Home iPhone Jailbreak Irony: Apple’s Own History of Phone Hacking

iPhone Jailbreak Irony: Apple’s Own History of Phone Hacking

Apple recently countered against the Electronic Frontiers Foundation’s request to the US Copyright Office to make an exemption to the DMCA and permit iPhone jail breaking. Apple claims an exemption would leave a phone’s baseband processor (BBP) open to malicious hackers. From here, hackers could then circumvent data and call payments, make anonymous phone calls “desirable to drug dealers” and even initiate commands to render cell towers inoperable. The argument that phone hacking is particularly “desirable to drug dealers” and corporate terrorists is an amusing one given that Apple’s co-founders are themselves known to have experimented with phone phreaking in their youth.

It’s well-documented that Apple co-founders Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs not only considered themselves “hackers” but also committed a number of illegal phone hacks in their early days after being inspired by John “Captain Crunch” Draper.

Draper earned his “Captain Crunch” nickname after he realized that the toy whistles packaged in boxes of Cap’n Crunch cereal created the perfect 2600 Hz tone – the same tone used on telephones with single frequency controls. From here, Draper was able to create a “blue box” that mimicked the tones used by various phone companies and was able to take control of the international phone network to make free long-distance calls.

After reading an Esquire article about Draper in 1971, Wozniak admits he then went on to create his own devices to emit similar tones and even went so far as to make a prank call to the Pope. A number of articles including one quoting John Draper go on to suggest that Wozniak and Jobs sold blue boxes out of their dorm rooms for money.

So how on earth has Apple’s playful hacker spirit manifested into such a culture of fear? While it’s true that phone hacks can be well utilized by unsavory criminals, the vast majority of iPhone jail breakers simply want to utilize 3rd party applications that are not available in the App Store. ReadWriteWeb has already covered a number of reputable applications in this category including Spotify and Google Voice.

Says EFF spokesperson Fred von Lohmann,” The culture of tinkering (or hacking, if you prefer) is an important part of our innovation economy. Many iPhone owners will be happy to choose solely from the applications that Apple is willing to approve…but if you want to pop the hood, the DMCA surely shouldn’t stand in your way.”

Photo credit for Steve Wozniak’s Blue Box at the Computer History Museum: Wikipedia User RaD man

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