Microsoft Surface jailbreak arrives

Company downplays security implications of Windows RT jailbreak

8 Jan 2013
Microsoft Surface

Microsoft has publicly praised the work of a security researcher who found a way to run unsigned desktop-oriented applications on the company's Surface RT tablets, which run the locked-down Windows RT operating system - but warns the trick may not work in the future.

Unveiled on the Surface of Security blog, the trick is equivalent to the process of jailbreaking an Apple iOS device: when carried out, it's possible to install unsigned and unauthorised applications on Surface tablets, something Microsoft had gone to pains to avoid in order to provide a locked-down but more secure experience for owners by only letting them install applications through the Microsoft Store.

While the move could potentially reduce the safety of the device, allowing unsigned malware to run on Surface tablets, Microsoft has downplayed that aspect - thanks, largely, to the fact that a user has to jailbreak the device themselves, meaning it's not a threat to the general Surface-owning public. "The scenario outlined is not a security vulnerability and does not pose a threat to Windows RT users. The mechanism described is not something the average user could, or reasonably would, leverage, as it requires local access to a system, local administration rights and a debugger in order to work," claimed a Microsoft spokesperson.

"In addition, the Windows Store is the only supported method for customers to install applications for Windows RT. There are mechanisms in place to scan for security threats and help ensure apps from the Store are legitimate and can be acquired and used with confidence."

Despite downplaying the importance of the discovery, Microsoft was quick to praise those who discovered it. "We applaud the ingenuity of the folks who worked this out and the hard work they did to document it," the spokesman added, before warning that "[Microsoft will] not guarantee these approaches will be there in future releases" of the Windows RT operating system.

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