The evad3rs hacking team has released a long-awaited jailbreak for Apple devices running iOS 7, but the release generated a backlash over its bundling of a Chinese app store instead of the more popular Cydia app directory.
The new jailbreak released Sunday is called evasi0n7 and is untethered, which means it's persistent across device reboots. It works on iPhone, iPad and iPod devices running iOS 7.0 through 7.0.4 and allows users to install software that doesn't conform to Apple's strict requirements for admission in the official app store, including extensions and modifications of the iOS operating system and its interface.
Soon after the release, some users started reporting that the jailbreak drops an installer called Taig on their devices. This turned out to be a Chinese app store that is reportedly used to also distribute pirated versions of legitimate apps.
This was followed by widespread speculation about evad3rs' motives for including this app directory in their jailbreak instead of Cydia, prompting the team to publish an open letter to the iOS jailbreaking community with clarifications.
"In the course of developing the iOS 7 jailbreak, we were approached by the company [behind Taig] with an offer of partnership in offering Taig bundled with the jailbreak in China," the team said. "Taig is a Chinese App Store written in Chinese, tailored and, we believe, well suited to meet the needs of users for the Chinese market. Users are not locked into Taig. Cydia can also be installed and Taig removed afterwards. It would be deeply hypocritical to remove choice from the user in the course of jailbreaking."
Evad3rs also apologized for the presence of pirated apps on Taig, which some users had perceived as an endorsement of piracy by the team.
"We are deeply sorry and embarrassed about the piracy that was seen today," the team said. "All of us have spoken out vehemently against piracy in the past. We don't believe it's right for developers to not get paid for their work."
According to the evad3rs team, their contract with Taig specifically requires the Chinese company to remove pirated apps from its store.
"Many App Stores within China, including those run by large corporations, have many issues with pirated software," evad3rs said. "Promoting an app store that is required not to have piracy with our jailbreak, we believe, will help developers."
The team claims it's very upset that despite Taig's contractual obligations and the company's efforts to remove pirated apps from their store, the problem still exists.
"It was not acceptable and they have been strenuously working to resolve the problem in good faith, and have removed all instances of it that we have brought to their attention," the team said. "We are happy that it was not overlooked by the community."
If the issue cannot be resolved, Taig will be removed from the jailbreak, the evad3rs team said in its letter.
Evad3rs team member pod2g later said on Twitter that the default installation of Taig in China has been remotely disabled until the piracy issue is further investigated.
As for not bundling Cydia, the team said it had discussed other possible partnerships with Cydia's creator, Jay Freeman, but that those negotiations failed. Freeman is known in the community as Saurik, and his company is SaurikIT.
"A few days later, we received information that SaurikIT was working with another group to release a jailbreak ahead of us," evad3rs said. "We decided to release, knowing that Cydia, MobileSubstrate, and jailbreak tweaks would be updated after a few days, just as it always has in the course of jailbreaking."
Freeman confirmed on Twitter that someone else had approached him with a potential jailbreak, "the goal being to get a non-piracy-laden jailbreak out."
"I knew about TaiG 2 months ago: I warned evad3rs it was sketchy, told them there would be piracy, and tried to find them a better deal," Freeman said.
"Also, I am not part of @evad3rs: they made that very clear to me," he said. "They never told me anything about their exploit. Should I not help others?"
Freeman claims that he was not given proper lead time on the release of evasi0n7 so he could develop a version of Cydia that works with iOS 7 and the new jailbreak. "I was not given builds, nor was I asked for things to test."
Evad3rs did not disclose the amount of money they received to bundle Taig with their jailbreak.
"Yes, we have benefitted financially from our work, just as many others in the jailbreak community have, including tweak developers, repo owners, etc," the team said. "Any jailbreak from us will always be free to the users but we believe we have a right to be compensated in an ethical way, just as any other developer."