Given the recent crackdown on counterfeit phones and the fact that some devices are locked to specific networks, some users may be forced to adapt to some changes. However, in the recent past, locked devices have been creating a market for a special breed of technicians.
This group of unsavory hackers has been making a profit from unwitting companies that try to force consumers to stick to their brand. They are aware that some consumers are more than willing to get free games on their consoles or free Apps on their phones. It may be a mobile phone locked to Safaricom or an App that costs more than the user is willing to pay. The fact remains that some people would rather have an extra service for free than be forced to deal with the terms and conditions set in place by their service provider. After all, once you buy something, you can do whatever you want with it. Right?
Maybe not, because, in 2007, a hacker by the name of Geroge Hotz compromised his iPhone’s operating system and almost spent some time in prison. The hack enabled iPhone users to use their devices on any GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications – coined from Groupe Spécial Mobile) carrier. According to local mobile phone technician, Erastus Mwangi, the jail-breaking software for the iPhone is freely available online, but some people prefer to pay a professional to do it for them.
At the time of Hotz’s crime, Apple’s only GSM provider was AT&T. Despite the fact that the hack was already publicly available, Apple agreed to make a deal with Hotz, forcing him to relinquish the laptop he used to hack the phone. The company planned to use it to stop any similar hacks from compromising their systems in the future. Later that year, Hotz got a job as a software engineer for Facebook.
The company has since decided to add other networks to their docket.
According to TG Daily, Hotz’s infamous exploits made the term jailbreak a household name. Soon thereafter anyone with internet access was able to simply Google the instructions in order to unlock the device.
Shortly thereafter, Hotz hacked into the Sony PlayStation 3, one of the world’s most impenetrable videogame systems. “The brazen move solidified Geohot (that’s Hotz’s online handle) as the world’s greatest hacker,” said Joseph Walker, a writer for Fins Technology. Sony was not impressed, because their lawyers made moves to sue Hotz.
However, in 2011, Anonymous, a group of world-renowned hackers, compromised the Sony Playstation Network (PSN) as a sign of retaliation against Hotz’s arrest. Unlike local hackers, these digital extremists are a non-profit organization that prefer to make their hacks publicly available.
As a result of their actions, Sony was forced to shut down the online multi-player gaming and digital media service for about 2 months, resulting in losses worth over USD 2.08 billion (KES 176.8 billion) by May 2011.
According to The Register, a UK-based data and technology resource publication, forensic experts hired by Sony discovered a file titled “Anonymous” during their digital sweep of the Network. The file also contained the phrase “We are Legion”, a nod towards the Biblical story of many demons possessing one host.
“The attacks were coordinated against Sony as a protest against Sony for exercising its rights in a civil action in the United States District Court in San Francisco against a hacker,” said Sony Chairman, Kazuo Hirai. Speaking just weeks after other companies under the Sony umbrella had been targeted by the same group, Kazuo mentioned that the attacks not only targeted Sony, but the company’s consumers as well. Sony reports that over 102 million PSN accounts had been compromised worldwide. Sony later dropped the charges against Hotz but banned him from ever accessing their Network.
Consequences of Hacking
Today, anyone with a jail-broken Playstation 3 cannot access the internet on their device without Sony’s knowledge. An online update from the service provider ensures that the hack is fixed as soon as the user connects to the internet. Users also stand to lose their warranty.
From a more local perspective, some phones are locked to specific service providers. As such, those wishing to switch networks are forced to either purchase new devises or get a phone mechanic to change the settings. This kind of hacking has some of the same repercussions as Sony’s. Unlocked devices lose their warranties and online updates for Apps overwrite most jailbreaks (according to an officially issued warning by Apple). This means that smart-phone users may not be able to access updates without risking the validity of their current Apps.
Applications may become unstable and voice and data services may not operate at their usual level of efficiency. What’s more, Apple notes that the the jailbreak may shorten the phone’s battery life. The same thing applies to other mobile phone brands,
Some people may be desperate to escape the strict guidelines set in place by the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK). As such, there are technicians who have been doing this kind of thing for quite some time. It may take a while to smooth out the finer details of hacking but they may actually be successful. After all, more complex devices have been compromised before.