New unpatchable vulnerability discovered for older Apple devices

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It appears a new iOS exploit has been uncovered by axi0mX (and reported by 9to5Mac) which allows a permanent, “unblockable” jailbreak on hundreds of millions of iPhones. The exploit, which has been called checkm8, is a bootrom vulnerability that could give hackers access to iOS devices on a level that Apple would be unable to block or patch out with a future software update. 

A bootrom exploit essentially means it’s taking advantage of a security vulnerability in the initial code that iOS devices load when they boot up. Since it’s ROM (read-only memory), it can’t be overwritten or patched by Apple through a software update, so it’s here to stay on all affected models, which includes all devices using an A5 chip through to A11 chip (iPhone 4s to iPhone X). It does appear as if Apple has been aware of the vulnerability for a while as it has been patched in its recent A12 chips and won’t affect the latest iPhone range of devices.

It’s unusual for such an exploit to be made public, though according to a follow-up tweet, axi0mX wanted to release the exploit to the public because a “bootrom exploit for older devices makes iOS better for everyone. Jailbreakers and tweak developers will be able to jailbreak their phones on the latest version, and they will not need to stay on older iOS versions waiting for a jailbreak. They will be safer.”

If you are an iPhone owner though, it’s no reason to start panicking because it’s not like you can simply download a tool that can crack your device. The exploit is what is known as a “tethered exploit” meaning it can currently only be triggered over USB. It would also have to be enabled each time through a computer, which limits the usefulness for a practical jailbreak though if they could ever figure out how to make it “untethered” they would essentially have full admin access to your device. Something though which is extremely unlikely.

So for now, unless you are actually interested in jailbreaking your own phone which could lead to a host of other compatibility issues with the rest of your apps and the possibility of doing serious damage, its not something that you should be sweating about. I’m assuming your purchase of an expensive Apple device all those years ago has already done that for you.  

Last Updated: September 30, 2019

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