Known as the "Spirit" jailbreak, the software allegedly works with iPhone OS 3.2, currently available for the iPad only, as well as iPhone OS 3.1.3 for the iPhone and iPod touch. It could also allow users of the latest hardware revision of the iPhone 3GS to unlock their handset for use on alternative carriers.
A member of the iPhone Dev Team who goes by the handle "MuscleNerd" revealed the hack in a video posted to YouTube just a day after the iPad launched. The video shows the user gaining root access to the iPad and using it to command the iPad to close the Maps application.
The demonstration with the iPad came soon after another hacker, George "Geohot" Hotz, demonstrated a new method to jailbreak the iPhone 3GS and third-generation iPod touch. The hacker said his method would "probably" work on the iPad, but hasn't provided any updates since the hardware was released.
While iPhone users can rely on jailbreaking to unlock their handset for use with unauthorized carriers, the 3G-capable version of the iPad, scheduled to arrive in late April, ships unlocked by default. However, its 3G frequencies are only compatible with AT&T in the U.S.
But the warranty-voiding jailbreak process can also allow users to run software Apple does not allow. Hackers have created their own custom applications that allow features, like multitasking, which not currently permitted within the iPhone OS.
Late last year, Apple quietly updated the BootROM in the iPhone 3GS to thwart potential hackers. It marked the first time ever that the handset maker had modified its hardware in the middle of a product line, without a new model released.
The new BootROM, known as iBoot-359.32, has proven challenging for hackers, who have only been able to publicly release a tethered jailbreak, which requires users to connect their iPhone to a computer via USB every time they reboot the device.
Of course the battle between hackers who want to run modified versions of the iPhone OS and Apple will continue, with the Cupertino, Calif., company set to unveil the latest update to its mobile operating system, iPhone OS 4.0, at an event scheduled for Thursday. As with previous updates to the mobile operating system, the new version will likely include new security measures designed to thwart hackers.
Apple and the jailbreaking community have gone back and forth for some time, as the iPhone maker has looked to close avenues used by hackers. One of the main concerns about jailbreaking is piracy, as the procedure can allow users to steal software from the App Store.