Electronics are an expensive investment, so it is no surprise that users want to make the most out of their experience. But many popular devices, such as gaming consoles or smartphones, have restrictions placed on them by the manufacturers.
Consumers have found techniques to break their devices from the “jail” of limitations imposed by designers. Jailbreaking can help unlock new features on your phone, but it does come at a price. Learning more about jailbreaking and the risks that come with it is essential to make an informed decision.
What Is Jailbreaking?
The term “jailbreaking” is sometimes used interchangeably with cracking or rooting, depending on the device.
It is a term coined after users of the first iPhones modified their devices to access the app store and use other providers than AT&T. Unlike traditional Android devices, Apple exerts more control over their devices.
Most notably, Apple still does not allow functions that significantly alter the interface of its products. Users who want to personalize their Apple devices need to turn to jailbreaking to access the existing apps restricted by Apple.
Apple devices aren’t the only electronics people may jailbreak. Many use special software to bypass Digital Rights Management (DRM) strictures so that they can watch or play region-restricted content.
For example, someone may want to modify their device to play their DVDs from Japan that their devices can’t usually read.
Some people do this for the sole purpose of making their devices interchangeable with pirated content. These practices are most common for people cracking their consoles to play games they can download for free online.
People accomplish jailbreaking in several different ways. It often requires hooking your device up to a computer and manually downloading one of many software tools.
Is Jailbreaking Illegal?
Jailbreaking itself usually is not illegal. The controversial topic was up for debate, but in the last decade, consumers in the United States earned the legal right to jailbreak their phones, smartwatches, and tablets.
It’s a good idea to check if your particular device is legal to jailbreak and to keep regional differences in mind.
While the act of jailbreaking a phone is not illegal in itself, what you do with a jailbroken phone may cause problems. Using a jailbroken device to access pirated or legally restricted content is against the law.
Even if you stay within the legal limitations, many risks come with a jailbroken device that often deter people.
What Are the Risks of Jailbreaking a Device?
When it comes to jailbreaking, the concerns extend wider than getting a call from the local police. It’s the other potential problems that pose a more significant risk.
Breaking the Device
When you jailbreak a device the correct way, you don’t need to worry about breaking the device. Unfortunately, this is sometimes easier said than done.
Sometimes, cracking tools don’t do exactly what they aim to do and instead mess up your device’s software. These problems may range from minor, annoying glitches to rendering a device unusable.
You really should do your research on how to jailbreak a device and not just go with the first link you find on Reddit. Cracking a device involves more than flipping a switch and, unless you are a programmer, you will likely rely on the word of strangers online when looking for specific software.
It is not too difficult for someone to trick you into downloading malicious software to your device that may damage the hardware.
Malicious software puts your sensitive data at risk. Downloading foreign programs to your devices opens the doors for invasive spyware or other viruses.
Commonly cracked devices, like cell phones, smartwatches, and consoles, often have important information like your address or payment details saved for anyone to find.
You should never download strange programs online. This tip is especially important for people using jailbroken devices at their company.
Forfeiting the Warranty
What’s worse is that jailbreaking a device voids the warranty it may have. Companies know that jailbreaking is an unnecessary risk that may make a product defective.
Skim your warranty contract to see if these situations apply to you before you do any alterations to your device. There are ways for someone to inspect a device and check whether someone has cracked it.
For this reason, many urge users to avoid trying to jailbreak very new (or expensive) devices—especially those which don’t have many benefits.
Tweaking the software of some devices also may take some features away from users. For example, those who jailbroke their Nintendo Switches faced some severe consequences.
Nintendo holds users that exploit their services accountable, like the player who leaked the spoilers from Pokémon Sword and Shield.
As the company does not support such activities, they hold the right to (and often do) ban users who crack their consoles from using online features.
This ban permanently bars you from participating in any online multiplayer games and makes it difficult to access the Nintendo eShop to download any digital games or content.
Remember, this digital content also includes DLCs, meaning you’ll lose a lot of the gaming experience. While some people find different ways to download something without an online membership, most of these are likely illegal and can land you into even deeper trouble.
Unintentionally Breaking the Law
It really is essential to highlight that it’s easier than you think to break the law. Often, people don’t understand that they are engaging in illicit activities. However, this doesn’t erase the perpetrators of the fault.
Be sure you always clearly understand what you are doing before you do it. Especially when it comes to downloading different software, such as games or other media. Be sure to investigate what the copyright situation is before you end up with piracy problems.
Potential piracy problems are the same reason you should avoid sketchy sites that provide access to illegal content.
Should I Jailbreak My Device?
If you want to access (legal) restricted features or apps on your devices, jailbreaking is a relatively easy technique to consider. As long as you understand the issues going into it and don’t end up with any surprises down the road, jailbreaking is a legit way of modifying your device—but we certainly don’t advocate such a risky venture.