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Apple Hires iPhone Hacker Nicholas Allegra (@Comex)

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Apple has just hired yet another member of the iPhone jailbreaking community, Nicholas Allegra, also known as “@comex” on Twitter. Allegra is best known for the JailBreakMe website which made the process of jailbreaking the iPhone as simple as visiting a webpage using mobile Safari.

The 19-year old hacker from Chappaqua, New York, posted the news of his hire on Twitter, stating that he will be starting an internship with Apple week after next.

Allegra was one of the most visible members of the jailbreaking community, regularly finding security vulnerabilities in Apple’s iOS software, which made it possible to hack iPhones, iPod Touches and even iPads. Typically, these holes were exploited through the use of specialized jailbreaking software applications which required the phone or other device to be connected to the computer via a USB cable.

But JailBreakMe was far easier to use – visitors just launched the website from their mobile device. The site featured a familiar-looking “slide to jailbreak” bar at the bottom of the page. One simple gesture, and the device was hacked. It made jailbreaking accessible to anyone, even non-technical users.

Traditionally, Apple discouraged jailbreaking, as it allows for the installation of third-party applications outside the official iTunes App Store. The concern is that once a phone or other device is jailbroken, it’s easier to illegally pirate applications which would otherwise be sold in the App Store, earning revenue for developers and Apple alike.

However, not all jailbreakers are interested in stealing apps – sometimes, like their Android-rooting counterparts, they just want control over their handset. On jailbroken iOS devices, users can make tweaks to the software and install widgets, themes and other unapproved applications by way of third-party “jailbreak” app stores like Cydia, Icy and ThemeIt.

In recent months, Apple has begun to take notice of the now-burgeoning jailbreak community, estimated to include 10% of all iPhones. For example, Apple hired Peter Hajas in June, the creator of a popular jailbreak app known as Mobile Notifier, which bears a striking resemblance to the new notification system in iOS5. The move prompted discussion as to whether Apple was reconsidering its position in regards to jailbreaking – maybe it’s now being thought of as a farm league for discovering new talent?

Jailbreaking is going even more mainstream this year, thanks to its first-ever hacker convention called MyGreatFest. According to event organizers, Allegra was planning on attending the conference, but whether he still will is now unclear.

Says MyGreatFest organizer Craig Fox, “I think it’s a great move for Allegra, but it’s sad for the jailbreaking community to lose such a bright and young hacker.”

Image credit: Forbes, which outed @comex earlier this month