"It's a cat-and-mouse game," said Steve Jobs. "We try to stay ahead. People will try to break in, and it's our job to stop them breaking in."
Yesterday Apple issued a statement declaring that currently available unlocking solutions for using the iPhone on a carrier other than AT&T in the US or other authorized carriers in Europe cause "irreparable damage to the iPhoneâ??s software," and that an update appearing this week "will likely result in the modified iPhone becoming permanently inoperable."
Whether or not such a complete disablement of unlocked iPhones by Apple is even possible remains a point of debate, not to mention the implications for Apple's image that could accompany a mass bricking of devices. However, it could reasonably be claimed that such a disablement would merely be a side effect of necessary iPhone software updates, not an intentional move to punish unlockers. After all, as we noted earlier this month, most current iPhone unlock processes make use of a buffer overflow exploit -- a security concern that needs to be addressed by Apple regardless of lock/unlock concerns. As reported at the time, this fact makes it almost certain that the current software unlock process will be disabled by Apple with a future iPhone software/firmware update, if nothing else as as a result of plugging the buffer exploit vulnerability for security purposes: a line of reason now largely confirmed by Apple explicitly.
Those who worked to produce the iPhone unlock mechanisms in the first place have already promised not only to release software that will allow users with unlocked iPhones to restore their devices to a virgin state (allowing the forthcoming Apple firmware update to be installed without ill-effect), but also to release an updated unlock mechanism capable of breaking the iPhones soon-to-be-hardened unlock resistance.
A statement posted to the Hackintosh forums from sam, a seasoned member of the iPhone hacking/unlock efforts, claims that no actual damage was done by the unlock procedures, contrary to Apple's indication, and advises users who have unlocked their phones not to apply the forthcoming firmware/software update:
"From the current download numbers we assume a amout of about 500,000 free phones worlwide, still growing every day. The removal of the lock bug was a major step forward in the iPhone development made the iPhone free and useful to anyone, not only to those in certain countries.
"Speaking of 'damage' done to the firmware and unauthorized access to our own property (?), Apple now announced the next firmware update we may expect later this week will possibly break he handset of all of us free user in the world intentionally.
"As we know better and that the removal of the firmware problems build in in favor for AT&T is not causing 'damage' as they want to make us belive, we will provide you with a tool in the next week which will be able to recover your nck counter and seczones and even enables you to restore your phone to a factory like state if you are really minded to update your phone to the "damaged" new firmware still having the lock bug, which prevent you of the usage of your property.The motivation in this planned masacre on user phones is questionable, as if we can prevent the handsets from breaking, why can't apple do this too?"
"In the meantime we advise you not to update your free iPhone with the upcoming firmware as the important parts will be flaoting around the net anyways and wait for the next version to be fixed to work proper with your carrier and not break your phone."
Meanwhile a posting to the iPhone Dev Wiki, where most of the real progress on iPhone hacking/unlocking has been made, reads:
"When the 1.1.1 firmware detects that the modem baseband has been modified it will may turn the Iphone into a Ibrick and it will may not be able to make calls (according to Apple). Users who have unlocked they're phones should not update (their) firmware when it comes up later this week (Within the next few days). This will also restrict the Jailbreak method. (Which will probably take a few days to find a work around). To the DEV team: Please start the AnySim 1.0.2 PXL package for the new firmware. Apple Iphone users around the world NEED YOU!"
Warning to cat: the mice are armed and ready.