iPhone’s formerly long-time unknown bug seems unpatchable

Long-time iOS expert and the developer of the original jailbreaking software for older iPhones has posted a tweet today that details a relatively old bug on iPhones. This bug, which has just now been brought to light, is currently deemed “unpatchable”, and may lead to permanent jailbreaking of iPhone units, starting with the iPhone X.

The developer, who goes by the username on axi0mX , gave a short but direct tweet that introduces the bug. It was given the unofficial name “checkm8”:

According to axi0mX, the bug came from an update patch for beta iOS 12 sometime during mid-2018. Technically, it requires to be exploited directly over USB. A “race condition” is needed to bypass the secure boot, but so far it has not been proven 100 percent reliable.

Because the boot-up code is hard written into the device as ROM, it cannot be overwritten or updated, hence why it is deemed “unpatchable”. Also, the exploit is available only on older models from iPhone 4S to iPhone X. This makes it very unlikely for Apple to fix the issue, since that would mean remanufacturing models of those very outdated versions.

Apple’s financial statements from around two years ago indicate that at least 60 percent of all iPhones that were ever made are still in use today. This means that the exploit could potentially affect millions of users, as there have been at least fourteen (14) different models released within the last ten years between iPhone 4 and iPhone X.

At the moment, there is no actual complete jailbreaking toolkit created just yet that exploits the “checkm8” bug. However, axi0mX did point out that the bug might have been known already for quite some time to a few organizations, such as intelligence or government agencies, who may have designed other systems that take advantage of this bug.

Featured Image credit by Aaron Yoo via Flickr

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