A famed iPhone hacker has developed a fresh way to jailbreak Apple's iOS 6 operating system in order to install unauthorized apps, but he says he won't release it.
David Wang wrote on Reddit that he discovered several flaws that allow iOS 6 to be jailbroken, which would allow users to install applications not approved by Apple for its App Store.
But Wang, who goes by "@planetbeing" on Twitter, said he won't release the jailbreak. Apple moves quickly to repair such flaws, and showing his hand now might prevent Wang from being able to access the device's firmware in future.
"Releasing it would burn an exploit we want to save for ourselves so we can always get in to look at new firmware and help [jailbreaking] in the future," he wrote.
Jailbreaking the iPhone is legal under an exception in the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act. But Apple hates the practice and can void the warranty on a phone whose software has been tampered with.
The jailbreak is an "untethered" one, meaning the iOS 6 device does not need to be connected to a computer in order to work. A tethered jailbreak exists for iOS 6 using "limera1n," which is a USB exploit. The problem with that jailbreak is that it is not persistent: an iOS 6 device would need to be jailbroken again if it is rebooted.
With this jailbreak, Wang has managed to overcome stronger security protections Apple engineered into iOS 6. With each new iteration of the OS, it has become more difficult to jailbreak. Hackers essentially need to find several bugs in order to be successful.
Wang said he used more than four software flaws for his latest jailbreak, which works on iOS version 6.0.2 on an iPhone 5. But Apple is likely to release iOS 6.1 soon, which means the company could fix the software to block Wang's exploit if it were disclosed.
The 6.1 version might also take away some other software bugs he's found, so "there's no point in sacrificing the many bugs" the update won't fix if the exploit isn't released, Wang wrote.
But jailbreak enthusiasts should not despair. There are likely more vulnerabilities in Apple's software waiting to be found, Wang wrote, "so while jailbreaking is getting harder, reports of its death are highly exaggerated."
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.