It can’t really do anything about the iPhone hardware that’s already on the market, aside from trying to block jailbreaking via software methods again and again, but Apple (s aapl) has made hardware changes to the latest shipments of iPhone 3GS devices that should ensure they can’t be unlocked, at least for the time being.
The newest devices hitting the market have an updated boot ROM that blocks the exploit typically used in jailbreaking the 3GS, known as the 24kpwn exploit. iPhone Dev-Team member MuscleNerd confirmed that the block does indeed mean that for now, a standard jailbreak on these devices is out of the question.
The 24kpwn exploit was originally discovered early on in the production life of the iPhone 3GS, thanks to connections between the iPhone Developer community and iPhone unlockers. George Hotz (also known as geohot), building on the iPhone Dev Team’s work, published a way to jailbreak the 3GS a few weeks after the exploit was revealed.
Apparently, this is the first time ever that Apple has changed the boot ROM on a production device. Previously, Apple has waited until it released brand new devices to do this, like when the 3GS was originally introduced. Presumably, there is a not insignificant cost associated with making that kind of change mid-production.
In all likelihood, it’s only a matter of time before another exploit is discovered and taken advantage of in order to jailbreak the newer 3GS phones, too, but for now, Apple has dealt a significant blow to the Dev-Team and those who’d rather not rest comfortably under the yoke of Apple and friends. Of course, if you haven’t bought your device within the last week, you should have no problem using the recently released jailbreaking tools for the most recent iPhone OS release, 3.1.2.
Apple’s main problem with jailbreaking, in all likelihood, is the fact that it leads to significantly high rates of piracy on the company’s devices. According to MacRumors, of the nearly four million jailbroken iPhones estimated to be in existence, a full 38 percent of those are using at least one pirated app. Additionally, of iPhone apps that have been successfully cracked and distributed, a full third of the installations are of pirated copies.
So, to Apple’s mind, jailbreaking is depriving it of a nice chunk of its revenue on some of the most popular apps available in the App Store. Even if the boot ROM update only effectively blocks jailbreaking for a month or two, it should have a positive effect in Apple’s income stream for that period.