Apple Isn’t ‘Fighting’ Jailbreaking

Colin Gibbs, in a piece headlined “Why Apple Should End Its Fight Against iPhone Jailbreaking”:

The Register reported last week that Apple is looking to fire back at iPhone jailbreakers with an application to patent a system designed to identify the “hacking, jailbreaking, unlocking or removal of a SIM card” from a phone so the device can be located and its data erased. The company has released a new firmware update for the sole purpose of patching a hole that was being used to jailbreak handsets running iOS 4 as well, according to the group of developers that created the first iPhone 4 jailbreak.

As I write in my weekly column over at GigaOM Pro, it makes no sense for Apple to pour efforts to these kinds of things; allowing jailbreaking — even implicitly — could actually help move iPhones off the shelves.

A few points. First, patent applications aren’t necessarily indicative of actual product plans. Apple files for patents on any idea or design deemed patentable, whether they intend to actually bring it to market or not. Second, the point of such a system as described in the patent depends on your perspective. If you want to jailbreak your iPhone, then yes, such a system would seem like “anti jailbreaking”. But if you don’t want to jailbreak your iPhone, such a system would be a useful security feature — reassurance that your device’s OS has not been tampered with by malware.

Last, Apple isn’t “fighting” jailbreaking. They simply don’t support it. iOS 4.0.2 fixed a serious security vulnerability. By arguing that Apple shouldn’t have bothered doing so, Gibbs is implicitly arguing that Apple shouldn’t fix security vulnerabilities. It’s that simple. A more apt headline for Gibbs’s piece would be “Apple Shouldn’t Fix Security Vulnerabilities in iOS”.

Monday, 30 August 2010