Jan 10, 2020

Apple's endless war against jailbreaking

Apple jailbreak

Apple filed a lawsuit against Corellium, an iOS virtualization company that sells access to virtual machines running Apple’s operating systems. With Corellium’s services, security researchers can analyze iOS for security flaws and developers are able to simulate mobile devices in their browsers.

That’s not all, though. Corellium customers can also hunt for vulnerabilities and jailbreak iOS devices, a process that removes Apple’s operating system restrictions and lets developers install custom software.

In an effort to restrict widespread access to jailbreaking tools, Apple hopes to limit the sale of Corellium’s products.

In Apple’s defense. As part of its Walled Garden strategy, Apple maintains a tight stranglehold on user experience across its iOS devices. Jailbroken devices enable piracy—when users can download untested and unregulated applications—and compromise the security of its users, making them susceptible to malicious software. That can tarnish Apple’s reputation.

Apple claims Corellium sells exact copies of its software, a copyright violation, under the pretense of aiding security researchers.

In Corellium’s defense. Corellium claims its software is fair use of Apple’s technology because its virtualization product is used for an entirely different purpose than the original software.

Loopholes abound, too. The US Copyright Office makes exceptions to jailbreaking for good-faith security research.

What’s the developer impact? Many products today, similar to the Apple iPhone, include cybersecurity locks. Everything from smart refrigerators to smart tractors prohibit tampering with underlying software.

That threatens hacker communities and discourages security researchers. Worse, restrictions can render hardware completely useless when companies stop supporting their platforms or refuse to update firmware.

Apple’s tight grip on its platform has certainly been a boon to many developers who build apps for its lucrative App Store. Whether more developers will be able to operate outside of that walled garden remains to be seen.

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