How the original iPhone was hacked

How the original iPhone was hacked

If you've been around the iPhone scene for a while, you've no doubt already heard the story of how George "Geohot" Hotz unlocked the original iPhone for the first time, back in the summer of 2007. If not, The New Yorker, in a far broader profile, tells it again:

In the summer of 2007, Apple released the iPhone, in an exclusive partnership with A.T. & T. George Hotz, a seventeen-year-old from Glen Rock, New Jersey, was a T-Mobile subscriber. He wanted an iPhone, but he also wanted to make calls using his existing network, so he decided to hack the phone.

Every hack poses the same basic challenge: how to make something function in a way for which it wasn’t designed. In one respect, hacking is an act of hypnosis. As Hotz describes it, the secret is to figure out how to speak to the device, then persuade it to obey your wishes. After weeks of research with other hackers online, Hotz realized that, if he could make a chip inside the phone think it had been erased, it was “like talking to a baby, and it’s really easy to persuade a baby.”

He used a Phillips-head eyeglass screwdriver to undo the two screws in the back of the phone. Then he slid a guitar pick around the tiny groove, and twisted free the shell with a snap. Eventually, he found his target: a square sliver of black plastic called a baseband processor, the chip that limited the carriers with which it could work. To get the baseband to listen to him, he had to override the commands it was getting from another part of the phone. He soldered a wire to the chip, held some voltage on it, and scrambled its code. The iPhone was now at his command. On his PC, he wrote a program that enabled the iPhone to work on any wireless carrier.

The next morning, Hotz stood in his parents’ kitchen and hit “Record” on a video camera set up to face him. He had unruly curls and wispy chin stubble, and spoke with a Jersey accent. “Hi, everyone, I’m geohot,” he said, referring to his online handle, then whisked an iPhone from his pocket. “This is the world’s first unlocked iPhone.”

Hotz went on to sell that first unlocked iPhone to the CEO of Certicell for a 2007 Nissan 350Z and 3 new iPhones, and the rest, as they say, is history.

From later iOS Jailbreaks to cracking the PS3, from the Sony lawsuit to the Anonymous attacks, from working at Google and Facebook to going back to talk with Sony, The New York roughs out an interesting, entertaining sketch of one of the most famous characters in the iPhone community.

Give it a read, and then give us your take.

Source: The New Yorker

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

How the original iPhone was hacked

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That's ok, the actual story has been out for a couple of days. So chalk up to fails in one post.

Oh please, this guy couldn't hack a lunchbox if you asked him to. This guy waits for others to do the real work, then he "releases" their work with his name on it.

What is the world coming to? Famous for hacking the Iphone and gets a car. Must sign up to a course at school to be geekified.

Generally I do not read post on blogs, however I would like to say that this write-up very forced me to check out and do it! Your writing style has been amazed me. Thank you, very nice post.