Culture

An influencer-run phone case company is sponsoring an iOS 13.5 jailbreak

The exploit's imminent release was announced the very same day the new operating system was made available to the public.

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Less than a day after Apple dropped iOS 13.5, a group of thrifty hackers announced they’d already found a way to jailbreak devices running the new operating system. And the exploit’s release is being sponsored by none other than a phone case company by the name of Rebel.

The jailbreak method hasn’t been released for the public just yet, but the group behind it says it will be available on their website soon. The group claims the exploit will work on all of Apple’s latest devices, including the new iPhone SE and the 2020 iPad Pro.

Usually it takes jailbreaking advocates much longer to figure out the best way to worm their way into the operating system and subsequently unlock it. The rapid rate at which the new iOS has been hacked is not a good look for Apple’s security. The company will have to hope the zero-day kernel used for the jailbreak isn’t utilized for anything more malicious than third-party feature upgrades or sideloaded apps.

Sponsored by Rebel — The strangest part of this announcement might well be its sponsorship by Rebel, a phone case company. Unc0ver’s tweet about the upcoming release states simply that the exploit is “in sponsorship with” the phone case company.

Rebel is very new to the phone case market — in fact, the company hasn’t even begun shipping its cases yet. According to its website, that will start next week.

Nonetheless, the company has somehow amassed an Instagram following of more than 238,000 users. That might have something to do with their designers: Filip Koroy, perhaps better known by his handle @everythingapplepro, and @tokardesigns, who together have more than 600,000 Instagram followers. That following is going to bring much more attention than usual to this jailbreak.

Are people still jailbreaking? — Yes, though not at the same racing rate they used to.

When the iPhone and iPod Touch (remember her?) were first released, many users were unhappy with the features being released by Apple. In its heyday, jailbreaking was often used to expand the customization abilities of the iPhone, adding options such as custom boot screens, app icons, and keyboards. Jailbreaking was also used as a common carrier unlocking tactic and for sideloading apps not approved for the App Store. Jailbreaking was novel and, for many, a fun way to play around with the iPhone’s capabilities.

More than a decade later, jailbreaking has taken a back seat for the most part. Apple’s devices are more customizable than ever, carrier-unlocked devices are a dime a dozen, and third-party app catalogs like the AltStore are easy to install without a full jailbreak.

Still thorny for Apple — Despite its declining popularity, jailbreaking is still quite popular in certain circles, enough so that Apple even tried to use DMCA takedown requests to remove tweets about jailbreaks this past December. Apple doesn’t often use the law to work against jailbreaking communities, though — the most the company usually does is deny repair services to those who have jailbroken their devices.

Besides just looking bad for Apple, the zero-day exploit used for the hack could also be used to install malware on these devices. Jailbreaking is mostly harmless, but it’s also a reminder that these devices can be hacked in other ways, too.

With the added attention this jailbreak is likely to get, it would be surprising if Apple didn’t rush to release a patched version of iOS 13.5 to remove the vulnerability.