Behind The Exploits: The Dev Team


Wow, where do you start with these guys? They are probably the reason most of you have iPhones, and they are definitely the reason Sebastien and I are writing to you guys all the time. You certainly couldn’t “liberate your iPhone” without these guy’s transcendent work.

Known to each other by their IRC names like “musclenerd” and “pytey“, and known to everyone else as simply, The Dev Team. They are a group of dedicated programmers and hackers, each with their own set of unique but advanced skill set, that come together to bring us jailbreak programs like RedSn0w and PwnageTool and unlocks like UltraSn0w.

From all around the world, these guys meet on IRC and work during their free time. With so many members in different time zones, The Dev Team’s work on the iPhone is almost constant, especially after Apple releases a new update.

But don’t think these guys are one trick ponies. Several of them are doing work with the upcoming Android platform, and these guys have actually entered hacking contests. Chaos Communication Congress Capture The Flag Competition in Berlin to be exact. Live and in person, The Dev Team actually won the competition by a a hefty margin. They have come a long way, enduring many accomplishments and evolution.

Although there have been several changes within The Dev Team, both in personnel and policy, one thing remains the same, they continue to lead the fight against Apple’s tight user restriction policies. Without their software, users like us would not be able to customize our backgrounds, our icons, hell our phones!

One thing I continue to respect about these guys is that they’re not looking to make money. Whether it’s for legal or moral reasons, these guys maintain an ad free blog site that “Pytey” of The Dev Team told Mobile Crunch receives in the neighborhood of 3.5million hits around a jailbreak/unlock release date. They also continue to turn down cash offers to those sleazy overnight jailbreak startup websites that charge you for “their” software.

In fact they publicly have despised these websites in an effort to warn users of their sketchy practices. This might also have something to do with their dispute with a Jody Sanders, of West Midlands, UK. Seems this gentleman was using a large amount of The Dev Team’s work in his software and was making quite a profit. I don’t know that I would wanna piss off guys with these kinds of skills, they sound like they’ve already uncovered a lot of information about him and posted publicly on their blog asking for more help tracking him down.

With publicly followed drama of almost celebrity status (well among popular iPhone and gadget blogs) The Dev Team’s former member George “GeoHot” Hotz and his former colleagues didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of things. It seems a lot of the problems began when Hotz went public with his completely unlocked iPhone, having worked with The Dev Team just months before. They actually referred to him as the “self appointed media front man” that led a “media circus” in 2007.

For those of you that don’t recall, Hotz was given a new Nissan 350z and other things in return for his jailbroken iPhone. A year later their dispute resurfaced as GeoHot obtained a copy of the exploit used to jailbreak iphone 2.0 firmware for 1st gens and 3G, from a Dev Team member and threatened the Dev Team with releasing his own jailbreak software, using that exploit if they didn’t release PwnageTool at a sooner date.

So why do they continue to put up with the pressure of hitting release dates, scammers that steal their work, and others that throw stones at them when they don’t conform. It’s a hobby. Some people relax by fishing or reading, these guys really get down on soldering and disassembling things, especially iPhones.

Since their initial software releases in 2007, the Dev Team has continued with this game of cat and mouse with Apple. They find an exploit, use it, Apple covers it up in an update, and then they start all over again. Until recently, Apple has been relatively quiet about jailbreaking and the hackers behind the software.

Their license agreement of their latest developer kit (suite of software and info released to app developers as often as software is updated) actually adds a clause forbidding developers to work on jailbroken equipment. But as developers continue to find reasons or are forced to leave Apple’s App Store, the jailbroken platform gains more and more momentum. Especially as Apple has yet to see any success on fighting the users right to do what they want with a product they purchased.

Regardless it appears things are going to get interesting and The Dev Team isn’t going anywhere. Their latest blog notes that this recent firmware update 3.1.3 was released just to flush out exploits before the release of a major update, probably iPhone 4.0. Obviously, being the tricky tricksters they are, The Dev Team aren’t biting. Their current release of Pwnage Tool uses old, ported exploits and they aren’t releasing anything new until they see Apple’s next move. Man this stuff could be in movies.

P.S. @Dev-Team : you guys gonna make my iPad cooler?