Does Jailbreaking Your Phone Put You at Risk for Being Hacked?

A jailbroken phone loses the manufacturer's built-in protection.
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Most phone manufacturers lock their phones to prevent users from downloading outside software and accessing root files. When you jailbreak your phone, you can install apps that are not approved by your manufacturer and create a custom system. However, jailbreaking creates vulnerabilities in your phone, which can open it to hackers. Before you alter the operating system, it is crucial to understand the risks.

1 Understanding Jailbreaking

When you jailbreak a phone, you remove the digital rights management protections that are put in place by the manufacturer for security reasons. Most users jailbreak their phones in order to install software that has not been approved by the phone's app store. If you are technically savvy, jailbreaking also enables you to install console emulators, adjust the appearance of the home screen and tweak the operating system. The term "jailbreak" is usually used in reference to Apple phones; a similar process with Android phones is called "rooting."

2 Allowing App Access

On a device that has not been jailbroken, apps have limited access to the phone's data. When you jailbreak your device, the unapproved apps you install have the power to read and write anywhere on the device. The Computerworld website compares a jailbroken phone to a Windows 3.1 system, where every app can access every file on the phone. If an app is developed by hackers, your phone is at risk for data extraction. As a result, your personal information, login details, email and other phone data may be visible to unscrupulous developers.

3 Risking Malware

While a phone retains its DRM protections, its app store prevents you from installing potentially malicious software. When the DRM protection is removed, that filter is removed. Apps with full access to the operating system can deliver malicious software without your knowledge. In some cases, the jailbreak itself can come with malware. Like computer malware, phone malware can take a range of destructive actions, such as deleting files, extracting sensitive information or compromising the operating system.

4 Preventing Hacking

If you choose to jailbreak your phone, you can take steps to prevent hackers from gaining access. To avoid introducing malware during the jailbreaking process, do not use the first jailbreaking release for your operating system. Instead, wait until multiple developers have had the chance to release jailbreaks, read the reviews and choose the one with the best safety reputation. Then, only install apps that are released by trusted developers and that have received numerous positive reviews. Although you cannot completely safeguard a jailbroken phone, these precautions can reduce the risk.

Elizabeth Smith has been a scientific and engineering writer since 2004. Her work has appeared in numerous journals, newspapers and corporate publications. A frequent traveler, she also has penned articles as a travel writer. Smith has a Bachelor of Arts in communications and writing from Michigan State University.