UPDATE

It has been awhile since I posted anything. Throughout the months of November through January, I was involved in securing a new place to live and then moving. That was a major endeavor, with decades worth of accumulated things. Since then, I have been getting settled to some degree. In the midst of it, my computer died and I have pieced together parts to get a functional system until I have a chance to get a new one.

Now that the move is at least complete, it is time to return to my efforts to raise awareness of cybersecurity and what you can do to keep safe online.

I will have a booth at the Boomer Expo in Lakeland, Florida on Saturday, 17 February, to reach out to people locally. Then, in the days ahead, I will return to this blog and related work.

May you remain safe online.

Your phone or tablet

So, you got a new phone or tablet for Christmas. Now, you want to install some apps. If you have an iPhone, and are going to the Apple store, you are probably in good shape.

But sometimes, people want to install other apps. Or they just feel their phone or tablet doesn’t let them do what they want to do. Maybe the app they want isn’t “authorized” or won’t install. Or maybe they want to “customize” their device, but it won’t let them.

At that point, some people turn to “jailbreaking” (or “rooting”) their phone or tablet. That is a way to disable the restrictions that keep them from installing certain apps or customizing their device.

Image of cellphone locked in jail cell

Before you do that, there are some things you should know.

Having the phone in a “jailed” state means it is locked down for protection. It’s not so much a matter of restricting the phone as it is of protecting it. Think of “protective custody” with a lot of freedom within the bounds of that protection.

The reason the phone or tablet is “locked down” is to protect it from being affected by malicious or poorly-designed applications or activity. Another reason this is done is to prevent consumers from violating copyright laws through playing of movies or other media without proper licensing.

If one removes those restrictions, they open themselves up to a number of undesirable possibilities. That doesn’t mean they WILL be affected, but it does mean they are no longer as well protected against the possibility.

 

Some of the undesirable results of jailbreaking (rooting) your phone or tablet:

   * Security is weakened. Malicious software could affect the phone or could steal or use your information in some other way. Malicious software may be something that gets installed without your knowledge. Or it could be an app you intentionally install that has a hidden agenda (e.g., a new game or other new app you want but that also steals your data or does other things behind your back). You would be upset about it, if you knew what it was doing.

   * An app that you install may not be well-designed and may cause your device to become unstable and/or not work properly.

   * Updates for security and/or improved operation or functionality may no longer be available. That would mean that you will no longer get those updates unless you install them yourself. Normally, these updates would protect you against new and dangerous threats as they become known. They may also fix performance issues and bugs as they are discovered.

   * Your warranty may be voided.

   * In some cases, the phone’s performance may be impacted, including draining your batteries.

   * Some apps that you might install may use your data plan and use up your monthly allotment.

Apple’s app store is far less likely to contain an app that will cause your phone problems or that will be malicious. Although they may approve something they shouldn’t, your chances of getting a bad or malicious app increase considerably if you jailbreak your device and go elsewhere to get apps.

Should you jailbreak your phone or tablet?

I’m not going to say you shouldn’t. There may be a reason that you may choose to.

Just be aware that, if you choose to do so, you are making it more vulnerable. If you do so, you should be more careful about how you use that device in the future. It would be prudent not to use it for sensitive information or transactions. It would be wise to think of it from that point forward as an “insecure” device.