iOS 12.4 update borkage leaves iPhones open to jailbreaking

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SOMEONE AT APPLE IS PROBABLY IN FOR IT as Cupertino has accidentally unpatched a flaw that as a result allows iPhones running iOS 12.4 to be cracked open using a jailbreak.

The vulnerability was fixed in iOS 12.3 but according to Motherboard, iOS 12.4 borks it, in turn allowing hackers to figure out a jailbreak for iPhones and iPads running that version of the mobile operating system or those earlier than iOS 12.3.

The jailbreak bug itself isn’t new as it was discovered earlier this year by a Google security researcher. But Apple squashed the bug, only to then unwittingly re-enable it when iOS 12.4 was released in June.

A security researcher going by the name of Pwn20wnd released a public jailbreak that exploits the reintroduced bug, and marks one of the first free and open jailbreaks for iOS devices in years; it’s been a while since the last time we heard about an iPhone jailbreak, though they tend to be kept quiet to keep Apple’s software security police from patching them.

As a result of this un-patching, iOS devices are now a lot easier to hack either by users wanting to break down the iOS walled garden, or by hackers looking to pinch iPhones and crack into them to nick personal data.

Slightly more worryingly, organisations and authorities with the technical nous and resources could even use the bug to hack iPhones remotely, though it’s by no means an easy task compared to hacking locally. But one can imagine such an exploit being harnessed by the likes of the NSA or authoritarian government arms to snoop on iPhone users.

There’s no word from Apple on what it’s doing to reverse the borkage, but we’re pretty confident that it’s software wranglers are working to re-patch the flaw before it gets exploited much more widely; stories of successful jailbreaks are already popping up on Twitter.

Given the flaw is likely to be patched again pretty quickly, its impact could end up being negligible. But the situation is pretty embarrassing for Apple and its old mantra of ‘just works’. µ

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