The iPhone 7 is, in Apple's own words, "the best, most advanced iPhone ever." It is not, however, impossible to hack.
A teenage hacker has found a way to circumvent the phone's security and restrictions, jailbreaking a brand new iPhone 7 running iOS 10, effectively taking full control of it and allowing him to install apps not approved by Apple. The 19-year-old hacker, who's known online as qwertyoruiop but whose real name is Luca Todesco, took advantage of a series of bugs he found and exploited—and all it took him, he said, was just 24 hours.
"They definitely made my life harder," Todesco, who has a well-established reputation for finding bugs and jailbreaking iPhones, told Motherboard in a message. "The iPhone 7 is a step in the right direction. Obviously it's not 100 percent secure—like nothing else is."
"[The iPhone 7] not 100 percent secure—like nothing else is."
The jailbreak appears to be the very first one achieved on an iPhone 7. Todesco showed off his successful jailbreak on Twitter on Wednesday, just five days after the release of the iPhone 7, and barely a week after the release of iOS10.
"This is a jailbroken iPhone 7," Todesco tweeted, accompanying the message with a screenshot that shows a terminal where he has "root," the highest admin privileges on a computer system.
Todesco shared a video of his jailbroken iPhone 7 with Motherboard to prove his feat.
Todesco said that, at least for now, he's keeping the details of how he jailbroke the phone to himself—at least until Apple releases a patch. That's the only choice he has, he added, given that Apple won't give bug hunters special devices that allow them to load custom firmware.
"Being able to have access to the hardest target among mobile targets is very useful," he said, explaining that having a jailbroken phone is useful to do live debugging and find even more bugs.
He also said that he could definitely submit the vulnerabilities he found to Apple, since they fall under the newly launched bug bounty, but he hasn't decided whether to do that yet. The hacker told me that he needs to polish the exploits a bit more to make the jailbreak "smoother," and that he is also planning to make this jailbreak work through the Safari browser just like the famous "jailbreakme.com," which allowed anyone to jailbreak their iPhone 4 just by clicking on a link.
"Jailbreaks are just too valuable to give away for free because they have been known to go for more than $500,000."
While Todesco might not share his technique until Apple patches it, security experts believe he is just the first, but there will be others that will figure out how to jailbreak the new iPhone. In fact, others may already have achieved it without telling anyone.
"Jailbreaking likely hasn't stopped at all," Ryan Duff, a security researcher and former member of US Cyber Command, told Motherboard. "Jailbreaks are just too valuable to give away for free because they have been known to go for more than $500,000."
Will Strafach, an iOS security researcher who developed jailbreaks in the past, said that Todesco seems to be the first "trusted" party to claim an iPhone 7 jailbreak, although he's heard unconfirmed rumors of private Chinese teams who also have done it.
There could be secret jailbreaks out there. Last month, researchers caught government hackers using what was effectively a remote jailbreak for the iPhone 6s in the wild. It's unclear how long those exploits were being used before someone noticed.
Apple declined to comment on Todesco's jailbreak. A company spokesperson simply said that it "appears [Todesco's jailbreak] isn't out in the wild," and pointed to Apple's public stance on jailbreaks.
"Apple strongly cautions against installing any software that hacks iOS," the company states in a page on jailbreaking.
When asked if Apple knows whether Todesco's jailbreak is legit, the spokesperson simply answered: "I don't but given his track record, I wouldn't be surprised."
Todesco himself said that while Apple made it harder this time, there's always, and there will always be someone that can find a way to jailbreak it.
"Kudos for the iPhone 7. They have again changed the rules of the game," he told me. "I don't think it will ever be enough. They can raise the effort required, but there will always be someone willing to invest enough time to do it."
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