A 17-year-old hacker has broken the lock that ties Apple’s iPhone to AT&T’s wireless network, freeing the most hyped cell phone ever for use on the networks of other carriers, including overseas ones.
[…] The hack, which Hotz posted Thursday to his blog, is complicated and requires skill with both soldering and software. It takes him about two hours to perform. Since the details are public, it seems likely that a small industry may spring up to buy U.S. iPhones, unlock them and send them overseas.
“That’s exactly, like, what I don’t want,” Hotz said. “I don’t want people making money off this.”
He said he wished he could make the instructions simpler, so users could modify the phones themselves.
[…] Since the details of both hacks are public, Apple may be able to modify the iPhone production line to make new phones invulnerable. […]
“We’re a bit paranoid about privacy because we don’t know how things are going to evolve,” said one group member, who identified himself only as Jim in a brief phone interview.
His caution stems from the murky legal status of unlocking cellphones.
Last fall, the Librarian of Congress issued an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, ruling that people can legally unlock their cellphones. But the ruling does not specifically apply to people like Mr. Hotz and the iPhoneSimFree group who distribute the unlocking tools.
Apple and AT&T could conceivably sue such distributors under the copyright act. The companies could also argue that people sharing modifications to iPhones are interfering with a business relationship, between Apple and AT&T and the customers.
[…] Mike McGuire, an analyst at the research firm Gartner, says that even though few consumers will try these sophisticated alterations, the iPhone modifications point to “the rather rapid erosion of the carrier control of handset distribution.”
“This has been going on for a while,” he said, “and this is the latest salvo.”