Apple has disabled jailbreak detection API in iOS less than six months after introducing it. Device management vendors say the reasons for the decision are a mystery, but insist they can use alternatives to discover if an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad has been modified so they can load and modify applications outside of Apple's iTunes-based App Store.
The new API was part of a bundle of mobile device management (MDM) APIs released in June with iOS 4.0. These APIs were available to 3rd-party MDM apps, such as AirWatch or Sybase's Afaria. With new APIs, these servers could access directly a range of features and information in iOS or on the device. But in the 4.2 version, the API intended for detecting jailbreaks has been either removed or disabled.
This detection API let the MDM apps in effect ask the operating system if it had been compromised. Jailbreak exploits typically change a number of operating system files, and exploit one or another low-level OS features to let users directly load their own or 3rd-party apps.
"We used it when it was available, but as an adjunct," says Joe Owen, of Sybase, which offers the Afaria device management software. "I'm not sure what motivated their removing that....I've not had anyone [at enterprise customer sites] talk to me about this API being present or being removed."
In Oct'10, two separate jailbreaks made use of different vulnerabilities uncovered in the iOS boot ROM, for example. Apple warns that jailbreaking voids the device's warranty and could damage the phone.