Did you know that if you jailbroke your iPhone (or any locked smartphone) without your mobile carrier’s permission anytime between early 2013 and now, you were actually breaking a federal law? That’s right, due to an expired clause in the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, it’s actually illegal to unlock a smartphone you own. This bit of nonsense was courtesy of a Congress that was deadlocked on just about every issue big or small, so it’s no surprise that only just now they are getting around to fixing an issue that both the FCC, Whitehouse and even mobile carriers recognized was just plain wrong.
What this means for you:
The “Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act” was passed by Congress on July 25 and is now awaiting the President’s signature, but the impending law seems like a token gesture in response to what is now more of a symbolic stance from a vocal minority of smartphone users. In the intervening 18 months, the mobile marketplace has seen a fierce rise in competition, including some carriers offering to pay off early termination fees to woo customers away from the competition. Most carriers now also offer plans that incorporate no-penalty upgrades to new hardware, another incentive to not bother unlocking phones or switching carriers. And to top it all off, the CDMA/GSM network divide continues to limit your unlocked phone to a single alternative (if you want nation-wide coverage).
The carriers, even though they “allow” you to unlock your phones once your contract has expired, still do not always make the process easy, nor is it always a simple technical process, especially on the Android platform. In the end, if you aren’t already a veteran jailbreaker, you are better off interrogating the salesperson at your local carrier store about upgrade options and no-contract plans rather than worrying about whether you can take your phone over to the other guys.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Security researchers have discovered that certain models of iOS devices that have been “jailbroken” are now being targeted in a malware attack, dubbed “unflod”, that can collect the AppleID account login and password used on that device and transmit it to hacker-controlled servers. While jailbreaking iPhones or iPads isn’t likely to be something the majority of iOS device-users will do (primarily because it voids your warranty), a significant percentage of users (2% in early 2013, or nearly 7 million devices) regularly jailbreak their devices. Even if the actual count of phones vulnerable to this threat is somewhere less than 7 million, it’s still a big enough target for identity thieves.
What this means for you:
If your iOS device isn’t jailbroken, you don’t have to worry about the unflod malware attack. If you have an iPhone 5s, iPad Air, or iPad Mini 2G, you don’t have to worry about this particular attack either, even if the device is jailbroken, as the malware currently in use doesn’t work on 64-bit operating systems, of which the aforementioned devices use. The unflod malware appears to be caught through application of certain system tweaks that can only be applied to jailbroken, 32-bit OS devices, and only then if the tweaks are sideloaded outside of Apple’s own official app store, or Cydia, the “unofficial official” app store for jailbroken devices. In other words, if most of the words in the article don’t make sense to you, you probably won’t be affected by this malware.
HOWEVER, if you’ve ever considered jailbreaking your iOS device for whatever reason, let the above serve as a cautionary tale: be sure you know what you are doing, back up your important device data, and seriously consider whether you really need a jailbroken iPhone. While the above malware attack requires a specific set of circumstances that only affect a very small percentage of users, jailbreaking a device should only be done by someone willing to take on an increased risk of security breaches and with a full understanding of troubleshooting your own device issues.