Jailbreaking Devices Makes You Easy Prey

Everyone who has ever played Monopoly covets the “Get Out of Jail Free” card. It’s instant freedom. Some people like to “jailbreak” their cellphones for the instant freedom of doing something a manufacturer or carrier never intended. But if you jailbreak a phone or other device, you’ll likely never pass go and collect $200 – nor will you find free parking. You and others are more likely to pay a lot of rent.

Here’s why, and it’s very simple. Most updates for phones, tablets and computers – if not all – revolve around security. With so many more hackers using more sophisticated tools to get inside of any system, security is a preoccupation. Whenever you jailbreak a device, you open a hole for someone to breach.

It wouldn’t be that bad if a security issued affected the owner who jailbroke a device. Unfortunately, this can go viral very fast. Let’s look at one possibility – and you may never look at your babysitter the same way after this.

People jailbreak devices to get application feature sets, among other reasons. It could be that a high school or college student jailbreaks a phone to download music. Now, let’s say you and your babysitter use smartphone apps so you can transfer funds to pay up at the end of the night. There is no way for you to know if someone has used that security breach in the download app to get into your babysitter’s financial information. If they have, they could use that information to trace your bank account that’s associated with your phone.

But it’s not just your babysitter. Anybody who uses the convenience of paperless money transfer can be vulnerable to a security breach if one of you has jailbroken your device. We recently saw an article in a British newspaper about 250,000 iPhones being hacked as the result of Apple Pay transactions. The article had a sensationalistic tone, but once you got past that, it was easy to see that all hacked phones had been jailbroken.

If you use Google Wallet, the Android platform, you face the same hacking risk if you jailbroke your phone. In our “tap-and-go” world of speed and convenience, it won’t matter how secure the payment system is if your phone is the weak link.

So, your safety is very simple. Don’t jailbreak your phone, and be very careful about where and with whom you do on-demand business. I, for one, have a pretty high level of understanding about what goes in the electronic netherworld where hackers play, and I would never be foolhardy enough to think I could beat them at their game.

If you have a jailbroken phone and want to relock it, we can walk you through a procedure. However, be aware that once you start the process, it’s irreversible, and you will delete all information, files and settings on your phone. If you want to re-lock a SIM card, it must be done by your carrier. Only they have the software to restore factory settings for their network. If you are buying a used cell phone, we can help you with the process to make it safe and secure. We can answer any questions you may have about cell phone security. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or send us an email

iOS Upgrade and No Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Card

Apple just released its iOS 7.06 upgrade, and in a recent comment, someone complained about losing your ability to “jail break” your device. Well, you can unlock just about any device, but is it worth it? You could be sacrificing data security.

The more we learn about data breaches at large companies and financial institutions, the more we start to realize how vulnerable we are and how much more we need to protect our information.

Technically, unlocking phones is illegal. When you have a contract with a carrier, they essentially have offered you a discount on device, usually a smartphone, in return for using their network. Unlocking your phone or device from their network to use other carriers breaks the contract.

We don’t offer legal advice. We offer technical advice and services that we hope will make you smarter users of your devices. So, let’s look at the security aspects.

The process of unlocking your smartphone, also known as jail breaking, decrypts all the data on your phone. It also removes all of the manufacturer’s restrictions and allows a phone to be used on any network. That’s the benefit you hoped to gain, especially when traveling abroad, where different cellular protocols can be used.

However, these unlocked phones carry a higher security risk than standard phones due to the changes to the operating system needed to make this occur. Once you use that phone to access the Internet, you and your phone are open to malware, spyware and just about any other tool you can think of that hackers can use to get personal data.

If that doesn’t stop you from thinking about jail-breaking your phone and/or device, consider this: You don’t know what security laws may apply when your data are breached in another country. Even though redress through a legal system may be possible, it will be after the fact. Damage can be done, and nobody can tell you what your liabilities may be and what any redresses can cover.

If you are traveling abroad, check with your carrier about capabilities. In many cases, your phone or device will work on Wi-Fi networks – though they may be public networks just like those from your local coffee shop. Wi-Fi Internet can allow you to talk to people over through services such as Facetime, Skype or Viber, and to access your email, bank and charge accounts and business files. Of course, you should make sure ahead of time that your device will be secured, and security can be enhanced through two-factor authentication systems.

In some cases, such as traveling to China, you may be better off leaving your phone or device home or having it shut off completely. Many business and government travelers to China and some other countries simply buy or rent a phone – with none of the information on their current phones and devices – for one-time use in those countries. Vacationers should follow their lead.

Contact us – phone: 973-433-6676 email: [email protected] – with any questions you have about securing your phones and devices while traveling.

This article was published in Technology Update, the monthly newsletter from Sterling Rose LLC.