Jailbreaking your iPhone or iPad is a risky process that we can't unreservedly recommend, but it remains popular among those who wish to install unofficial apps and tweaks on their smartphone or tablet via the Cydia marketplace. Here's how to jailbreak your iPhone or iPad running iOS 12, along with the risks of doing so.
(What is jailbreaking? In essence, it means bypassing the locks put in place by Apple on its iPhones and iPads and thus gaining access to a large number of apps that Apple hasn't authorised. For explanations of this and many, many more Apple-related terms, see our Apple jargon-buster encyclopedia.)
iPhone Jailbreak warning
Some of the unofficial apps that you'll gain access to after jailbreaking are pretty tempting, and may offer features you'd never otherwise be able to access, but be weary; jailbreaking your iPhone and installing tweaks and apps from disreputable sources may lead to hackers being able to access your iPhone.
We recommend only using reputable sources, such as those pre-loaded in Cydia, and staying away from any pirated repositories – it may be tempting to download tweaks for free, but you might be handing over access to all your personal information at the same time!
Apple itself offers advice on the subject of jailbreaking (although you may feel that the company is biased in this respect since it wants to continue getting its cut of the revenue from official app sales). In this tech note, Apple suggests that jailbreaking your iOS device may lead to security vulnerabilities, instability, shortened battery life, unreliability, disruption of services and inability to apply future software updates. It may result in Apple denying service for your device.
Nonetheless, many Apple fans have been jailbreaking iOS devices for years without encountering these issues. But once they've jailbroken such a device, they understand that they should expect no help from Apple if it causes them trouble in the future. With choice comes responsibility.
If you've got your heart set on jailbreaking, take a look at our top jailbreaking safety and security tips.
Tethered, Semi-Tethered and Untethered Jailbreaking
What’s the difference between a tethered and untethered jailbreak? Tethered jailbreaks require you to attach your iOS device to your computer and run an application to jailbreak it. If you later power off the device and then restart it, the jailbreak is wiped out, and you have to repeat the entire process. It also means your iOS device is completely useless until you do so, which isn’t convenient.
These kinds of jailbreak were the first to be developed. But what prospective jailbreakers wanted was an untethered method, where the hack would remain in effect even after the device was switched off and on again. This is called an untethered jailbreak, which is what is available for those looking to jailbreak iOS 10.
A third option, semi-tethered, means that you'll have to re-run the jailbreak process after restarting your iOS device or after a certain amount of time passes. It's a good compromise as the jailbreak can be run directly from the device rather than requiring a PC or Mac, but can still be a frustrating experience.
Here are all the pros and cons of jailbreaking an iPhone.
How to jailbreak an iPhone or iPad running iOS 12
The good news is that it is possible to jailbreak your iOS device running any version of iOS between iOS 12 - 12.1.2 using the unc0ver jailbreak, although there are a couple of caveats.
First, it doesn't offer full support for the latest iOS devices (XS, XR and 2018 iPad Pro) - you may be able to jailbreak the devices, but you won't be able to install Cydia until Saurik gets around to updating Cydia for A12 devices. Here's a full list of compatible devices at the time of writing:
- iPhone 5s
- iPhone 6 & 6 Plus
- iPhone 6s & 6s Plus
- iPhone 7 & 7 Plus
- iPhone SE
- iPhone 8 & 8 Plus
- iPhone X
- 2018 iPad Air
- sixth-gen iPad
Secondly, the app is tweaking the operating system of your iPhone or iPad, so there is a slight chance that it could go wrong and brick your iOS device.
With that being said, we'd recommend backing up your device before trying to follow the below instructions, and be sure to remove any iOS 12 OTA files downloaded (but not yet installed) on your iOS devices before initiating the jailbreak.
- On your iOS device, open Safari and head to ignition.fun
- Use the Search bar to search for unc0ver
- Tap the Get button and then Install to download and install the app
- Head to Settings > General > Device Management, select the developer name and Trust the certificate of the app you just downloaded.
- Open the unc0ver app on your iOS device and wait for it to do its job. Your iOS device will respring several times during the process, after which you should see the Cydia app appear on your Home screen.
And that's it! Your iOS device should now be jailbroken. If you find that the app gets stuck at the "Extracting Cydia..." step, simply reboot your device and try the process again.
If you've got an iPhone XS, XR or a 2018 iPad Pro and don't care about not having access to Cydia to install the latest tweaks, you can follow the above steps and search for Chimera instead of unc0ver on the ignition.fun website. The process is largely the same, but installs the less-popular Sileo package manager in place of Cydia.
Secure your jailbroken device
So, you’ve jailbroken your iOS device – congratulations! Enjoy experimenting with the various tweaks and apps available via the Cydia repository. However, before you get too carried away, we advise you to take the following steps to secure your device. All iPhones have a ‘root’ superuser installed by default, which has access to everything on the phone – and, importantly, the password is the same across all iOS devices.
If a hacker manages to access your iPhone, all they need to do is input the default password (alpine for those wondering) to access pretty much anything on your device. Changing the default password for the root superuser should greatly increase the overall security of your iOS device, and here’s how to do it.
The first step is to open Cydia and download the MobileTerminal application – don’t worry, it’s free and will give you command-line access to your iPhone. Once you’ve installed the app, open it up and follow these steps:
- Type su root and tap return.
- You should then be prompted for root’s password which is alpine – enter that and tap return.
- You should now be logged in as root – now type passwd and tap return. This should launch the command-line password-changing program.
- Enter the new password – make sure it’s one that’s hard to guess and not something like password. It’s worth noting that for security reasons, the password utility won’t display the text you’re entering.
- You’ll then be asked to verify your new password.
- Once you’ve verified your password, you should be taken back to the command prompt. Simply type exit and tap return to log out of the root user.
There’s also a mobile user that also has access to your data and has the same default password of alpine. Follow steps 2-6 to change mobile’s password and you should be protected from any potential hacks.