The iPhone Dev-Team released Pwnage Tool 4.2 on April 3, which would allow users to jailbreak their iPhones to version 4.3.1. Apple released 4.3.1 on March 27.
While the firmware had been cracked that same day, the team didn't make the Pwnage Tool available on the Dev-Team's Web site immediately.
The latest PwnageTool update is an untethered jailbreak, meaning that users don't have to have their iPhone or iPad physically connected to the computer to perform the jailbreak. This hack is actually compatible with the iPhone 3G, 3GS, iPhone 4 and Verizon iPhone 4, the first generation iPad, third and fourth generation iPod touches, and the second generation Apple TV.
It won't work for the iPad 2 (the iPad 2 was remotely cracked using different technique).
The software based tool would let users hack their iOS devices so they can install third-party apps that don't appear on Apple's App Store. Users would download PwnageTool for Mac OS X and the IPSW updater file for iOS 4.3.1 using iTunes 10.2.1. The tool would handle the installation from there.
Even though the 2010 amendment to the US Digital Millenium Copyright Act means jailbreaking is not illegal, Apple remains opposed to the practice. The company even filed a patent last August for a remote "kill switch" that would return an iOS device to its factory settings if any unlicensed software is found on the device. If something goes wrong while jailbreaking, Apple will not offer any support.
The first Pwnage Tool came out three years ago (almost to the day). Since then, Apple developers have been aggressively patching exploits to stay ahead of the jailbreakers. Dev-Team has started holding back information on found exploits in order to speed up its jalbreaking efforts. The idea was to make sure Apple only had information to close currently released jailbreaks and not be aware of other exploits Dev Team knew about.
Comex, one of the Dev-Team members, speculated on Twitter late in March that Apple may have managed to infiltrate the group. He'd noticed that a kernel exploit that he'd had in reserve since iOS 4.0.2 was suddenly closed in iOS 4.3.1.
"I try not to be paranoid, but it is really hard to explain this as anything but a leak," Comex said on Twitter on March 28.
Of course, it was possible that Apple developers found the exploit on their own, Comex conceded.