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Is Jailbreaking Safe?

Will Ellis
Last Updated on October 8, 2021
jailbreaking

You’ve probably tried to get something done one your phone or other electronic device before, but there’s really no clear way of doing so.

That is, until you heard the term ‘jailbreaking’ or ‘rooting’ and it seems like the perfect solution to fixing your problem.

Of course, you might not know a lot about jailbreaking or rooting, so before you go ahead and do something that might damage your device really badly or open yourself to cyber attacks, we’ll go over some of the basics of what it is and how safe it is.

What Is The Difference Between Jailbreaking and Rooting?


For the most part, the terms are interchangeable, although in a ‘technical’ sense, Jailbreaking tends to refer to apple devices, and rooting refers to android devices. Aside from phones though, you can generally use the two terms interchangeably.

I guess saying ‘root’ sounds more technical and fancy, so you can use that if you want to sound like you know what you’re doing!

Why Jailbreak Your Device?


Truthfully, there’s actually a ton of reasons why one might want to jailbreak or root a device:

  • Ownership Rights: It’s your device and you should have free access to do what you want with it. There’s nothing worse than a device that forces you to use it in one specific way
  • Changing Default Settings: instead of being forced to use the default applications, you can go with something different. For example, when it comes to routers, you can flash it to run OpenVPN, rather than having to rely on the management system it comes with.
  • Using 3rd party apps: Much like the point above, jailbreaking allows you to ‘side-load’ applications that you might not otherwise be able to get. When it comes to Apple for example, you generally aren’t allowed to download any application that isn’t on the iOS store.
  • Freedom of Use: If you have the know-how you can do an absolute ton with pretty much any device. For example, you could literally rip a laptop screen off a laptop and use it as a secondary display for your desktop if you feel like it. By bypassing the DRM-like blocks some companies use, you can do a lot of stuff with your device.
  • Security & Safety: a lot of the operating systems that are used for our devices come from manufacturers that may have ulterior motives with certain hidden backdoors. By playing around with how the OS operates, or just changing the OS altogether, you can ensure your privacy. For example, when it comes to mobile devices, you can use the PinePhone; an open source mobile device.

At the end of the day, when you jailbreak your device you are giving yourself the freedom to do whatever you want with it, assuming you know what you are doing and you have the interest.

Is Jailbreaking Legal?


void-warranty

This can vary widely by country, and honestly, there’s no test case here in Australia that has given us an answer either way. That being said, we can certainly look at other countries and see what they have to say.

In the US, jailbreaking and rooting is covered under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which deals with this sort of thing.

Under that act, you can jailbreak or root your devices legally, also assuming that you’re doing it to get legal apps.

If you’re jailbreaking a phone to get illegal apps, then you might run into some problems.

Another example is in the UK and over there it’s still a little bit of a grey area until we see a law. It would seem that it’s legal to jailbreak or root your phone.

Either way, we’re not lawyers, and this is not legal advice. Also, even if it is legal, you’re almost 100% voiding the warranty of any device you are jailbreaking or rooting, so be aware of that.

Is Jailbreaking Safe?


email-malware

This ones a little bit more complicated to answer, because whenever you jailbreak or root a device, it’s basically completely up to chance what’s going to happen.

Some devices are easy to do, other devices get ‘bricked’, which means they become unusable.

Similarly, some devices might only need to be jailbroken or rooted once, and others might require you to do it on startup.

For the most part though, your device shouldn’t blow up, although that’s assuming that we’re talking about some form of consumer electronic. If we’re talking about a nuclear power plant, then you probably should let an expert handle it.

One thing that we should warn you about though, is that jailbreaking or rooting a device opens you up to a ton of malicious attacks.

In-fact, downloading and using 3rd party apps or OSs might themselves be risky if you aren’t getting them from trusted sources. So again, we need to stress that it’s very important that you know what you’re doing before going forward.

Alternatives to Jailbreaking


linux-system

Of course, you could avoid this whole issue altogether and do other things. For starters, make sure to purchase devices that aren’t manufactured with a ‘walled-garden’ philosophy.

If you’re buying a laptop, make sure to get one that can run Linux well and see which version of Linux works the best on it.

If you’re buying a phone, Android phones tend to be much more open to use and you can use an open-source OS like LineageOS, but you can always just buy the PinePhone as mentioned earlier. If we’re talking about routers, there’s pre-configured quality VPN routers that are pretty good and somewhat open-source.

Secondly, it’s important to know as much as you can, since there’s a very real chance you can do what you want to do without needing to jailbreak or root your device. A lot of times unscrupulous and malicious websites might try to convince you to hack your device to get a specific function to work, only to have you download a trojan or Root Access Tookit (RAT).

Granted, it might take a bit of finicking about, but at the end of the day, spending the time on research is better than opening yourself up to these kinds of attacks.

Finally, one of the biggest issues that affect the legality and ease of altering our devices is something called ‘right to repair’.

Whether it’s your phone, your sound system, or your keyboard, you bought it and it’s your property, so you should have the right to alter it the way you want to (as long as it stays within safety margins).

Actually, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has a great explainer on the right to repair.

Conclusion


Jailbreaking and rooting devices can be very tempting due to how much freedom they can provide you. Of course, the issue then becomes that you need to know what you’re doing before moving forward. Using a jailbroken or rooted device presents a lot of security risks to yourself and your information, and is a perfect use-case for privacy tools.

At the end of the day though, we’ll caution you against jailbreaking or rooting a device that you’re actively using, especially if this is your first time. You don’t want to damage the device beyond repair and then be left without a phone.

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