Hackers strike Apple app gold

Source from Herald Sun, 25 Aug 2010

It might be illegal. It might brick your phone. It might mean its maker will refuse to repair it. Yet despite thee obstacles some Australian iPhone lovers are hacking their phones and looking outside Apple’s Store to get their app fix.

The rewards include a treasure trove of apps unavailable through official channels, including additions that turn your iPhone into a wireless internet hot spot, let you send free SMS messages, make video calls over the phones network, or simply add new message tones to your handset.

The process of hacking an iPhone, called jailbreaking, recently became easier with an online tool that made the process as simple as visiting a website. But Apple has since countered with software update for its iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch that, if installed, renders most of these tools inoperable.

Telecommunications experts say both advances are just part of an ongoing cat-and-mouse game between Apple and a dedicated hacking community that is unlikely to end.

That community serves more than 1.6 million users, according to Jay Freeman, who set up the main App store alternative, called Cydia.

In his application to legalise iPhone jailbreaking in the US, Freeman reported that more than 300,000 different devices use the Cydia app store daily, and more than 650,000 log in each week.

“What these users are coming back for are the hundreds of applications that are in Cydia, each one of then being the type Apple denies from (its) store,” he writes.

Freeman says  popular jailbreak apps and map applications, many if which use the iPhones’s camera or let users access its file system, and even apps such as WinterBoard, which let users change an iPhone’s graphics theme.

High-profile App Store rejects include Google Voice, the Opera web browser and an app created by South Park writers Trey Parker and Matt Stone, deemed “potentially offensive”.

Accessing those rejected apps could be legal, though. The case to outlaw iPhone jailbreaking failed in the US last month when regulators added it to a list of copyright exemptions, finding there was “no basis for copyright law to protecting its restrictive business model“.

The legality of iPhone Jailbreaking is not as clear in Australia, IDC telecommunications market analyst Mark Novosel says. There;s no doubt Australia are jailbreaking iPhone, he says, and “this has been happening since the launch of the very first iPhone”, but Apple has not sought to prosecute anyone for doing it.

“several factors can cause people to jailbreaking their phones – tethering (using an iPhone as a modem) has been disabled by some operators, You can turn your iphone into a wireless access point.”

But Novosel says hacking a phone can leave it open to attacks from viruses and other malware. These included the Ikee virus, a worm Called Duh and most recently , tainted PDF documents that allowed access to the phone’s software.

It was through this flaw that JailbreakingMe.com allowed users to jailbreak their phones by visiting a website, something that Apple has prevented with its software update.

For its part, Apple Australia warns users who jailbreak iPhones will void the gadget’s one-year warranty. The company might also deny service to an iPhone, iPad or iPod with unauthorised software.


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