Charting The History Of The iPhone Jailbreaking Community

| | December 20, 2023

While the iPhone has become one of the most iconic products on the market and Apple have redesigned how we view cell phones and technology in general, there has always been a view that it can be improved.

When the first generation iPhone hit the market back in 2007 it was a revolutionary product and one that had not been seen before with its innovation and decidedly cool design. While the masses lapped up the iPhone in its default state through the various generations there was an online community that felt things could be improved.

How could you improve a device such as the iPhone?

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Well, hackers and other technological experts discussed this through internet chat rooms decided that the source code could be edited. While Apple tends to keep these things under wraps and protected, many people felt that it could be edited just enough to enhance the device and make it seem like a completely different phone with new features.

READ MORE: The Genesis of Genius: Unveiling Who Invented Apple and When Was the Icon Created

Defining ‘Jailbreaking’

Many people have compared jailbreaking an Apple iPhone to the process of rooting an Android device.

While the basic concepts may have similarities, the two processes and what actually happens are quite different. For example, when you root an Android device it reboots a whole new operating system, onto the phone whereas this is not possible with the iPhone even given the skills of many modern-day jailbreakers and those that take an interesting in hacking.

With a jailbroken iPhone users can have a whole new experience with the device. While it serves many practical measures such as extending battery life by cutting down on unnecessary apps it also allows for customizable features and being able to use the Cydia app store with access to thousands of new apps.

The Early Stages

As opposed to an elite network or group of computer hackers spending weeks on end trying complicated ways and methods to jailbreak the iPhone, the whole concept was first started by George Hotz otherwise known as ‘Geohot’, a 17 year old who wanted to change his iPhone network. The New Yorker goes into detail about how Hotz used a screwdriver, a guitar pick, and a soldering tool to jailbreak the first iPhone.

Hotz was by no means the only one to break into the source code and gain control of the iPhone OS. A separate group of hackers did so a few days after the first iPhone hit the stores and another team calling themselves the iPhone Dev Team released the first public jailbreak in October of that year. While it wasn’t as sophisticated as the jailbreaks we have at the minute and it did come before Cydia was released, it was a major step on the road to offering a jailbreak for everyone to use.

Birth Of Cydia

In 2008 Cydia was born.

We spoke above about what Cydia can offer and it was the iPhone Dev Team again that pioneered this concept of an alternative app store for Apple iPhone first-generation users.

It was developed by Jay Freeman who is more commonly known online by the pseudonym ‘saurik’ and since its inception almost 6 years ago in 2008 the alternative to the Apple App Store has grown and grown. That being said the intention behind Cydia for jailbroken iPhones was never just to offer alternative apps. Instead, it has also been used for new features and while the Apple app store allows various applications to be installed, Cydia can tweak your whole iPhone and add a new default feature or function via a simple download. For early users of the iPhone circa  2008-2010, this was a major advancement in technology.

Apple Strikes Back

Jailbreaking has never been a true ‘underground’ movement and Apple have always been aware of the existence even right back to its early days. In 2009 when iOS 3.0 was released by Apple, jailbreakers had to rethink their approach. Apple have specifically shut up shop and decided to stop the exploitation of the device via a jailbreaking method however it wasn’t long until this too was breached.

George Hotz was back on the scene with the release of a jailbreak known as purplera1n that worked for all iOS 3.0 models and blackra1n came out to coincide with iOS 3.1.2.

The whole jailbreaking process increasingly became like a cat and mouse affair between the two sides; on the one hand, Apple kept releasing security fixes to ensure that it became even more difficult to exploit the device and then jailbreakers such as Hotz and the iPhone Dev Team saw this as a challenge to exploit.

Another group calling themselves the Chronic Dev Team also came onto the scene and started to release jailbreaks of their own and used the base of Hotz’s jailbreak to work on Mac devices.

The whole jailbreaking scene was quickly becoming an Apple vs the hackers’ scenario. Apple were doing their best to stifle the jailbreakers and keep their iOS and source code as tightly secured as possible however within days of every new release and security update they were finding that their code was being breached.

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No matter what Apple tried to do it seemed as though they were always a step behind the jailbreakers.

Mainstream Jailbreaking

By 2010 jailbreaking was starting to be seen as a mainstream alternative to simply using the default iPhone device.

By now it was openly being used by hackers, tech geeks, and those interested in exploiting the iPhone in general and while there had been attempts at trying to bring it into the mainstream they so far had remain futile.

In 2010 however, Comex released JailbreakMe 2.0, a jailbreak that could be accessed by simply visiting a website, paying a small fee and then having your iPhone jailbroken in a short space of time via the use of a tool. Up until this point jailbreaking required a certain degree of technical know-how even for the average user. With this new process of jailbreaking the iPhone a normal user of the iPhone range could simply pay a fee to a website and have their iPhone jailbroken.

Apple wasn’t having any of this, however.

Only a few weeks after the release of JailbreakMe 2.0 they brought out a security fix and iOS 4.1 that essentially stopped the tool from working. Like all Apple security fixes it is only a matter of time before they are breached again and rather than holding off jailbreakers and hackers for months at a time this was quickly turning into weeks and even days in some cases. As soon as a new iOS security fix hit the device and new jailbreak was on the scene shortly after.

Jailbreaking Becomes Permanent

The Chronic Dev Team were quickly becoming the most prominent iPhone jailbreaking group around. They came up with an ingenuous permanent jailbreak. Exploiting a boot room vulnerability they released a permanent fix in 2010 and called it ‘SHAtter’ and it would jailbreak all current iOS models for life and not just until a new security fix came out.

Since then JailbreakME 3.0 has been released and even though Apple have been attempting to cover up their security breaches as BGR has explained.  This has become particularly true since iOS 7 has been released however over the past 4 years since jailbreaking became permanent there has been a much wider acceptance of the process.

For example, the first jailbreaking convention was held in London in 2011. Called MyGreatFest the event brought together jailbreakers and hackers from all over the world including the likes of the iPhone Dev Team, Chronic Dev Team, and George Hotz.

Is Jailbreaking Here To Stay?

The history of jailbreaking the iPhone devices is an interesting one.

What started with a teenager messing about with the iPhone by using a screwdriver and guitar pick has evolved in a million-dollar industry with countless services offering to jailbreak all iPhone’s and baseband models. A simple Google search yields thousands of results for iPhone jailbreaking and the process really has become a mainstream attraction for users of the phone.

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Apple themselves are struggle to counteract the popularity of jailbreaking. The legal status is a grey area however in most countries including America it is currently legal by definition however unlocking has since been outlawed and the issues of jailbreaking are due to be looked at again next year in 2015.

The creation of a permanent jailbreak has really boosted its appeal as there is no longer the need to have the process done over and over again. Indeed Apple has attempted to match the hackers by incorporating some of the main features of jailbreaking into their default device and this was evident in iOS 7 and the subsequent iOS releases including iOS 7.1.

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The fact remains that jailbreaking doesn’t look like going anywhere soon.

Its history is currently very short in the grand scheme of things. Trends come and go and 6 years is not a long time by any means however with literally millions of people using jailbreaking at the minute then there is no suggestion that it will disappear in the near future.

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2 thoughts on “Charting The History Of The iPhone Jailbreaking Community”

  1. May I simply say what a relief to find somebody that actually understands what they’re discussing over the internet. You definitely understand how to bring a problem to light and make it important. More people really need to read this and understand this side of the story.

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  2. Thanks, History Cooperative
    For your effort. It was very helpful for me, as it helps me to get the answer to the question about the jailbreaking.
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