Jobs gives up Canute strategy

Apple’s Steve Jobs has had an epiphany and realised that he really can’t control jailbreaking after all. For a while now Jobs has had his feet firmly planted on the sea shore screaming at the waves of jailbreaking software telling the world that he could control the waters.

Jobs thought that his jailbreak detection API in his iPhone iOS would send the jailbreakers packing. After all, in Jobs’ universe, Apple is known for its bullet proof security and state of the art programming.

In the real world, dodging Apple’s security is like playing basketball against a team of wheel chair bound grannies who remember the Boar War like it was yesterday. When hackers can be bothered attacking the iOS it surrenders faster than anything French.

The new API was part of Apple’s mobile device management (MDM) APIs which was released in June with iOS 4.0. The APIs could access directly a range of features and information in iOS or on the device.

After less than six months after introducing jailbreak detection API, Jobs has pulled the plug on it. While he has not told anyone officially, the software has been removed in the latest version of the software.

Some of the reasoning might be that some MDM vendors had created their own series of OS checks to detect jailbreaks, Jobs’s software was seen as a handy tool for these applications but not that important.

As it turned out Jobs’ idea of API-based query turned out to be too complicated and too easily bypassed.

Basically it involved the OS telling you if it had been hacked, when a jailbreaker’s first job will be to change that part of the OS where the code is sitting. In defence terms this is like forcing an enemy army to attack a small undefended fort before it blazes into your capital. All it does is afford you the luxury of knowing where you are going to be attacked first.

The other problem with Jobs’ technique is that it required him to play a cat and mouse game with jailbreakers. Whatever Jobs added in to detect a jailbreak the hackers could change usually quite quickly.

This particular software concept shows exactly why Apple is light years behind the rest of the industry when it comes to security. While Microsoft might be pummelled daily by hackers, it is never going to have a protection system that is that obvious. Jobs’ seems to still be banking that no-one will attack his shiny toys. The only problem is that Jailbreakers can and want to do just that.