Hacking the iPhone: Hello, World
Absurdly young hackers: check.
Cool nickname: check.
Bypassing hardcore security measures in an electronic device: check.
Patrick Walton, aka Nightwatch, and his team of hackers have created the first widely-useable application to run on the iPhone's hardware, a step forward in liberating the device.
The simple little program appears to be the first downloadable program created for the iPhone, bypassing Apple's "approved" method of developing software for the device: applications hosted on Web sites and accessed through the iPhone's Web browser rather than its internal memory.
Infamous hacker DVD Jon (John Lech Johansen) has claimed a qualified victory in cracking the locked-down iPhone: he was apparently able to activate the phone without subscribing to AT&T (the only carrier with which the device will currently function), but only the WiFi and iPod features are functional, and not the phone part. Also, the hack is not an easy one, requiring a fairly sophistimicated working knowledge of both the OSX and Windows platforms, as, ironically, Jon engineered his digital Houdini feat using a PC.
I, for one, suspect that it's only a matter of time before DVD Jon, or someone else, figures out how to completely unlock the device.
Following the publication of a technique to get the iPod and Wi-Fi features of the device working without signing up to AT&T by reverse engineer DVD Jon, a new group has picked up the baton.
The iPhone Development Project claims to have developed software to activate the device without an AT&T account, or to re-activate the kit after an AT&T account has been cancelled.
The project has set out a list of further goals including the ability to unlock the phone, run third party applications on the device, and eventually enable disk mode. These aims go well beyond what's already been achieved. Further objectives may be added as the project progresses.
Last year, the US copyright office ruled that it was legal for consumers to unlock their mobile phones in order to use them with other carriers, a decision AT&T and Apple may seek to contest, but one which gives hackers some leeway in opening up the functionality of the iPhone. That's not to say fiddling around with the software on the iPhone is without its risk, most notably invalidating any guarantees, as the hackers behind the iPhone Development Project note.
Meanwhile, this weekend sees the convening of iphonedevcamp, which, as the name suggests, is a forum for software developers to come up with iPhone-friendly web applications and find new ways of maximizing the user experience.