A rare interview with famous iOS hacker pod2g

By , Dec 20, 2012

Me showing pod2g

I met pod2g for the first time a few months ago at JailbreakCon. Before meeting him, I was a bit nervous because the man was already a legend in the jailbreak community. Besides his accomplishments, all I knew about Cyril (his real name) was that, like me, he was French.

Over the course of 4 days, Cyril and I became friends and learned about each other. We didn’t talk much about jailbreaking. Instead, we were just having casual talks about everything and just about anything. During that time, I was able to see Cyril interact with other people. Despite the fact that he is as close as it gets to gaining the rock star status, Cyril was incredibly humble, friendly, and accessible to everyone who would walk by to talk to him.

Cyril and I have stayed in touch ever since, exchanging a few messages here and there, checking out each other’s projects. Today, he agrees to answer a few questions for iDownloadBlog readers in this rare interview…

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Who are you? What do you do for a living? Are you married, kids, etc?

My name is Cyril, I’m 32, I have two kids, not married. I am a Project Manager for a software company, but I’m taking a sabbatical leave for a few months. I’m currently in the process of creating my software and security research company. By the way, I’m looking for projects and clients to offer either my research, consulting, or training skills.

What kind of music do you listen to these days?

I’m a fan of Muse, Linkin Park, and more recently C2C.

What do you do when you’re not behind your computer? Do you have hobbies or passions?

I go out and have beers with friends. I like going to the movie. I’m there at least every other week. Besides that, I watch quite a few TV series. I love House MD and the Mentalist.

Can you walk us through a typical day in pod2g’s life?

These last few months, a typical day is: wake up, development research, lunch, software development, dinner, communication, software development until 3am. In short, 99% of work.

How did you start coding and hacking?

I started programming very early. At 5, I would copy BASIC programs from one of my father’s books on my ZX 81. Then I started writing my own programs, small games, applications, etc.

My best work was done on Atari ST where I wrote GF BASIC technical demos, and 68k assembler (for the purists out there: overscans, rasters, roto-zoom, etc…).

Why do you now work on iOS rather than another platform?

I’m an Apple fan, whether it is about iOS devices or desktop machines. I own a MacBook Pro and an iMac.

iOS is a watered down version of OS X, but everything is in there. It’s the same pleasure to have a UNIX kernel. When jailbroken, it gives you access to all the GNU and open source classics. Also, the source code of the XNU kernel is available online, and everyone can read the code and look for potential exploits. It gives a very high level of safety and reliability. Finding breaches and exploiting them becomes an important challenge, highly recognized in the industry.

iOS also has the largest and highest quality catalogue of mobile applications, with the app review process only increasing the quality level. The fact that Apple controls both the hardware and software limits market fragmentation. Most users have the latest version of iOS installed, and many of them usually get the latest hardware at some point.

We’re very far from the economic model of Android where prices rule the market instead of quality. Fragmentation is at every level of Android: OS version, hardware, manufacturers. This is a real nightmare for developers and security researchers.

The benefit of working on iOS is the guarantee that your work will reach a larger population and will be sustained for a few years.

What I can say regarding the Cydia ecosystem is that there are many talented developers (because it’s a real challenge to modify a system without having access to its source code), some tweaks are very clever, and there are countless themes and graphic mods.

This is not an accident if many tweak ideas are picked up and used in iOS and Android.

If I wanted to be the next pod2g, what advice would you give me?

First, this is not given to anyone. You must have some solid skills in development, but also in the understanding of how modern operating systems work. To start, you must read numerous books and white papers about the topic. The most interesting ones about hacking iOS are:

Only once you have assimilated the notions explained in these books will you be able to start working on jailbreaking.

The goal isn’t success. The goal is to help the community develop tools.

The secret is passion.

How many iOS devices do you own?

iPod touch 3rd Gen, iPod touch 4th Gen, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPad 2, and iPad 3.

Are they all jailbroken?

All my devices are jailbroken except for the ones I use daily (iPhone 4S, and iPad 3). These two aren’t jailbroken for two reasons:
to force me to work on the iOS 6 jailbreak and because I am currently developing an official application, I want to be able to test it in a stock configuration

Do you use many jailbreak apps? What are your favorites?

I use few of them but here is my list of must-haves:

  • OpenSSH: to easily access the iPhone file system and for security research
  • SBSettings: for quick access to the iPhone settings
  • Barrel: I love the geekiness of it. Everyone knows your iPhone is jailbroken when you use it.
  • IntelliScreenX: so I can have access to my social network at the slide of a finger. It’s a beautiful app!
  • 5 icons dock: to add Twitter without moving stock icons in the dock

Where do you see the jailbreak community in 12 months? Are we on the right track or have we hit a wall?

I’m very confident about the next 6 months. I honestly believe that iOS 6 will be jailbroken and that developers will keep coming up with more quality apps. Discussions about future tweaks during JailbreakCon have opened new doors. Creativity won’t stop.

Regarding future iOS versions, I don’t really know what to think. I believe Apple will make it harder and harder to find and develop jailbreaks in a timely manner.

My message to Apple is the following: why not stop the fight and let users install unsigned applications, just like it is possible on OS X? It could be done the right way to let people install tweaks while making sure piracy is limited.

I am convinced that it would allow iOS to gain market shares over Android.

What’s the question you’re asked the most? How do you usually answer it?

Besides questions about the release of the next jailbreak, I’m often asked about how to help or how to start jailbreaking. My answer is always the same: read the iOS Hacker’s Handbook. The problem is that people don’t really realize how hard it is. They think it’s as easy as installing something on the device and done.

Some hackers sell their exploits. Have you ever thought about working for profits? Why or why not?

My answer is linked to the next question. My goal is to reach as many people as possible with my work. That’s what drives me! Releasing a paid jailbreak would make it implode on its own, making it much less interesting to everyone.

If money is not you source of motivation, what drives you?

What drives me is mass market. Reaching the largest amount of people with a software. What can be more motivating than a jailbreak downloaded millions of times?

It seems you are the one person mainly responsible for the latest jailbreak although this jailbreak has been labeled as a release from the Chronic Dev Team. Do you sometimes feel like someone is stealing your show?

The Chronic Dev Team hasn’t much to do with the last two jailbreaks. The people who helped the most are, by alphabetical order: @MuscleNerd, @pimskeks, @planetbeing, and @saurik.

However, the Chronic Dev Team has a good infrastructure to offer (ie. web servers, IRC, etc). This allowed for a good team work and a release of the jailbreak under ideal conditions.

The members of this team are my friends, and it is thanks to our past collaboration that I was able to get the necessary knowledge. We are all in good terms and this is the reason why I wanted to share the stage with them.

I’ll admit that when I hear that the jailbreak was released by the Chronic Dev Team, it makes me jump off my seat, and it is the reason why I kinda stepped away from it these last few months.

What do you think about i0nic always teasing us with a new jailbreak that he won’t release to the public?

It’s quite depressing. He’s having fun creating trolls. On the other end, I believe it helps him strengthen his business. I can understand both sides.

You recently said you were not working on the iOS 6 jailbreak. What would make you change your mind?

There is a big chance I change my mind. I actually spent a few hours on it since WWJC, but I still don’t have enough time to work on it.

Working with @planetbeing motivates me a lot. He’s always very resourceful and he raises the bar.

It seems that the entire community is relying on you and a handful of other hackers. Can you feel a pressure from jailbreak users?

Yes I can feel a strong pressure, but I believe most of my followers understand that working on a jailbreak isn’t our full-time job and that we do our best to conciliate work life, personal life, and work on a jailbreak.

I often receive messages on Twitter telling me to slow down, to take our time, and maybe wait for iOS 6.1, etc…

During JailbreakCon, you mentioned that there aren’t enough hackers working on finding exploits. How do you think the community could “recruit” hackers? How to focus efforts and be sure that everybody is working together?

I thought about it a lot during JailbreakCon. Recruiting people to help is easier said than done, because these people must:

  • be crazy about iOS and OS X
  • be talented hackers
  • have time to dedicate to the task
  • not be part of a security firm, or else the work could be used for other ends
  • be loyal and not be looking for fame, because there is a risk to leak information that Apple could use to fix holes before the release of the jailbreak

I think the best spot to find these people is at HITB for example, because the people attending this kind of conference are definitely talented.

I have already created an IRC channel where I will invite people I’ll find interesting.

All eyes are currently on you. You have a profile that must be of interest to many companies, including Apple. Has Apple ever offered you a job? Would you be interested in working for Apple (or any other large company), or would you rather be independent?

I have been in discussions with Apple several times over a potential job there, but in reality, it won’t be possible. I want to stay in France so I can be close to my family and friends, and as a business owner, working for Apple would be against my best interests. We’ll see. 2013 will be a very important year for me professionally speaking.

Chpwn recently showed off a jailbroken iPhone 5 running iOS 6. Can you tell us what he did? Is it a good starting point for an iOS 6 jailbreak?

In short, this “jailbreak” is based on a developer certificate. It doesn’t alter the kernel allowing for a real, full jailbreak, which is why we call it a “failbreak”. It’s a very good start because it allows security researchers to have access to the file system, to modify any iOS file, and execute unsigned code at the root level. On the other end, this failbreak can’t be used as a public jailbreak.

If you’re not working on a jailbreak, can you tell us more about what you’re doing these days?

As I mentioned above, I don’t have much time because I am in the process of creating a company, and I’m actively working on a software. Since I have taken a sabbatical, my future revenues depend on this work, which is why I’m dedicating 100% of my time to it.

Is there anything you’d like to add? Maybe you have a message for someone?

I have two messages.

The first one is to my followers, whom I want to thank for their patience and their support. I can’t guarantee that I will work on a jailbreak in the next few days, but as soon as I have time on my hands, I’ll be back.

The second message is to Apple, because I was disappointed about the iPhone, which has no significant added value compared to the iPhone 4S, especially in France where there is no 4G LTE support. I can’t find the innovation in this product that I was able to find in previous models. You have to take risks, add new features while improving interactivity. I’m worried about the future, especially with this closed OS and pressure coming from Android.

Note: this interview was conducted in French and translated by myself (download French version). I tried to keep the spirit of the original version as much as I could. Cyril got to look at the translation and approved it.

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  • rajnaimesh007

    why don’t you do a video interview ..is any one in the world have a time for reading this big artilcle ?

    • rajnaimesh007

      but i really like to see he is the fan of Linkin pARK

    • rajnaimesh007

      Work on IOS 6 man :(

      • brayden fleming

        maybe if you ask one more time he’ll do it

      • http://www.facebook.com/liamsagooch Liam Googolplex Merlyn

        That was a bit of a jackass thing to say when he’s just clearly explained as to why he isn’t doing it

    • ac3xx

      I read it in under 5 minutes, I think the interview is a perfect length.

    • Marc

      I did…

    • Jonathan

      I prefer the text to video. I can read at my own speed. I can’t be bother to watch or listen at the speed people talk at. This is a great article/interview as it is.

      • http://www.facebook.com/liamsagooch Liam Googolplex Merlyn

        I do too, I often re-read sentences to make sure I fully understood them, much harder to keep rewinding a video

    • http://twitter.com/GoncaloMrqs Gonçalo Marques

      I did! ahah

    • seyss

      totally agree… it may be a shame but I don’t read long stuff nor write using my hands anymore.. haha

    • http://twitter.com/worm_202 Sergey Filatov

      For me – it’s no problem, text interview is also interesting

    • brayden fleming

      ^^^^ @rajnaimesh007

      must have a low reading level! wasnt too long.
      plus the original interview was in french…

    • Emre SUMENGEN

      You have time to watch, but you don’t have time to read?

      So, why are you visiting a blog, rather than watching TV?

      • ken

        nice one!

  • http://twitter.com/H2CO3_iOS Árpád Goretity

    Pourriez-vous nous faire acceder a l’article originel ?

    • Milad Khahil

      À la fin du message:
      Note: this interview was conducted in French and translated by myself (download French version).

      • http://twitter.com/H2CO3_iOS Árpád Goretity

        Oui, *apres* que je l’avais demande…

  • seyss

    He is the “Van Damme” of the jailbreak scene..

  • http://twitter.com/worm_202 Sergey Filatov

    I want to thank pod2g for his work on Absinthe (and other tools), and I really hope that he will return to jailbreak

  • seyss

    this guy is a prodigy.. he started working with programming at 5?? wtf???

  • http://www.facebook.com/bjhooper Brandon Hooper

    Jeff, Please consider starting an official iDB prize which we can all donate small amounts into, and whoever releases the next jailbreak wins it. We need to incentivise our hackers! We know they don’t do it for the money, but the truth is that they are regular hard working people, and there’s so much benefit to the iOS community that offering them financial security is both ethical and well within reason. Think X-Prize. Lets start a prize and let the users decide what to contribute. (please upvote if you agree so Jeff can see.)

    • http://www.iDownloadBlog.com Sebastien

      Even if Jeff saw it, he wouldn’t be the one making the final decision ;)

      This being said, we were asked to do that many times before but I don’t see it as our mission to raise money for any cause. There is just too much liability involved in raising money and I’d much rather focus our efforts on delivering great content and promoting jailbreaking as a whole community.

      I hope you understand.

      • http://www.facebook.com/bjhooper Brandon Hooper

        I guess that makes sense. I wish someone would do it, but there’s a lot of liability, especially when dealing with the apple world.

      • Guest

        Question: I know you stated that you two were working on an interview after Pod2G was in San Francisco. How long ago did you guys start the Q and A process that is posted above? The interview said he decided to answer today, or something along those lines. However, has this interview process been going on for some time and, if so, was there a change in his perspective over time concerning the ios6 jailbreak? (it seems he fluctuates about his personal motivation and involvement in it, that is why I am asking concerning time.) Also, from conversing with him, how do you personally feel about his motivation and enthusiasm at this point? I’m guessing the fact that he said he’s on IOS 6 for motivation is an indicator?

      • http://www.iDownloadBlog.com Sebastien

        All answers to the questions were given to me last week. I know Cyril had been working on it for a while though. From the time I met him at WWJC to this day, his motivation and involvement hasn’t changed one bit, as far as I can tell. He’s been very consistent in his answering about his involvement in the jailbreak. Like he said in the interview, he’s working on something else, which is sucking in all of his time. By the way, I think people are going to love what he’s working on (hint: it’s not a jailbreak!). Once he’s done with his project, he may work on the jailbreak again, as he said in the interview.

      • Matthew

        Now I’m curious!

      • ReanimationXP

        Sebastien, Thanks to you and pod2g for the interview and it was great to speak with both of you at WWJC :)

        Could you elaborate a bit on the liabilities involved with accepting donations to give out should a jailbreak be created? Are you recommending that others in the community not start such a fund / site, or is it just something outside the focus of iDB?

    • http://www.facebook.com/bjhooper Brandon Hooper

      I know iDB can’t take the risk, but someone (not in dental school) should step up and help create a website + paypal acct. where users can both donate and visibly see the amount raised.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jamie.tilden.9 Jamie Tilden

        Why don’t you do it?

      • ReanimationXP

        Obviously he’s in dental school and doesn’t have the time.

    • ken

      yeah,motivating but can break team work. i prefer paying for the jailbreak like some HSPLs used in some windows mobile then.Even if it costs a dollar for a copy of redsn0w.

  • jose castro

    Lol I really would not consider him a rare interview.

  • http://www.facebook.com/steven.vogt.14 Steven Vogt

    Ya know maybe if they did charge money for a jailbreak it would get done sooner. I gotta say by this point I’m pretty tired of waiting and I’d gladly pay for it even if was like a hundred bucks. The waiting game is driving me crazy!

    • http://www.facebook.com/liamsagooch Liam Googolplex Merlyn

      But then their own personal life would deteriorate, Pod2g said “I’m dedicating 100% of my time to [starting my own business]” in order to finance his whole life, if he started working on a JB and getting money for it, it would take his focus of the real goal. His personal life comes way, way before our iOS luxuries.

      • http://www.facebook.com/steven.vogt.14 Steven Vogt

        It wasn’t aimed toward pod2g, I understand he has a life outside of jail breaking. I was talking about the people who have the talent to create jailbreaks and with all due respect to pod2g he’s not the only one capable of doing so.

      • http://www.facebook.com/liamsagooch Liam Googolplex Merlyn

        Ohh okay then, sorry, my mistake

      • ken

        hmm..that’s a point.

  • http://www.facebook.com/laszlo.italia Laszlo Marsi

    what does he think about android?

  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

    his final, statement is very very powerful indeed and i hope apple listens but i know they want

    • Milad Khahil

      You mean they won’t …

    • http://www.facebook.com/bjhooper Brandon Hooper

      You’re absolutely right! I’ve been thinking about this for a while. There’s 5-10% of us iOS users that have been sticking with apple because we love good design and innovation. Apple is quickly losing the hearts of true innovators by sandboxing. The truth is that they’ve reached into so many other markets (older age groups, children, education, business) that their core (artists/innovators) is leaving them slowly. I remember how a year ago I’d be telling anyone I could how easy and amazing a jailbroken iPhone is. Now I tell people that if a Jailbreak is no longer obtainable with newer releases, I will probably switch. The 5% of us who jailbreak are the core voice to our family and friends who don’t know this stuff as well, so we actually have a strong pull on apple’s market. They’d be foolish to just open the phone up, but they’d also be foolish not to add an ssh toggle deep within settings app, or at least give us a head start. Apple needs to figure out how to let us jailbreak without risking security flaws and embrace us or else their very long term success, in several years will yield to more open source and open minded competitors.

  • Greyhound Mom

    I think this is a shame. Idolizing someone who has to hack into something? What is wrong with this world that we idolize people who break the rules.

    • http://twitter.com/x_rus_x Vitaliy Anonymous

      Not really idolizing, but respecting someone.

      • Ronald Weaver

        Well put.

    • http://twitter.com/wolfer_r Wolfer

      Nobody is braking the rules, when u buy something is urs to do what u want with it!!!! It is on the USA Constitution!!!! And nobody is idolizing!!!, we are all just trying to liberate an industry that is trying to break the rules, that work for money and not for the users!!! That goes against the constitution because doesnt want to let u do with the things u buy, whatever u want to do with it!!!! If I want to break it, I break it!!! It is mine, I pay for it, so I do whatever I want with it!!!! This is not breaking the rules and the law, APPLE IS BREAKING THE RULES, AND THE LAW AND THE CONSTITUTION OF THE USA!!!!

      • Jen Eric Person

        Enough with the caps lock already, we get your point.

      • http://twitter.com/wolfer_r Wolfer

        Sorry…so much hatred here!!! Come on lets help those guys who give you all you jailbreaks for free!!! What are all of you who hate me doing for the comunity? At least Im trying to help!!! This is why pod2g maybe too stop working for now on the jailbreak because all of you are just haters because you can not do it yourselves!!! Or not help in any positive!!!!

    • http://twitter.com/oneBurge Burge

      What rules ? Your device you do what you want with it.. Will Apple replace the phone for nothing because you broke it in to bits.. No because that’s when it’s your device

    • Ronald Weaver

      I guess anyone can miss the point in something’s. But u must not understand this has nothing to do with breaking any rules. Jailbreaks are legal. It has nothing to do with jail.

      • Greyhound Mom

        LOL I know it has nothing to do with jail. But it’s hacking, I’m not saying it’s necessarily illegal, but it’s not right.

  • http://twitter.com/wolfer_r Wolfer

    Im working on the certificates too!!! It is not a safe option if u dont know how to…but it is a start….I have 3 works, a family, dad, mom, bro and sis, a wife, 3 childs…and still found time to still trying to found something I love to work on ios and macs…windows, microsoft is to easyyy!!! :D I transform my win 7 ultimate to work and look like an os x…with alienware icons!!! But the mac is the best!!! Come on lets unite!!! If some of u can show me a secure way to contact some of u, it will be better for all of us!!! I never sell any of my works!!! Sometimes I just receive fruits, food, old machines for parts, a kiss, a hugh, a smile!!!! I work for help not to gain money…right now my mortgage is late for two months!!! So I need money, but I dont want money for helping others ; I preffer a thank u, a smile, a beer

    • http://www.facebook.com/stephen.m.simon Stephen Michael Simon

      I can only assume none of your jobs involve writing coherent, legible sentences, huh?

      • http://twitter.com/wolfer_r Wolfer

        English is not my first language!!! Ok sorry if I offended u because of that DAM…what are u doing to help the comunity? At least Im trying to help!!!

    • Jen Eric Person

      You sound a little more like a 12 year old looking for attention.

      • http://twitter.com/wolfer_r Wolfer

        Well if you want to think that!!! We live in a free world

  • http://www.facebook.com/ishaanmalhotra92 Ishaan Malhotra

    Agree with the last point. Pod2g please work on The jailbreak, we will pay:’O

  • Haihon

    tomorrow never die ….God Bless pod2g

  • http://twitter.com/leothelion96 Leonard Wong

    This is a great interview to let us know more about Pod2g
    It also let people who want jailbreak badly know that latest they gonna wait for a jailbreak is half a year more which I highly doubt so
    Most likely I think March or April would a jailbreak come
    Anyway, I do hope iDownloadblog have more of such interview going!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Sejo87 Sejad Jr Sejdic

    Good Stuff pod2g, the best hackers usually start at the early age. Wish I would have followed in the same footsteps but with Windows.

    • http://twitter.com/wolfer_r Wolfer

      You can still do it man!!! Age is nothing!!! I began at 16 years old with windows, linux, sun system, and working with C++ and a little in java!!! Later mac, apple!!! Oh the penguin…it was a good system but…

  • Jerry

    I guess we can kiss any hope of a jb being released anytime soon goodbye. I’m not gonna lie tho after I got my iphone 5 I really dont miss jailbreaking as much as I thought I would. I’ve gotten used to a stock iphone and I REALLY dont miss safe mode crashing at all.

  • Tinus

    Where is George Hotz (Geohot) when we really need him?!?!?

  • http://www.facebook.com/sanil.chitrakar Sanil Chitrakar

    iPhone 5 = dissapointment
    -pod2g

    I respect him for saying that.

    • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

      i agree with him.. the 4S was “the perfect iphone4″ … but the 5 should have been something much much greater and the 5 we got is no more than a mutated 4S.. but i can accept that…

      what is really bothering me is the complete lack of progress with IOS6 it looks the same feels the same and is the same old IOS that is static and lack excitement completely

      • Ronald Weaver

        I agree with him 100%. I have not considered buying it and it’s the only model I haven’t owned yet.

  • Guest

    “I’ll admit that when I hear that the jailbreak was released by the Chronic Dev Team, it makes me jump off my seat, and it is the reason why I kinda stepped away from it these last few months.”

    Glad he stated that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jesse.matherly Jesse Matherly

    Thanks for the original French interview… Je dois practiquer la grammaire français. :)

  • Jesse Hutchinson

    I totally want to be selfish right now and say the say thing, Brandon said and I would absolutely donate, but his family comes first and his business is what is there when we don’t need him, it’s sad to say but as soon as his work is done so much attention and fame is gone, he gets a ton of hype then he does something amazing, then poof everyone is gone again. Oh but not his business that he neglects when he gets focused on the Jb, his priority no longer is what he needs but what we crave. I wish his business was jail breaking and he made great money on it but they don’t and I think it throws there world outa whack doing crazy hard work for us. For little financial benefit. The spot light the donations the emails all the attention has to feel great, then they come through! We thank him. Then we move on, money stops coming, fame fades. He’s just a programmer again who’s months behind. Probably misses the attention but he gets his priorities straighten out again. Work kids family then. boom wait we need u again??

  • http://twitter.com/lgasparjnr laszlo gaspar

    What a legend.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000707133179 Asmi Wt

    worried about the future !!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jim.heinzel Jim Heinzel

    He is right about apple losing buyers to samsung. I recently had a problem with my Iphone 4S and had to restore. They only allow a restore to 6.01 so I lost my jailbreak. I was very bored without it and bought an android even though my contract was still in effect. If I go back to the Iphone I will never upgrade again.

  • http://www.facebook.com/hamza.munir.9619 Hamza AK Munir

    You are really lucky that you have such an able friend! pod2g is a genius mind in Jailbreaking! And also happy to hear that there is still hope for jailbreak even after or within 6 months :)