iPhone 6s

You may have heard earlier this week that a new unpatchable exploit was released that works on all iPhones from 4S to X and is unpatchable. What this means to most people is practically nothing. The expolit does not make it possible for someone to remotely hack your iPhone, steal your data, or otherwise hurt you if you personally don't jailbreak your iPhone.

What this means for the jailbreak community at large is that, no matter how many software updates Apple releases with bug patches and vulnerability fixes, iPhones with an A5 through A11 chip can potentially be jailbroken permanently. No more running older operating systems in order to keep a jailbroken phone. No more scrambling to try to find a new software exploit.

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Ars Technica interviewed the developer of Checkm8, axi0mX, and has a great deep dive into the process and limitations of the exploit.

Basically, Checkm8 is a bootrom exploit. This means it happens when you boot up an iPhone and it stops working as soon as you boot up your iPhone again without triggering the exploit. It's also "tethered," which means it can only be done when you have an iPhone in-person because you have to plug it into your computer to download the exploit directly. It does not bypass Apple's Secure Enclave, which means it won't work if the person running the exploit doesn't have Touch ID access or the iPhone's passcode to get in.

In other words, if someone steals your iPhone, they can't use Checkm8 to jailbreak it and further access your personal data.

This exploit is perfect for people that want to jailbreak their own iPhone to play around with sideloading software, changing settings that Apple doesn't want changed, and lots of other things that I haven't thought of, but I know the jailbreak community has.

For now, the exploit doesn't have a jailbreak attached to it. It's nothing more than a tool that allows jailbreakers to get into levels of iOS that they couldn't before. There is still a lot of developing to do before custom OSes are able to be downloaded or settings tweaks accessed. But it could be the beginning of a resurgence of jailbreak fever.

Not that long ago, the iOS jailbreak community was robust and lively. Every new operating system provided a new challenge to smart and savvy hackers that wanted to dive into the unaccessible areas of their iPhones and iPads. It was like a game of cat and mouse. Apple would release a new software version and jailbreakers would spend months trying to break into it. The day a new exploit was released was always a celebration amongst the community.

Over time, it became less of a necessity to jailbreak an iPhone because Apple kept giving us more of what we wanted on our phones; customizable wallpapers, editable lock screen widgets, ect. Though less people may have wanted to jailbreak their iPhones, the community still thrived, though in a smaller capacity.

The Checkm8 bootrom exploit, to paraphrase a reddit member of the jailbreak subreddit, is the biggest thing to happen to the jailbreak community ever. It opens up the opportunity for jailbreakers to come up with incredible new uses for the iPhone — new software settings, even new operating systems (Checkm8 could be used to allow someone to install Android or even a completely new customized operating system) — without having to be on older, less-secure iOS versions.

I've never jailbroken an iPhone before. I've always been too scared that I'd brick it. But I have jailbroken a Nintendo Switch (which coincidentally also suffers a similar bootrom fate, which allows you to boot up the Switch, no matter what Nintendo does with the software). Jailbreakers aren't nefarious (well, most of them aren't). The point of jailbreaking an iPhone, for most people, is not to find a way to steal someone else's data. It's to find a way to make your phone do more of what you want it to. To figure out how to customize it completely and make it do things it was never intended to do. There is a huge creative aspect to the jailbreak community and I can't wait to see what they do with this exploit.

Happy jailbreaking!

Lory Gil