Jailbreaking is a process through which a user modifies the operating system of a mobile device to access its system files and provide additional functionality that manufacturers lock behind security measures. This process bypasses the rights management restrictions and allows users to tweak the operating system, run files that were previously blocked or install apps from sources other than the official app stores. As of 2015, jailbreaking an iOS or Android device is legal in the United States.
By jailbreaking an iOS device, users can modify existing themes, add custom widgets and enable Wi-Fi tethering regardless of the restrictions that the carrier imposes. They can also change the default Web browser and email apps. However, jailbreaking increases the risk of accidentally acquiring malicious files and corrupting existing data, especially when inexperienced users perform it. Another downside is that jailbreaking makes it difficult to upgrade the operating system. Upgrading a jailbroken operating system can sometimes make the device inoperable.
Jailbreaking is possible due to the security flaws in the operating system. As manufacturers release patches and upgrade the software on their devices, it’s becoming more difficult for users to exploit security vulnerabilities to gain access to system files, as of 2015. This trend also makes jailbreaking less desirable because manufacturers increasingly include more features and improved functionality by default as they release updates for their devices.