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Hours after Apple released its iOS 4.1 update, coders have identified an exploit in the operating system’s boot ROM. First announced by iPhone Dev-Team member pod2g on Twitter, it has since been confirmed by other hackers.
Usually, Apple moves pretty quickly to close loopholes to prevent jailbreaking. But that’s because previous jailbreak holes usually exploited bugs in the operating system. Apple engineers could shut down the jailbreak with a simple software update. This exploit, however, is boot ROM-based, and targets such a low-level part of the OS that Apple would have to make significant changes in the hardware to stop this latest jailbreaking attempt. As the odds of Apple recalling all sold units and replacing them are nil, this hack would probably work on any iDevice shipped since November, whether that’s the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPad, or the fourth-gen iPod Touch.
In an ironic twist, it appears that the vulnerable boot ROM was introduced in order to shut down an earlier exploit on the iPhone 3GS.
According to the Dev-Team, would-be jailbreakers should not bother updating to 4.1 for now, and wait for implementation details. There is no actual instructions yet, but considering the feverish interest, it shouldn’t be too long a wait. A tweet from pod2g promised a demo “soon.”
Jailbreaking the iPhone is legal, thanks to a decision by the U.S. Copyright Office in response to an Electronic Frontier Foundation’ appeal. Jailbreaking allows owners to get apps from sources other than Apple’s iTunes App Store or change wireless providers.
There were rumors a month ago about Apple stealthily adding a nonconductive coating to the metal band on the sides of the iPhone 4 to fix the antenna’s death-grip problem. Apple will probably do the same, quietly changing the harware to close the exploit. But any device manufactured before today will be fair game.