updated 07:42 pm EST, Mon January 28, 2013
Comprised of jailbreak veterans, team will unveil hack February 3
While iOS 6 never got a public "untethered" jailbreak, a new team of hackers comprised of well-known veterans of other jailbreak teams will be releasing a solution for devices using iOS 6.1 (which was just released today) on Super Bowl Sunday, February 3. The delay in releasing the jailbreak, the security flaw for which was discovered but kept secret some time ago, is due to the team not wanting to give Apple a chance to fix the issue before the jailbreak is released. There is no word yet of any unlocking solution, however.
Jailbreaking refers to a method of exploiting a security flaw in iOS in order to inject new ROM code, for the most part used to further customize iOS devices beyond what is provided by Apple. Jailbreakers often also install "unofficial" (non-App Store) apps and can also install pirated apps, though the latter activity is frowned upon in the jailbreak community and more difficult than it once was. Jailbreaking is also a way to create an "unlocking" solution for those users who have locked phones and couldn't get them unlocked by their carrier for whatever reason.
The team responsible for the jailbreak call themselves Evad3rs and consist of well-known names in the jailbreaking community, including MuscleNerd and planetbeing from the original iPhone Dev Team, pod2g and pimskeks from the Chronic Dev Team. It is unknown if they or anyone will offer an unlocking solution through the new jailbreak, now that unlocking with carrier permission has been deemed illegal within the US (it is not illegal in most other countries). The US unlock restrictions do not apply to software unlocks applied by authorized carrier agents, or when a user buys a phone "factory" unlocked.
Though jailbreaking (which is not illegal, even in the US) is generally regarded as safe and used mostly for customization purposes rather than pirating, the existence of the flaw in iOS 6.1 does carry with it a small risk of increased exposure to security issues or the chance of malware. The problem has not really been an issue with iOS compared to Google's Android platform, which is rife with viruses, spyware and other malware. It is a growing problem for the popular platform; however, most Android phones allow extensive customization without necessarily having to go through a "rooting" process (similar to jailbreaking), thus satisfying many users' need to hand-customize their device to remove carrier "crapware" and or tailor the look and feel to their tastes.