New iOS Update To Break Emulators On iPhones Just Because

from the game-over dept

It's been pretty well established that the major console manufacturers out there hate independently developed emulators of their consoles. Why they react so violently against them instead of working out some kind of mutually beneficial licensing arrangement is a bit beyond me, but you may recall that a couple of years ago, both Sega and Nintendo strong-armed Google into pulling a bunch of emulators from the mobile marketplace. That move has worked so spectacularly that a cursory search in the Play Store returns all kinds of emulators. Job well done!

In any case, Apple appears to be bending to their collective wills in a similar fashion, with the most recent iOS update nixing an easy exploit that would allow emulators to be installed on iPhones that had not been jailbroken. The method that had been used by "antique" game enthusiasts was really easy.
Developers discovered the “date trick” that allows unapproved apps to be installed without hacking simply by rolling back the date and time on an iOS device and downloading apps through Safari. This is now the preferred method of gaining access to apps like GBA4iOS or Popcorn Time without losing things like software updates and support from Apple.
I have no idea about the technical details behind how rolling back the time on the phone somehow allows the installation of the emulators, but apparently a ton of folks utilized it, stimulating an active emulation community for iOS devices. What with Apple's cozy relationship with console makers and its own authoritarian practices with its app store, everyone knew it was only a matter of time before the exploit was removed.
In a blog post entitled “Apple Is Slowly Killing Everything We Love,” Dario Sepulveda writes, “iOS 8.1 beta was seeded to developers yesterday and it’s already causing panic among iOS emulator aficionados… The Date Trick fuels the emulator communities nowadays… Without it, everything looks bleak.”

Indeed it does. Of course, it did seem inevitable that this would come sooner or later; Apple has been working to put a stop to jailbreaking since it started back in 2007 — the same year the iPhone made its debut — so it has always seemed unlikely the Cupertino company would just turn a blind eye to this. But it’s a massive shame.
A massive shame indeed, especially since the move is so wholly unnecessary. There's absolutely no reason why console and game makers couldn't utilize the apps and communities already in place to both build up their fan base and make a little coin as well. Instead, by going the protectionist route, they only anger true fans and limit the exposure of their products.
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Filed Under: emulators, ios
Companies: apple


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2014 @ 4:03pm

    Glad I use Android.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2014 @ 4:21pm

    I don't understand why people buy Apple tech, then act surprised when Apple's well-known authoritarian tendencies interfere with their ability to use the Apple tech. Apple has done this for long enough, and the very name "jailbreak" emphasizes the confined nature of the ecosystem, yet people still build environments that rely on a benevolent Apple.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2014 @ 4:34pm

      Re:

      I share your confusion. I can only guess there's some kind of psychological "battered housewife" thing going on.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Mason Wheeler (profile), 10 Oct 2014 @ 5:20pm

        Re: Re:

        I know why one specific subset of people still use Apple tech no matter how much they screw everyone over. A close friend of mine is blind, and she describes Apple's VoiceOver accessibility technology as light-years beyond anything available for either Windows or Android devices.

        Seems to me the folks at Google need to close that gap...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ChurchHatesTucker (profile), 10 Oct 2014 @ 6:15pm

      Re:

      Did you miss the part where Google has already done this? Or do you just not understand that iDevices can be jailbroken?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2014 @ 7:57pm

        Re: Re:

        I saw that Google did it first, but where in my post did you see a claim that Android is a good choice? I'm just wondering why people pick an obviously very bad choice and then freak out when it proves to be a bad choice.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2014 @ 10:31pm

        Re: Re:

        Apps on Android are sideloadable by design and not by hack

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2014 @ 4:40pm

    "In any case, Apple appears to be bending to their collective wills in a similar fashion, with the most recent iOS update nixing an easy exploit that would allow emulators to be installed on iPhones that had not been jailbroken.

    I see what you did there

    signed
    Mr Bending.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2014 @ 6:15pm

    I know this is slightly off topic, but I want Popcorn Time on my non-jail broken iPhone! How do I get that done, and will refraining from installing iOS 8.1 keep it from being undone?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Graham J, 10 Oct 2014 @ 8:32pm

    Clueless

    So you don't know why Apple is fixing the exploit, don't know why console manufacturers don't want their consoles emulated, and don't know how the time change exploit works. Awesome reporting.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Chronno S. Trigger (profile), 10 Oct 2014 @ 8:40pm

      Re: Clueless

      The actual reasons why Apple is fixing the exploit and why console manufacturers don't want emulation is blatantly obvious. What isn't blatantly obvious is why those are the reasons. Why is Apple so uptight about what goes on their phones? Why is Nintendo so uptight about their long time fans?

      As for why the exploit works, that's not relevant to the article at all.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Deimal (profile), 10 Oct 2014 @ 10:08pm

        Re: Re: Clueless

        This exploit doesn't just allow emulators to be installed, it affects a wide range of apps. Sure, emulators are impacted, but it is also a potential vector for end-running around security on the phone. That is a huge concern, that as far as I'm concerned, Apple is fully justified in dealing with. If someone managed to use this to generate a malware infection spreading throughout the iOS ecosystem, and it was known that Apple hadn't addressed it, they would be raked across the coals. Jailbreaking is still an option and it both accommodates those who want unapproved apps installed, and keeps Apple away from being liable for the activity of apps that aren't approved.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 10 Oct 2014 @ 11:56pm

          Re: potential vector for end-running around security on the phone

          Whose security? The owner of the phone, or Apple?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          scotts13 (profile), 11 Oct 2014 @ 6:50am

          Re: Re: Re: Clueless

          "If someone managed to use this to generate a malware infection spreading throughout the iOS ecosystem, and it was known that Apple hadn't addressed it, they would be raked across the coals."

          The vast majority if iOS users are far more concerned about the absence of malware than the availability of emulators. Apple, like any company, does well to serve their most important clientele. Has anyone tried to create an emulator that could be distributed through the App Store?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 11 Oct 2014 @ 10:27am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Clueless

            Has anyone tried to create an emulator that could be distributed through the App Store?

            Try re-reading the first paragraph of the article, add in Apples control freak nature, and you will understand why there are none in the App store.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 11 Oct 2014 @ 3:49pm

          Re: Re: Re: Clueless

          "That is a huge concern, that as far as I'm concerned, Apple is fully justified in dealing with."

          Why do you consider it a huge concern? It's not like anyone would root their phone on accident. I genuinely don't see why this would be so worrying.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    MetalSamurai, 11 Oct 2014 @ 8:23am

    It's about security

    if you can take a step back from the emulator crowd throwing their toys out of the pram for a minute, this is about security and preventing malware.

    The "trick" that was being used was to piggyback on the Enterprise software distribution system Apple have to completely bypass the App Store. All software installed on an iPhone has to be digitally signed to guarantee it has not been tampered with and to identify where it came from. App Store apps all have this, obviously. But enterprises needed a method of distributing software to employees that bypasses the App Store as they don't want those private apps available to anyone. They rely on a separate set of digital identities. The emulator crowd were using an enterprise developer ID on the verge of expiry to sign their app. By taking the clock back to an earlier time when the signature was valid you bypass the full security checks. This is an obvious security hole - it means that even if a malicious developer has their key revoked by Apple to protect users their malware can still be installed and run.

    Going forward there are still other mechanisms that can be used: jail breaking (which means there's no security on your device, so take your chances), limited distribution of developer beta test profiles and there's nothing stopping you installing Xcode to compile the Open Source source code yourself and install it on your own devices.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 11 Oct 2014 @ 3:53pm

      Re: It's about security

      "The "trick" that was being used was to piggyback on the Enterprise software distribution system Apple have to completely bypass the App Store."

      Indeed. But why is doing this so horrible that it must be stopped? Given that you have to go out of your way to do this, I don't see a valid security concern over it.

      The app store requirement is in my top 3 reasons why I'll never own an iPhone.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Kal Zekdor (profile), 12 Oct 2014 @ 1:50am

      Re: It's about security

      jail breaking (which means there's no security on your device, so take your chances)

      That is... just... false. Even on a jailbroken iphone, apps still run in sandboxed mode by default. You need to explicitly give root to specific apps (which usually isn't necessary). Every single security feature is still active. The only real difference is no OTA updates, and Apple support will just look at you funny if you mention you've jailbroken. You also might want to eyeball apps before installing them, but that's nothing new.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        bl, 12 Oct 2014 @ 4:38am

        Re: Re: It's about security

        >That is... just... false.
        No. It is correct.

        >Even on a jailbroken iphone, apps still run in sandboxed mode by default.
        The sandbox doesn't really work when, I dunno, there is working exploit code against it. You seen Project Zero's latest post? You might want to take a look.
        http://googleprojectzero.blogspot.com/2014/10/more-mac-os-x-and-iphone-sandbox.html
        Quite a few sandbox issues right there which are now public, some of which can be used to bypass you wonderful sandbox :D

        >You need to explicitly give root to specific apps (which usually isn't necessary).
        They could just use one of the many public exploits for that version to gain it.

        >Every single security feature is still active.
        Yeah, but we also have public code to bypass them. (Oh and btw, code signing is a security measure which is removed)

        >The only real difference is no OTA updates
        Leaving all the bugs you never patched open for abuse.

        >You also might want to eyeball apps before installing them, but that's nothing new.
        Good luck finding a well-made backdoor ;p

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Kal Zekdor (profile), 13 Oct 2014 @ 1:01am

          Re: Re: Re: It's about security

          None of that is related to jailbreaking, though. Those are existing security issues.

          As for no OTA updates, that doesn't mean you have to leave your system unpatched (in fact, jailbreaking often means you get patches sooner), you just have to do it yourself.

          Side loading apps can be potentially harmful, yes, but that decision should be made by the user. Any apps from the app store are exactly as secure on a jailbroken or stock device (including code signing).

          Saying that a jailbroken device has no security is blatantly false.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Rekrul, 13 Oct 2014 @ 8:19am

      Re: It's about security

      The "trick" that was being used was to piggyback on the Enterprise software distribution system Apple have to completely bypass the App Store. All software installed on an iPhone has to be digitally signed to guarantee it has not been tampered with and to identify where it came from.

      Simple solution: Stop banning emulators from iOS. Then they can be digitally signed and run properly on a nice, secure device, just like all the other apps. Problem solved.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        The dude, 13 Oct 2014 @ 1:07pm

        Re: Re: It's about security

        And get sued by world + aibo

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 13 Oct 2014 @ 2:37pm

          Re: Re: Re: It's about security

          For what?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            The dude, 13 Oct 2014 @ 3:06pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: It's about security

            Facilitating piracy or some shit, if they really hate emulators, it seems quite possible that they would try to pressure apple into removing the offending software (under threat of lawsuit, damaging relationship, etc). Since they don't care what people think of them it seems plausible that they would at least try it.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              John Fenderson (profile), 14 Oct 2014 @ 10:16am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It's about security

              Apple has a pretty huge warchest. Any lawsuit against them better have a solid basis, or it's going away pretty quickly without hurting Apple. Since emulators don't facilitate piracy, a lawsuit based on that would die a quick death.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Rekrul, 14 Oct 2014 @ 12:06pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It's about security

              Emulators aren't illegal, no matter how much Nintendo and others wish they were. As long as they don't include any copyrighted code, such as firmware, there is absolutely nothing illegal about emulator software.

              It is illegal to use an emulator to run software that you don't own, but it's really not Apple or anyone else's place to declare emulators illegal because people might use them for that purpose.

              MANY emulators exist for computers and I'm only aware of two lawsuits. Back when the Playstation was still a current system, Sony sued two different makers of commercial Playstation emulators. They lost both cases.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    got_runs? (profile), 11 Oct 2014 @ 8:35pm

    Apple: "We made it, we break it, you'll keep buying it"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    The dude, 14 Oct 2014 @ 11:10am

    IF they were willing to fight for that cause instead of just getting rid of a few troublemakers (I know it sounds like nitpicking, but why fight if they can just get rid of the offending software without damaging relations with their zombies; and since apple doesn't care about emulators, why fight? ).
    This one says emulators == good;
    Roms and Bios == bad;
    http://metro.co.uk/2013/02/17/the-legality-of-emulation-part-2-readers-feature-3480905/
    Also
    https ://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Video_game_console_emulator#United_States

    Since emulators == good/ Roms and Bios == bad;
    The conclusion could be that they would rather get rid of them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    The dude, 14 Oct 2014 @ 1:02pm

    Emulators aren't illegal, but Roms are, what use does an emulator without a ROM have?
    It may not be their place, but that hasn't stopped them in the past with other software, did it?

    Anyway, let's hope they don't screw their faithful ones once more

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 15 Oct 2014 @ 9:54am

      Re:

      "what use does an emulator without a ROM have?"

      The primary legitimate use is to aid in the development of software for the emulated platform.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ronny Sharma (profile), 20 Mar 2018 @ 1:48pm

    Regardless of several attempts from Apple to discontinue usage of emulators on iPhones third app stores have made it possible to still emulate and run old Nintendo and 32 bit games on iOS 11.3.

    Ronny
    https://getappvalley.com/ https://tutuappx.com/ https://tweakbox.mobi/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    jazzi, 22 Apr 2018 @ 9:12am

    very informative post thanks for sharing
    https://tutuappapkd.com/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    thatroom (profile), 17 Dec 2018 @ 10:06pm

    it's about money not security.

    apple can't make money off of emulators that are free, every game on every emulator needs (in apple's eyes) to be paid to apple, and in non "legitimate" emulation (i use quotes because I own the hardware, therefore the BIOS is not illegal, and I own the games, so the ROMS for them aren't illegal.) apple doesn't make licensing fees, etc. it's about greed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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