Hacker Mulls Banning Pirate Apps With iOS 5 Apple Jailbreak

A hacker working on a jailbreak for Apple's upcoming iOS 5 says he is considering introducing a very controversial feature. Stefan Esser, known online as i0n1c, says the idea of installing his own DRM in order to block pirate apps is going "ping pong" in his head. The team behind Installous, the world's largest cracked app repository, informs TorrentFreak this is a very bad idea.

Earlier this year a new Apple hacker appeared on the jailbreaking scene. Known online as ‘i0n1c’ he unveiled an iPad jailbreak and various iDevice exploits which are causing a certain amount of excitement in hacking circles.

However, one of his latest ideas for his jailbreak of Apple’s upcoming iOS 5 is causing excitement of a quite different kind.

i0n1c

The notion of blocking Installous, the software used by millions to install cracked apps on iPhone and iPad, is naturally a controversial one. It’s perhaps needless to say that Apple would quietly welcome such a development. Equally, those using Installous probably wouldn’t be so keen.

Hackulous, the people behind Installous, think it’s an outright bad idea.

“The entire premise behind jailbreaking is that you’re able to do whatever you want with your device. It’s your device, you own it and you should be able to manipulate the software in any way that you like,” Hackulous admin Dissident told TorrentFreak.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean everything you do with it is legal, but that the manufacturer of the software and the hardware has no place in telling you how you use the device.”

Dissident says that when jailbreaks removed Apple’s restrictions, a large and thriving community of developers came along, making plugins, themes and other “cool stuff.”

“If a jailbreak author decides to add [his own] DRM to it, they are being extremely hypocritical,” he concludes.

Dissident told us this week that he believes i0n1c is a really talented guy but the idea that he should introduce new anti-Installous DRM is a significant one since at last count an estimated 11 million iDevice owners are using it. If they are suddenly unable to use Installous resources, they won’t be happy bunnies.

But just as Apple’s DRM gets broken despite their huge coding firepower, Dissident says that any efforts by i0n1c would be neutralized in the same fashion. Not only are several high-profile members of the jailbreaking scene said to be opposed to the suggestion of any new DRM, but Dissident warns that a small army of reverse engineers would appear, all dedicated to breaking any restrictions put in place at the jailbreak level.

While this would remove any obstacles put in place by ic01c, Dissident says this type of situation would be most undesirable.

“Something interesting about this upcoming exploit [from i0n1c on iOS5] is that it’s based on a PDF vulnerability. We’ve seen two of these jailbreaks in the past, on a website called jailbreakme.com. You just go to it on your iDevice and the device is jailbroken using the PDF vulnerability”

Dissident explains that in layman’s terms this means that undesirables can put such an exploit on their website and get root access to a user’s Apple device, opening up the potential for malware attacks.

But the bottom line is that any additional security will be broken eventually and ultimately a jailbreak without restrictions will prove much more popular than one with DRM. Market forces would sideline a crippled jailbreak, Dissident believes.

So what does i0n1c (real name Stefan Esser) have to say on the matter? We put a list of questions to him in the hope of countering some of Dissident’s points and vice-versa, but the response we received was quite unexpected.

Esser began by pointing us towards some of the abuse he’s been getting from some people in the jailbreaking community. These “nasty idiots”, as Esser describes them, certainly overstep the mark; disagreeing with someone’s stance can be achieved perfectly well without a flame war, but some don’t care much for sugar-coating. (It’s worth pointing out that Dissident does not engage in such behavior and was unfailingly polite throughout our discussions about Esser’s work.)

Esser went on to tell us that most of the people who have abused him (the “nasty idiots”) are into jailbreaking for one reason only – they want to pirate applications. In order to deal with their abuse it seems that Esser has developed an interesting payback tool – trolling.

“When I am bored I think up tweets that will maximally annoy these people,” he told us.

So does that mean that having taken the word of Esser at face value, people like Dissident are worried over nothing? Not necessarily.

Esser told us that he is busy with “more important stuff” at the moment and that he is not planning to release any jailbreaks for a while. However, in keeping with his plan to annoy his detractors, there still might be a trick up his sleeve.

“In that line of thought, releasing a jailbreak that is only useful for people not into
piracy would be a way to maximally annoy the bad people inside the jailbreaking community,” Esser told us with a palpable air of mischievousness. Or maybe seriousness, it’s hard to tell.

But perhaps with a nod to Dissident’s earlier predictions, Esser eventually straightened his trollface and appeared to acknowledge the frailty of DRM and even the amusement to be had from it.

The ability to annoy in this way, he concedes, “..would only last for a while.”

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