This past Monday, we reported on a jailbreak for Windows RT that allowed it to run apps available outside of Microsoft’s Windows Store. The Redmond company has now come out, not to condemn the jailbreak, instead simply to confirm that it poses no security threat.
Windows RT is a slimmed down version of Windows 8 designed to run on lighter, stripped-down devices powered by ARM processors, unlike its desktop counterpart which typically runs on 32 or 64-bit Intel or AMD processors. Although it functions a lot similarly to Windows 8, it cannot run desktop apps designed for regular editions of Windows, given the vastly different processor architecture.
Even for ARM apps, however, they have so far needed to be submitted to Microsoft’s official Windows Store and be approved in order to run. The Redmond company attributes this to the nature of the ARM devices, which traditionally have smaller batteries and have been designed to be extremely portable: preventing bloated apps from making it onto the system in the first place ensures the best user experience, although some power users may have been rightly craving for some unofficial software.
This new ‘jailbreak’ gets around the system’s restrictions and allows “homebrew” software to run. Microsoft has issued a statement acknowledging the jailbreak and confirming that it does not pose any security threats, given that it requires a debugger, in addition to local administrator rights in order to fully function. The company’s spokesperson went on to applaud the developers of this workaround, although cautioning that it may no longer work in a future update:
“We applaud the ingenuity of the folks who worked this out and the hard work they did to document it. We’ll not guarantee these approaches will be there in future releases.”
This “jailbreak” is indeed quite difficult and inconvenient, requiring it to be applied every time the operating system is booted up, given Windows RT’s tight security features. It is also possible for this workaround to stop working after any system update; however, there’s no indication that a future tool will not be able to go further, allowing the jailbreak to be applied straight into the system kernel, and therefore make it permanent.