Over at his official Twitter account, iPhone hacker Comex is airing some heady suspicions about Apple’s latest strategy in the cat-and-mouse jailbreak game. The talented hacker behind the Spirit and JailbreakMe 2.0 exploits is suggesting that Apple might have a spy within the iPhone Dev Team itself, allowing Cupertino to close exploits in their iOS software before the Dev Team can release a working jailbreak with them.
Here’s Comex’s rationale. At any given time, the Dev Team might have a number of possible jailbreak exploits ready to deploy when new Apple firmware drops. The idea is to make sure that Apple only has the information necessary to close currently released jailbreaks. By keeping some jailbreak exploits secret and in reserve, the Dev Team can be reasonably sure that Apple won’t patch them with a new iOS update, which gives the Dev Team a head start on releasing a jailbreak when the next firmware hits.
According to Comex, he was keeping just such an exploit in reserve, one that had been present from iOS 4.0.2 all the way through iOS 4.3. When iOS 4.3.1 dropped, though, the exploit had been miraculously closed by Apple… just as Comex was preparing to deploy it.
“I try not to be paranoid, but it is really hard to explain this as anything but a leak,” Comex said on his Twitter account.
Of course, it might not be a leak, which even Comex admits: a few minutes later, Comex was quick to retweet a follower’s observation that it was always possible that someone at Apple found the exploit on their own and fixed it. Stranger things have certainly happened. One thing’s for sure, though: given how determined Apple is to keep iPhones locked down, that the battle over jailbreak might get to the point of spies and counter-intelligence isn’t entirely unlikely. It’s just a new front in a war between Apple and the hackers that has been escalating for quite some time.