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Brand new jailbreak can ‘unlock’ any iPhone or iPad

Published May 25th, 2020 6:50AM EDT
iPhone Jailbreak
Image: Zach Epstein for BGR

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  • The iPhone jailbreak community has a new tool at its disposal that will unlock any iPhone or iPad running any iOS version from iOS 11 to iOS 13.5.
  • Called Unc0ver, the iOS jailbreak uses a 0-day vulnerability issue that could be patched soon. But it can currently offer unrestricted access to the software of iPhone 11, iPhone SE, and the latest iPad Pros.

Jailbreaking or rooting refers to unlocking a phone from the manufacturer’s software protections allows users to sideload apps, and gives them more control of the device. That’s not to be confused with unlocking a phone which was purchased from a carrier and which might be locked to that operator’s network out of the box. Some iPhone users have relied on jailbreaks to run software that never made it to the App Store or to study the security of iOS, and jailbreaking has been around for almost as long as iOS. Hackers who discovered hardware or software security issues that allowed them to unlock access to the iPhone operating system have been playing a cat-and-mouse game with Apple for years. As soon as they’d find some new vulnerabilities ta attack, Apple would patch them. It’s now 2020 and jailbreaking a phone or tablet is probably not what most people want to do, or have to. But a hacker group just released the most important jailbreak software in years, a tool that can break not just old devices, but also the latest iPhone 11, 2020 iPad Pro, and iPhone SE. Even better, Pwn20wnd’s Unc0ver tool works on the newest iOS release, which came out just a few days ago.

Unc0ver is the first jailbreak built on a zero-day in years, Wired reports, which is a huge accomplishment in this day and age. Apple makes a big deal of iPhone security and privacy, and it’ll likely patch the software exploit in an upcoming iOS release. This is a software-level jailbreak, which means Apple can fix it. A few months ago, hackers discovered an unpatchable Apple hardware flaw (dubbed checkm8) that could be used for jailbreak purposes on any iPhone or iPad released between 2011 and 2017.

Apple could fix the new kernel issue as soon as two to three weeks, Pwn20wnd and other security researchers told Wired. It could be done even earlier if Apple had already discovered it.

The jailbreak will not compromise battery life or other Apple services, including iMessage, Apple Pay, and iCloud. The hackers say the jailbreak preservers Apple’s user data protections and doesn’t undermine iOS’s sandbox security.

“This jailbreak basically just adds exceptions to the existing rules,” Pwn20wnd, told WIRED. “It only enables reading new jailbreak files and parts of the file system that contain no user data.”

Even so, you should tread carefully when attempting to use such tools on your devices, make sure you understand what jailbreaking means and what the risks are. We won’t tell you how to do it, and most people probably shouldn’t go for it in the first place.

But the new Unc0ver tool is the latest in a series of iOS security issues that have made the news recently. Only recently, we’ve learned how iOS 14 leaked several months ahead of its first beta release, giving researchers and the media early access to Apple’s unreleased iPhone operating system. Separately, the FBI has been pushing its iOS backdoor agenda, while confirming it was able to hack older iPhones using unknown tools. Companies that sell security exploits have come forward with new tools that can aid law enforcement, or made unusual claims about iOS bugs — Zerodium said a few days ago that it has too many iOS vulnerabilities on hand, so it doesn’t need to purchase additional ones.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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