New hack could allow 'jailbroken' Apple iPads at launch

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iPhone hacker George Hotz has demonstrated a new method to permanently "jailbreak" the iPhone 3GS, and he said the hack will "probably" work on the iPad, which goes on sale next week.

Hotz, known by his online handle "Geohot," updated his blog this week to reveal a new video demonstrating a jailbroken iPhone 3GS being rebooted. Jailbreaking is a practice that allows users to run unsigned code on the iPhone OS, which powers the iPhone, iPod touch and forthcoming iPad. It voids the warranty and can open up the device to security issues, but can also be used to allow new features like multitasking.

"The jailbreak is all software based, and is as simple to use as blackra1in," Hotz said, referencing his previous iPhone 3GS crack that employed a method known as a tethered jailbreak. "It is completely untethered, works on all current tethered models (ipt2, 3gs, ipt3), and will probably work on iPad too."

Late last year, Apple quietly updated the BootROM in the iPhone 3GS to thwart potential hackers. It marked the first time ever that the handset maker had modified its hardware in the middle of a product line, without a new model released.

The new BootROM, known as iBoot-359.32, has proven challenging for hackers, who have only been able to implement the tethered jailbreak, which requires users to connect their iPhone to a computer via USB every time they reboot the device. Hotz claims his latest hack will not require a USB connection.

While iPhone users can rely on jailbreaking to unlock their handset for use with unauthorized carriers, the 3G-capable version of the iPad, scheduled to arrive in late April, ships unlocked by default. However, its 3G frequencies are only compatible with AT&T in the U.S.

But the warranty-voiding jailbreak process can also allow users to run software Apple does not allow. Hackers have created their own custom applications that allow features like multitasking not currently permitted within the iPhone OS.

Apple and the jailbreaking community, led by Hotz and a separate group of hackers known as the iPhone Dev Team, have gone back and forth for some time, as the Cupertino, Calif., company has looked to close avenues used by hackers. One of the main concerns about jailbreaking is piracy, as the procedure can allow users to steal software from the App Store.

Users who jailbreak without knowledge of what they are doing could potentially open up their phone to exploits, as was revealed last November when the first-known iPhone worm attacked jailbroken handsets. The worm only affected users who did not change their phone's default SSH password, which allows file transfers between phones.