The Register recently wrote about how the latest firmware in Android phones tries to un-jailbreak them.
Most smart phones contain built-in features to restrict the types of software they run. The built-in iPhone software restricts it to AT&T and to apps sold by Apple's own store. Blackberry and Android has similar restrictions."Jailbreaking" bypasses these protections to allow the phone's owner to install un-approved software. Android is fighting back in real time.
So the battle is on: who really
controls a phone, or any other computer-based device? Most of us assume we control our personal
computers. But phones are ambiguous. We want them to work reliably as phones, so we're willing to give up some control to the phone company. Back when US phones were an AT&T monopoly, we rented everything
: from the network to the wiring to the indestructible desktop handsets.
On the other hand, we buy
our cell phones. In AT&T's glory days, the Bell System never
sold telephones, they only rented them. As owners, shouldn't we be able to choose the software to run, or the phone company to use?
"Jailbreaking" is a technique to bypass these mechanisms, usually by installing new and different firmware. This allows the phone's owners to install any software they want, approved or unapproved. Some such iPhone software also "unlocks" the phone to allow its use on non-AT&T networks.
In general, the jailbreak depends on tricking the phone to install new and unapproved firmware. Apple tries to make this difficult, and increases the difficulty with each new release of the iPhone OS. Android has upped the ante by building in a mechanism to revert a jailbroken phone back to its earler configuration.
This is a security issue.
On one hand, I think that a legitimate owner should have full control over their device.
On the other hand, a cell phone is part of a larger network that relies on the integrity of its individual endpoints - the phones themselves. Cell phone companies provide these devices at a discount in exchange for a service agreement. That agreement limits what we may do to the phone.
Personally, I love the fact that I can do anything
to my computer. I'm willing to face the virus risks and such. I would feel more comfortable with my phone if there was less
that might happen to it. I'd like to reserve my phone to be the more restricted - and more secure - software platform I own.