updated 3/20/2013 5:46:21 PM ET 2013-03-20T21:46:21

Tight control over its mobile operating system has always been one of Apple's greatest strengths, as well as one of its most profound drawbacks. In a move that will ultimately prove both helpful and harmful to its consumer base, Apple's latest security update for iOS will repair a huge security vulnerability, but also prevent users from jailbreaking their phones to install apps not sanctioned by the iPhone manufacturer.

The update brings iOS to version 6.1.3, which means that any users with an iPhone 3GS, fourth-generation iPod touch, iPad 2 or any device newer than those should expect to see a notification waiting for them the next time they boot up their devices. If, for whatever reason, this process does not trigger automatically, a quick trip to Settings > General > Software Update will track it down and allow you to start the procedure manually.

Apple cites six security issues that version 6.1.3 will fix, and while their descriptions get fairly technical, the desired result is usually simple enough. Hackers could exploit vulnerabilities in previous versions of iOS to infiltrate the deep levels of the operating system, supersede the lock screen and allow the automatic download of malicious software. Of particular interest was the malicious WebKit vulnerability, which allowed hackers to force viruses or malware onto a user's iDevice.

However, as Spencer Tracy once said, "Progress has never been a bargain. You have to pay for it." Many iPhone and iPad users "jailbreak" their devices, which allows them to install unauthorized applications. These apps can change folder structure, emulate classic video games or even bypass Apple's mobile data download limit. [See also: 10 Pros and Cons of Jailbreaking Your iPhone or iPad ]

Jailbreaking is perfectly legal, but as the process takes advantage of security vulnerabilities in iOS, Apple has a history of trying to circumvent various jailbreaking programs, such as evasi0n. Although hackers will figure out how to jailbreak 6.1.3 eventually, any users who update will lose access to their previous jailbroken software and settings, and will be unable to reuse evasi0n in its current form.

Users with standard iOS settings should update right away, but those with jailbroken phones may want to think twice. If you're tech-savvy enough to jailbreak an iPhone, there is a good chance that you're tech savvy enough to protect yourself from the vulnerabilities that 6.1.3 seeks to address. But hackers are a clever and persistent lot. Playing "Super Mario Bros." on the subway might not be worth risking a crippling virus.

© 2012 TechNewsDaily


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