Apple patents anti-jailbreak system

August 23, 2010 // 10:16 a.m.

Tags: #apple #apple-patent #drm #geotag #geotagged #hack #hacking #ios #iphone #jailbreak #jailbreaking #jailbroken #security

Despite the courts ruling jailbreaking - the act of subverting DRM in order to install third-party apps on a smartphone handset that you own - legal in the US, Apple isn't giving up on the fight: the company has filed a patent which appears to detect and disable jailbroken iPhones.

The patent - spotted by The Register - is entitled "Systems and Methods for Identifying Unauthorised Users of an Electronic Device," which at first glance sounds like a wonderful tool for detecting stolen or malware-ridden systems.

Reading past the headline, however, reveals some worrying wording within the patent - and a clue as to how seriously Apple is taking the breaking of its walled-garden apps ecosystem: the patent details various techniques for detecting "hacking, jailbreaking, unlocking, or removal of a SIM card" (our emphasis) - giving Apple the means to tell if you've been procuring your apps in a way that doesn't give it a cut of the proceeds.

The countermeasures detailed in the patent application - and it's always worth remembering that this isn't necessarily how such a system would be implemented, if it is indeed ever actually implemented - include taking a series of geotagged photographs with the in-built camera and e-mailing them to Apple in order to identify the miscreant.

While a lot of the patent appears pie-in-the-sky - such as voice-print analysis to identify legitimate users, and the use of a heartbeat sensor - the fact that it specifically identifies jailbreaking as an unwelcome activity should give iPhone owners cause for concern, even if the techniques detailed never make it into production.

Are you surprised that Apple would continue to try to block jailbreakers following the court's decision to legitimise the activity, or does this just highlight the lengths that the company will go to in order to protect its control of the iOS platform? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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