Security & Privacy

The Latest in Jailbreaking: Will Malware Follow?

Posted on January 7th, 2013 by

Lately there have been a lot of interesting tidbits about jailbreaking in the news, from all sorts of different angles. It looks as if we’re beginning to get more information about the population of jailbreakers on various mobile OSes. This is especially interesting because a way to jailbreak Windows RT has just been announced, and rumor has it that an untethered jailbreak for iOS 6.0.2 is about to be released. I'm curious to see if this significantly changes the numbers of jailbroken devices in the near future.

There's been a paucity of information about how many users worldwide are jailbreaking their iOS machines, so in the past it’s been difficult to tell how big of a potential problem iOS threats are that only affect jailbroken users. CodeProof has come out with data saying that less than 11% of iOS users are currently using jailbroken machines. Most of those jailbroken users (16.29%) are using iPhones, compared to 6.12% of iPad users. Presumably this difference is in part because jailbreaking iPhones allows you more choice of mobile phone providers, which is more enticing on a phone where ostensibly calling is the primary purpose of the device.

Less than three months after the release of Windows RT, a technique has been announced to jailbreak the OS to allow users to install unsigned apps. Given that it was only a matter of days before the first jailbreak was announced after the release of the first iPhone, this is remarkably slow. It’s not clear if this delay is because fewer people were working to do this (due to either lack of interest in the OS or simply a different userbase being interested in Windows RT than iOS), or if it was simply more difficult to find this vulnerability. It will also be interesting to see if jailbreak-only malware follows, as was also the case for iOS.

At the moment, there is only a very limited and tethered jailbreak available for versions of iOS 6 and higher. But an iOS hacker working on the latest version of the OS (6.0.2) has announced that he has an untethered version that is working on his iPhone 5. Whether this pans out remains to be seen, as well as whether a version will be released publicly, how this will affect the total number of users that are jailbroken, and how many more people will then upgrade to iOS 6 as a result of a jailbreak being released.

As the market share of mobile OSes continues to explode, eroding the market share of Windows in particular, it will be interesting to see how the malware landscape evolves. The number of Android malware has exploded in the last few years but there has seemingly been little interest in creating iOS malware. Will Windows RT now be targeted for malware? Will iOS 6 be targeted if a jailbreak is released, given how quickly its market share is growing?

Update Jan 9, 2012 - T-Mobile offered some nicely-timed figures today, saying they have 1.9 million unlocked iPhones on their network, with another 100,000 added daily.

photo credit: Oliver Quinlan via photopin cc

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