Apple making it more difficult to downgrade firmware in iOS5

The cat and mouse game between and the hackers continues. The dev-team has announced today, in a blog post aptly named Blob Monster, that Apple is stepping their game up in their anti-jailbreak measures. Apparently, beginning with the new iOS5 beta firmware, Apple has begun building dependency on the authenticity of the APTicket during the boot process which could make it more difficult to firmware in the future. The APTicket, unlike the BBTicket is a uniquely generated number that changes each time you restore your firmware. It is not solely based on your and firmware revision like the BBTicket is, so it constantly changes each time.

It looks like Apple is about to aggressively combat the “replay attacks” that have until now allowed users to use iTunes to restore to previous firmware versions using saved SHSH .

Those of you who have been jailbreaking for a while have probably heard us periodically warn you to “save your blobs” for each firmware using either Cydia or TinyUmbrella (or even the “copy from /tmp during restore” method for advanced users).  Saving your blobs for a given firmware on your specific device allows you to restore *that* device to *that* firmware even after Apple has stopped signing it.  That’s all about to change.

Starting with the iOS5 beta, the role of the “APTicket” is changing — it’s being used much like the “BBTicket” has always been used.  The LLB and iBoot stages of the boot sequence are being refined to depend on the authenticity of the APTicket, which is uniquely generated at each and every restore (in other words, it doesn’t depend merely on your ECID and firmware version…it changes every time you restore, based partly on a random number).  This APTicket authentication will happen at every boot, not just at restore time.  Because only Apple has the crypto keys to properly sign the per-restore APTicket, replayed APTickets are useless.

This will only affect restores starting at iOS5 and onward, and Apple will be able to flip that switch off and on at will (by opening or closing the APTicket signing window for that firmware, like they do for the BBTicket).  geohot’s limera1n exploit occurs before any of this new checking is done, so tethered jailbreaks will still always be possible for devices where limera1n applies.  Also, restoring to pre-5.0 firmwares with saved blobs will still be possible (but you’ll soon start to need to use older iTunes versions for that). Note that iTunes ultimately is *not* the component that matters here..it’s the boot sequence on the device starting with the LLB.

Although it’s always been just “a matter of time” before Apple started doing this (they’ve always done this with the BBTicket), it’s still a significant move on Apple’s part (and it also dovetails with certain technical requirements of their upcoming “delta” updates).

Note: although there may still be ways to combat this, a beta period is really not the time or place to discuss them.  We’re just letting you know what Apple has already done in their exisiting beta releases — they’ve stepped up their game!