The Great iPhone Hack, round 3



Two weeks to the day after Apple’s iPhone software update wiped third-party applications from the device and disabled unlocked phones, the hackers have struck back.

The Unofficial Apple Weblog posted details of the iPhone Dev Team’s latest effort, which once again opens the iPhone up to third-party applications and the ability to use it on any other GSM network than AT&T’s. This appears to be a more substantial effort than the one posted earlier in the evening that exploits a vulnerability in a TIFF image file; you can bet that one will be patched fairly quickly.

The latest hack allows iPhone users who have already installed the OS X 1.1.1 update to revert their iPhones to the previous 1.0.2 update, “jailbreak” it for third-party applications, and then somehow update back to the 1.1.1 version without the cell door slamming shut. TUAW and iPhone Atlas have tested the latest hack and have declared that it works, assuming you have a certain amount of knowledge of the iPhone’s command line interface.

We’re not posting links to the actual files you’ll need to make this happen, but if you’re an enterprising fellow with access to the Internet, I doubt you’ll have too much trouble. I downloaded the files, and in a readme file accompanying the patches and guide you’d need to jailbreak your iPhone, the iPhone Dev Team (or NerveGas, Pumpkin, Edgan, drudge, dinopio and asap18) actually posted a disclaimer: “The iPhone Dev Team disclaims any liability of damage to your iPhone as a result of following these instructions. While the instructions listed here are believed to be safe and accurate, there is always a possibility that your iPhone could be permanently damaged.” Can you really sue somebody for providing you with a hack that damages your iPhone, even though you’re violating your service agreement to install that hack?

Anyway, if you unlocked your iPhone and then installed the 1.1.1 update only to be left with a pretty paperweight, the iPhone Dev Team says their update won’t fix your problem. However, the iPhoneSIMFree folks announced Thursday morning that as a result of the iPhone Dev Team’s work, they’re now able to not only unlock 1.1.1 iPhones but they are also able to unbrick those unlocked iPhones that fell silent after installing the update.

Where’s Harold Lederman when you need him? Now that the iPhone hackers have figured out how to get past the latest update, which many thought was much more difficult to crack than the original software, the third round goes to them. I’ll score it 10-9, but Apple’s still in the lead going into the fourth round, by virtue of the 10-8 second round in which they knocked iPhone hackers to the canvas by disabling the unlocked iPhones. The first round, of course, went to the hackers.

So what has Apple got up its sleeve? With Leopard’s release around the corner, many are starting to wonder if Apple might start to tire of this fight and figure out a way to let third-party application development onto the iPhone. It’s pretty clear that Apple will be unable to completely fend off an army of determined hackers forever, but I think it is trying to find a way to allow third-party application development without letting people unlock their iPhones just yet.

In the meantime, if you really, really want third-party applications on your iPhone, understand that you might be forfeiting your right to future technical support. Those who previously hacked the iPhone were able to restore the factory settings before bringing it in for service, but it’s not clear whether that’s still an option with this latest update.

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