Is Jailbreaking Legal and Safe?
Table of Contents
- By Emmett
- Jun 17, 2022
If you’re an Apple user, you’ve likely heard something about the mysterious process known as “jailbreaking.” It's a common way to work around the many restrictions manufacturers place on smartphones and other digital devices, but its safety and legal status have always been a bit murky.
What is “Jailbreaking a Phone”?
Jailbreaking allows Apple users to customize their device experience and avoid the many locked features available on their smartphones. The process of jailbreaking a phone usually involves the installation of specific jailbreaking software. Since you can’t get these sorts of applications on the app store, Apple users often scour online forums to find any semi-trustworthy website that offers them. There are two primary kinds of jailbreaking: untethered and tethered.
- Untethered: If the jailbreaking process doesn’t require a computer connection, it's considered “untethered.” With these, you can start your phone up and instantly have your jailbreak applied.
- Tethered: A tethered jailbreak requires a computer or other device to accomplish; the device won’t load a jailbroken version without this connection. If the device is turned off, you’ll need to retether it each time you want to enter a jailbroken state.
No matter what type of jailbreaking is used, the program will grant you root access to your Apple device. This means you can interact directly with iOS to install applications and software that Apple hasn’t officially approved.
Why Jailbreak a Phone?
There are several advantages to jailbreaking a phone:
- Remove Bloatware: All devices come with some level of bloatware or pre-installed programs that take up space and are often unwanted. Apps like the Games Center and Weather take up space on your device; this can prevent you from filling it with photos, videos, games, and applications you actually want. Jailbreaking allows you to remove these otherwise permanent programs and free up valuable space on your device.
- Install Unapproved Applications: The main reason most users want to jailbreak their phones is to install programs that Apple doesn’t allow in the app store. These range from games or emulators that may violate copyright or messaging services that Apple isn’t partnered with. You can also utilize various file transfer services and file processing programs that can be faster than what's officially offered by Apple.
- Help Locate Your Phone: The “Find My Phone” feature of the iPhone can be incredibly useful, helping you track down your device when lost or stolen through its integration with Apple maps. Unfortunately, the normal version of iOS prevents you from using this feature if your phone was left in airplane mode or otherwise offline. Jailbroken devices can access alternative safety apps that can help them identify thieves, but many aren’t technically allowed by Apple.
Is it Legal and Safe?
This is where it gets a bit complicated. Jailbreaking is legal in many jurisdictions, but the exact nature of the practice falls into several legal gray areas. The exact process of jailbreaking is legal in the United States as of 2010. Apple themselves have come out publicly against the practice of jailbreaking but rarely prosecutes anyone for the practice (when it does cross a legal line.)
Unfortunately, jailbreaking your phone does go directly against their terms of service and therefore voids your warranty. This means any problems you run into with your device after it's jailbroken won’t be covered by Apple. The jailbreaking process can even cause these issues by itself, in some cases permanently damaging your phone.
Yes, it's possible to safely jailbreak your device, but it is by no means a risk-free process. You’ll be unable to receive new updates to the iOS system. This can cause stability issues, along with potential freezes and lower battery life. Many users have also experienced “bricking,” or the complete cease of their phones' function. Jailbreaking will disable any security features Apple has turned on automatically, and if you don’t activate your own security measures, you will be vulnerable to hackers.
Without the screening process used by Apple to vet applications for their store, you’ll be at risk of downloading fraudulent or dangerous programs. These can affect your phone's performance, expose your personal information, and leak data that allows cybercriminals to commit fraud. With the data they pull from your phone, these criminals can harm you in a number of ways, including identity theft.
Jailbreaking: Rarely Worth it for the Risk
While it sounds nice to access a wide variety of unauthorized apps and have more control over your device, jailbreaking poses too many potential risks. A user with a jailbroken phone exposes themselves to the potential of a data leak, which can be harmful both personally and financially. If you’ve already jailbroken your phone and believe your information may have been stolen, you can run a free identity threat scan. If you haven’t jailbroken your phone, don’t. It just isn’t worth it.