to the scene  in the summer of 2009. The Chronic Dev Team, another group of hackers dedicated to jailbreaking new releases of iOS, ported Hotz’s jailbreak tool for the iPhone 3GS to the Mac. Shortly after Hotz released the first jailbreak for the third-gen iPod touch.

The cat and mouse game between Apple and hackers like Hotz continued until the original iPad release in April of 2010. Hotz claimed to be working on a jailbreak for the new tablet, and he registered the domain limera1n.com.

The History Of Jailbreaking [Feature]

Nicholas Allegra, a.k.a comex (image via Forbes)

“Jailbreaking was starting to become too big to ignore”

A relatively new figure in the jailbreak community known only as “comex” came onto the scene with the release of Spirit, a simple, one-click tool that could jailbreak all iOS devices on iOS 3.1.3 or 3.2. Comex, who’s real name is Nicholas Allegra, would later be featured in Forbes and hired by Apple. Jailbreaking was starting to become too big to ignore.

Apple released iOS 4 in June 2010, and all available iOS devices were jailbroken within a week. After the release of the iPhone 4 that same summer, George Hotz announced his official retirement from jailbreaking, leading many to believe that Apple had patched his mysterious Limera1n hack. Hotz would later join Facebook after jailbreaking the PS3 and fighting a high-profile lawsuit with Sony.

Around the same time, the U.S. Library of Congress ruled that jailbreaking was legal under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. It’s still legal to this day, but that doesn’t mean it won’t void your warranty.

Jailbreaking Goes Mainstream

The History Of Jailbreaking [Feature]

JailbreakMe could jailbreak any iOS device in a matter of seconds—no additional computer required.

Jailbreaking was mostly for the digerati until the iPhone 4 was jailbroken in the summer of 2010. Comex released JailbreakMe 2.0, the first jailbreak that could be installed by simply visiting a website in the iPhone’s Safari browser. Jailbreaking the iPhone had always required the savviness of finding the right tools online, but JailbreakMe was the first tool that just worked. You could tell your friend to visit the URL, tap a button, and presto: jailbroken. No need for a desktop computer for special instructions.

“JailbreakMe was the first tool that just worked”

Needless to say, Apple quickly responded to JailbreakMe by releasing iOS 4.0.2 and patching the exploit less than two weeks later.

When Apple released iOS 4.1, the Chronic Dev Team announced the discovery of a bootrom vulnerability called “SHAtter” that would jailbreak all of the most recent Apple devices for life, including the iPhone 4. Because the exploit worked at the hardware level, Apple would not be able to patch the jailbreak until it released new iOS devices with different internals. Security research guru “pod2g” was responsible for discovering SHAtter, and he has continued to work on new exploits until today.

The History Of Jailbreaking [Feature]

Geohot teased Limera1n on his personal iOS devices before releasing the free tool to the world.

George Hotz briefly came out of retirement in October 2010 to release his Limera1n exploit, a hack that took advantage of another low-level bootrom vulnerability in Apple’s hardware. Limera1n was the first exploit capable of jailbreaking the iPhone 4 on iOS 4.1 and the second-gen Apple TV. Groups like FireCore would later capitalize on the Apple TV by releasing all kinds of enhancements and tweaks for the jailbroken set-top box.

The Chronic Dev and iPhone Dev teams continued releasing jailbreaks and baseband unlocks for iOS 4 with the help of hackers like iH8sn0w and pod2g. Eventually comex released JailbreakMe 3.0, a second iteration of his web-based jailbreak tool. Released in July 2001, JailbreakMe 3.0 worked on all iOS devices and was the first tool that worked on the iPad 2. Apple swiftly responded again with a patch days later.

The History Of Jailbreaking [Feature]

Jailbreakers like saurik, p0sixninja, geohot, and others hang out together at DEF CON. (Image via Justin Williams)

“About 10% of all iOS devices are jailbroken and running Cydia”

Jailbreak hackers from across the globe gathered in London on September 17th, 2011 for the world’s first jailbreak convention. Originally called MyGreatFest, the convention featured the brightest minds in the community, including Jay Freeman and the Chronic Dev Team. At the event, the iOS 5 jailbreak was discussed, and Freeman revealed that about 10% of all iOS devices are jailbroken and running Cydia.

The History Of Jailbreaking [Feature]The iOS 5 beta was jailbroken for developers until Apple publicly released iOS 5 in October 2011. The iPhone Dev Team and pod2g worked furiously on a public, full jailbreak for iOS 5, and the jailbreak was released in December for A4-based devices. In January 2012, a jailbreak for A5-based iOS devices (iPhone 4S and iPad 2) was released. In May 2012, pod2g and the Chronic Dev Team released Absinthe 2.0, the most recent tool for jailbreaking all iOS devices, including the third-gen iPad on 5.1.1.

Looking Ahead: iOS 6 And A New Horizon

“The game of cat and mouse is far from over”

Apple recently released iOS 6, and a new horizon of innovation and opportunity lays ahead for jailbreakers. The idea that there’s no longer a need for jailbreaking is ridiculous. If jailbreakers were to run out of things to do to iOS, then Apple would likely run out of things to do as well. The possibilities are just as interesting and unknown as they’ve ever been.

The History Of Jailbreaking [Feature]

The iPhone 5 was jailbroken by @chpwn on Twitter only hours after it went on sale.

Notable jailbreak hacker Grant Paul, also known as “chpwn,” has jailbroken the iPhone 5 already, but it will likely be some time before a public jailbreak is released for the rest of us. The third-gen Apple TV has still not been jailbroken, and Apple will continue patching exploits and releasing new devices. The game of cat and mouse is far from over.

The jailbreak community is gathering this weekend in San Francisco for JailbreakCon 2012, and Cult of Mac will be there in full force. Make sure to follow our coverage all weekend for more from the show floor.

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  • carloborja

    The reason why Alex Heath is my favorite from the Cult of Mac guys is because he loves jailbreaking as much as I do. I bet a lot of Cult of Mac readers have jailbroken iDevices too! #TeamJailbreak all the way.

  • SupaMac

    The reason why Alex Heath is my favorite from the Cult of Mac guys is because he loves jailbreaking as much as I do. I bet a lot of Cult of Mac readers have jailbroken iDevices too! #TeamJailbreak all the way.

    Hip hip, jailbray! hip hip, jailbray!

  • bbqking

    My only concern with this ‘feature’ is I don’t see any reference to TUAW’s Victor Agreda Jr. and his wonderful interview with Jay Freeman. I found a whole heck of a lot of quotes from that video that are just peppered into this piece as if they were from Alex Heath himself. A little truth and credit goes a long way.

  • alexheath

    My only concern with this ‘feature’ is I don’t see any reference to TUAW’s Victor Agreda Jr. and his wonderful interview with Jay Freeman. I found a whole heck of a lot of quotes from that video that are just peppered into this piece as if they were from Alex Heath himself. A little truth and credit goes a long way.

    I also watched Victor’s interview, which was good, but pretty much all of what Freeman said in that interview has been said before. He’s talked about the Nokia candybar thing in public and in interviews for years, including the JailbreakCon keynote (then called MyGreatFest) in London last year. I actually left a lot of the details out of his section for brevity’s sake.

  • anonymousarg

    Article not accurate at all.
    Cydia appeared before 2.0. There was something called Installer, too. And before 2.0, was the best. The installer team were late updating their Installer for 2.0, something that Cydia was very fast, everyone started developing and using Cydia, and then, BUM: Cydia forever.
    I won’t correct everything. But it could be A LOT better.

About the author

Alex HeathAlex Heath has been a staff writer at Cult of Mac for over two years. He is also a co-host of the CultCast. He has been quoted by places like the BBC, KRON 4 News, and books like "ICONIC: A Photographic Tribute to Apple Innovation." If you want to get in touch, additional contact information is available on his personal site. Twitter always works too.

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