Jail breaking is the process of hacking a device (typically a smartphone or tablet) to bypass the digital rights management software usually installed by the hardware’s designer.  This software exists to limit the type and amount of software or apps that can be run on a device.  By jail breaking a device, users can have the ability to “tweak’ their device’s operating system or run unauthorized software.

In technical terms, jail breaking can be defined as installing a modified set of software patches that allow you to run unauthorized code or apps.  While jail breaking can give the user more freedom in customization and usability, it can also create risks.

Is jail breaking safe?
For many, jail breaking a device lets a user travel outside the traditional bounds of an operating system.  But the risks associated with jail breaking can include malicious software attacks, decreased battery life, slower device processing speeds, and increased data plan usage.

Is jail breaking legal?
The correct answer is yes.  The U.S. Government currently says it’s legal to jail break a digital device. But, the debate surrounding the topic is a fierce one.

Hackers and activists claim that jail breaking is a right, using the analogy of car modification. Car modders are not seen as breaking the law when they make changes or additions to their cars. Why should programmers?

Corporations like Apple, on the other hand, continue to lobby for more strict laws regarding jail breaking. But, currently, the most they can do is claim that jail breaking violates their user agreements and voids a device’s warranty. Whether or not this will change remains to be seen.

How to jail break
According to TechHive.com:

“Generally, jailbreaking tools come in the form of OS X or Windows desktop applications. Currently, the only tool to jailbreak the A5 processor-based iPhone 4S and iPad 2 with iOS 5.0.1 is called Absinthe. Other tools, such as PwnageTool and redsn0w, are only able to jailbreak older devices running iOS 5.0.1. The renowned iPhone Dev-Team released the very first jailbreak tool, and the group is still central to the iOS hacker community; its blog is a good place to go to see what’s new in jailbreaking tools.”