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You know you’re living in interesting times when an app designed to tell you if your iOS device has been jailbroken is outselling the likes of Minecraft and Grand Theft Auto.

And that’s exactly what a new app called System and Security Info has managed to do, topping the paid apps chart ahead of some of the world’s most famous games.

iOS paid apps

Jailbreaking an iOS device lets users gain more control over their shiny gadgets, meddling with the operating system, tweaking the iOS user interface and even allowing apps to be installed from third-party app stores such as Cydia.

At the same time, jailbreaking is frowned upon by Apple because it rips out much of the security that Apple built into iOS in the first place, designed to protect users from malicious attacks and un-vetted apps. For this reason, Apple has been keen to make jailbreaking as hard as possible for device owners.

By comparison, it’s much easier to install unauthorised code onto an Android device.

The System and Security Info app, developed by security researcher Stefan Esser, provides a clear, colour-coded indicator as to whether your iPhone or iPad has been jailbroken or not.

As the app explains in its description in the iTunes store:

This app shows detailed information about your device and running apps from a security point of view. One of the app’s unique features is a jailbreak and anomaly detection that can help security concerned users to check for potential privacy issues and security threats.

Now, if you’re a bit of a geek and have consciously and deliberately jailbroken your iOS device – that may not come as a shock to you.

But if you are like the vast majority of iOS users, and have not chosen to jailbreak your iPhone or iPad, then you’ve just uncovered that something very suspicious indeed is happening on your device.

In fact, the warning that your device has been jailbroken without your knowledge is a strong indication that a malicious party may have compromised your iOS device and has perhaps planted malware that is secretly spying upon your online activity and tracking your movements.

And such spying attacks aren’t purely the province of James Bond – every day innocent people’s iPhones and iPads are surreptitiously hacked by jealous partners, stalkers and work colleagues who are keen to secretly snoop upon you.

A cottage industry has sprung up of companies who sell software to track and spy upon phone owners – often marketed as safety tools to help you keep track of your kids location and behaviour – but often creepily used without the permission of a phone’s real owner to spy.

Protecting your iPhone is essential, as your smartphone probably knows more about you than your closest friend or partner. A smartphone carries all your photographs, your private messages, your location, your contacts, your online searches, as well as your phone conversations.

In such a climate, and with such understandable fears, maybe it’s understandable why so many people might be prepared to pay for a tool like System and Security Info for their iOS device.

In my opinion, the typical smartphone user is safer with an iPhone than an Android, but an iPhone that has not been jailbroken is the safest of all from the malware point of view.

Most of the malware attacks seen for iOS, like TinyV and Cloud Atlas, have only been able to infect devices that have been previously jailbroken.

If this new iOS app helps more iPhone and iPad users tell whether their devices have been secretly jailbroken, then that is definitely a good thing for security.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this and other guest author articles are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire, Inc.