Apple is infamous for making hardware that only they can easily support or provide accessories and repairs for. This irritates long-standing Apple customers who’ve bought into the latest round of iJunk, the iPad Mini and iPhone 5, because the charge port has changed to yet another type, and matches neither Androids or previous Apple phones and iPods (nor Blackberries which use the Android micro-USB standard).
Besides designing their hardware with Apple-specific, unique ports, they also write software designed to keep competing software off of them. To remove this software, or break it, is known as “jailbreaking” an iPhone. The latest iOS 6.1 version, can be jailbroken. Here’s how it’s done, from a technical standpoint if you’re into that kind of thing like I am. This is a snippet of the final step the programmers at “evasi0n” had to make work on the locked-down iOS devices:
“Once [evasi0n has] beaten ASLR, the jailbreak uses one final bug in iOS’s USB interface that passes an address in the kernel’s memory to a program and “naively expects the user to pass it back unmolested,” according to Wang. That allows evasi0n to write to any part of the kernel it wants. The first place it writes is to the part of the kernel that restricts changes to its code–the hacker equivalent of wishing for more wishes. ”Once you get into the kernel, no security matters any more,” says Wang. “Then we win.””
If Apple, Sony, Nintendo, etc. weren’t such giant pains, they wouldn’t write DRM lock-down software in the first place. Then tinkerers, who self identify as hackers, would have more time to tinker with their expensive hardware that they purchased, and less writing tricky programs designed to evade digital locks. Sony wouldn’t have trusted their security to obscurity, and wound up with a major network shutdown.
The next threat to digital freedom that I heard about just the other evening at a Linux users group meeting, is probably Secure Boot on new PCs. People shouldn’t need work-arounds to use their free Operating Systems on hardware they’ve bought. This is the sort of thing that Richard Stallman has been warning people about for decades, since we’re allowing hardware to be built with kill switches that we don’t have control over. If this were in cars (and it soon could be), wouldn’t people be concerned about remote kill switches? Maybe not, since OnStar and similar services are already here and seem to have been met with a favourable reception. And… Apple is one of the richest companies in the world, right now. Are people not concerned, not aware, or maybe feel powerless to care?
iPhone 5s are “sell phones”, not cell phones. They don’t have user replaceable parts like batteries, so are meant for the scrap heap instead of a long and affordable life in your pocket. I don’t predict a rosy future for Apple, but if their model survives, then most electronics will not survive more than a year or two when they should be built to last.