Apple is constantly at war with “jailbreakers,” or hackers who break down the defenses of the Apple’s iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad and remove the restrictions the company places on them. Jailbreaking allows people to use iPhones on otherwise-unsupported carriers, download non-iTunes App Store apps and support a host of other functions that Apple doesn’t necessarily want iPhone owners doing with its hardware.
To stop jailbreaking, Apple is constantly releasing updates to its iOS software to plug security holes and make jailbreaking impossible. Meanwhile, jailbreakers are always pouring over Apple’s software to find new ways of breaking down Apple’s best defenses. But now it appears that despite their constant conflict, Apple has crossed the battle lines and offered a job – temporary though it may be – to a well-known jailbreaker.
That hacker is 19-year-old Nicholas Allegra of Chappequa, New York, a jailbreaker with a few notches against Apple under his belt. According to TechCrunch’s story, Allegra is the hacker responsible for JailbreakMe.com, a website that allowed users to jailbreak iOS devices a lot more easily than through traditional means. Normally, jailbreaking requires having a device connected to a computer by way of a USB cable and using sophisticated hacking software; JailBreakMe just requires a user to connect to the website using Mobile Safari.
Apple offered Allegra an internship, which he reported on his Twitter feed he would be starting this week. It appears that Apple is taking bigger notice of the jailbreaking community, which is estimated to include one in every 10 iPhones. TechCrunch reports that the company hired another jailbreaker, Peter Hajas, in June; he’s responsible for an app available through jailbreaking called Mobile Notifier, which looks a lot like the notification system Apple has worked into iOS 5.
It has been speculated that Apple’s recent interest in the jailbreak community might suggest that it’s changing its stance on the practice and looking to draw computer programming talent from the community, but it’s a little too early to speculate. For the moment, it seems at least one talented programmer caught Apple’s eye by defying it.