Comex Answers Questions About iPhone Hacking Before Heading Off To Apple

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If you pay even a small bit of attention to the iPhone jailbreaking scene, you’ve probably heard by now: one of its golden boys is heading for greener pastures. Nicholas Allegra — perhaps known better as comex (the brain behind the one-click, web-based jailbreaking tool, JailbreakMe) — is hangin’ up his hacker hat and heading for Cupertino, having been offered an internship at Apple.

Before settling down in his new seat, though, comex took a bit of time to answer some questions from the community on his future, his thoughts on the jailbreak scene, and regrets.

To be clear: the text excerpts below are highlights pulled from an AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) on Reddit. The AMA occured in the iPhone sub-reddit rather than the dedicated AMA sub-reddit. Each question’s original asker follows in parentheses.

After your internship with Apple and after iOS 5 is officially released, will you continue to support the jailbreak community by providing exploits? (nishnasty)

Comex: No. (But I’ll want to jailbreak my phone, so I hope someone finds them :p)

(Of course, it’s worth noting that he probably can’t continue, even once the internship is over. Once you’ve signed up for an official tour on the mothership and have potentially mucked with source code [though Apple interns are generally kept at a distance from the source], activities like this are a no-go.)

Why an intern position though? It seems like you could carry a regular position at apple. (AstroZombie138)

Comex: I don’t know if I’d want to do that- I’ve never had a job before and I don’t know what it’s like- and I intend to go back to college soon.

How has the core jailbreak dev teams responded to you going to work for apple? (AstroZombie138)

Comex: Mostly with congratulations.

Have you made any money from the [jailbreak] scene? (jamesvdm)

Comex: I’ve made a good amount of money through donations, which is mostly being used to help pay for college. JailbreakMe 2.0 was like $40,000; 3.0 was $15,000 (not quite sure why it decreased).

The jailbreak community took a huge hit when you left. Do you think the active players can outsmart you now that you’re playing for the other team, or are you Apple’s final solution to their jailbreak problem? (bitterorca)

Comex: There are a lot of smart people working for Apple already; maybe I can help, but I doubt I can stop people from finding exploits.

Paraphased – On Apple “stealing” ideas from the jailbreak community (as many concepts that have found their way into iOS, such as multitasking, improved notifications, and even the App Store were implemented by jailbreakers first):

Comex: I certainly don’t mind. Jailbreak community puts an idea in front of people with a crappy implementation; Apple polishes it to the point where it can be an OS feature. I don’t know whether Apple actually pays attention to jailbreak apps, but see App Store, copy and paste, multitasking, etc…

Why did you choose to get involved in specifically the iPhone jailbreaking scene, what was it attracted you to the iPhone? (Colonel_Ham_Sandwich)

Comex: I had one… and it was a device that (a) had a lot of functionality, (b) had a nice and flexible UNIX OS, (c) already had an active homebrew community, and (d) was really cool. :p

Did you always set out to be a hacker or was it just something that interested you and found you had a [knack] for? (Colonel_Ham_Sandwich)

Comex: I never wanted to be a black hat hacker, but I did enjoy hacking (originally SQL injection and crap) as a natural extension of programming.

Finally, in regards to the PDF bug used for the JailbreakMe.com jailbreak, where on earth did you get the brilliant idea for it? (Colonel_Ham_Sandwich)

Comex: FreeType was one of the less studied open source components of iOS.

Are you optimistic about the future of the iOS platform? What features are you looking forward to next? (iconoclaus)

Comex: My personal opinion: it will probably continue to beat the pants off its competitors in performance for a while yet, and Apple’s “take your time but do it right” policy on features will probably continue to make it a pleasure to use. But I’m impatient: other platforms (WebOS) have a lot of fun stuff with no real equivalent in iOS.

Do you have any regrets? (bitterorca)
Comex: I should have worked on these jailbreaks more consistently, and released them more quickly; I’ve had several exploits fixed on me that could have been used in a jailbreak if I was quicker at packaging.

Will the current jailbreaks and/or the site disappear? (UntilWeLand)

Comex: No, I’ll hand them over to MuscleNerd or chpwn or whoever will take care of them.

Your thoughts on Steve Jobs’ departure? (MDevonL)

Comex: Really a shame; I was hoping to meet him some day, and, company direction aside, keynotes won’t be as entertaining without him.

What, besides money, made you flip to the other side? (Clavis_Apocalypticae)

Comex: It’s not about money. A large part of my motivation to jailbreak was always the challenge; the internship will be a new sort of challenge.

Again, these are just the highlights — for a deeper dive and a good bit of interesting conversation, be sure to check out the full AMA thread.