View Full Version : 'geohot': The man who started the hacker wars

04-30-2012, 05:27 PM
'My whole life is a hack'


An interesting article at 'The New Yorker' covers the life of George Hotz, including how he hacked the iPhone, the PS3 and the start of the 'Hacker Wars'.

I'm pretty sure you all know George Hotz alias 'geohot'.

Yep, he's the guy who hacked both the iPhone and PlayStation 3. Well, American magazine The New Yorker, will include in this week issue a special article about him, covering almost all his life, including how he hacked the iPhone, the PS3 and the subsequent Sony lawsuits and Hacker Wars...

In the summer of 2007, Apple released the iPhone, in an exclusive partnership with A.T. & T. George Hotz, a seventeen-year-old from Glen Rock, New Jersey, was a T-Mobile subscriber. He wanted an iPhone, but he also wanted to make calls using his existing network, so he decided to hack the phone.

He used a Phillips-head eyeglass screwdriver to undo the two screws in the back of the phone. Then he slid a guitar pick around the tiny groove, and twisted free the shell with a snap. Eventually, he found his target: a square sliver of black plastic called a baseband processor, the chip that limited the carriers with which it could work. To get the baseband to listen to him, he had to override the commands it was getting from another part of the phone. He soldered a wire to the chip, held some voltage on it, and scrambled its code. The iPhone was now at his command. On his PC, he wrote a program that enabled the iPhone to work on any wireless carrier.

Yep, he hacked the iPhone. The next morning posted a video saying: “This is the world’s first unlocked iPhone.” This one received nearly two million views and made him the most famous hacker in the world. Thats how all started...

“My whole life is a hack,” Hotz told me one afternoon last June, in Palo Alto, California. He had moved there the previous month. He was now twenty-one, stocky, and scruffy. He wore a gray T-shirt under a gray hoodie, ripped bluejeans, and brown suède moccasins. “I don’t hack because of some ideology,” he said. “I hack because I’m bored.”

Of course, he continued to "jailbreak," or unlock subsequent versions of the iPhone until, two years later, he turned to his next target: the Sony's PS3.

That year (2009), someone mailed Hotz a PlayStation 3 video-game system, challenging him to be the first in the world to crack it. Hotz posted his announcement online and once again set about finding the part of the system that he could manipulate into doing what he wanted. Hotz focussed on the “hypervisor,” powerful software that controls what programs run on the machine.


On January 23, 2010, a little more than a month after posting his challenge, Hotz announced on his blog, “I have hacked the PS3.” He later posted instructions for others to do the same, and freely distributed the code. Hotz had hacked the two most iconic and ironclad devices of his generation. “Nothing is unhackable,” he told the BBC. “I can now do whatever I want with the system. It’s like I’ve got an awesome new power—I’m just not sure how to wield it.”

Sony responded by releasing a software update that disabled OtherOS, the feature through which Hotz had accessed the hypervisor. This, of course, pissed off people. Some were mad at Sony and others at Hotz. This was just the beginning of the "Hacker Wars".

In late December, Hotz decided once again to try to hack the PS3 in a way that would give him total control and let him restore what Sony had removed.


Hotz knew that the metldr key was hidden within the PS3, but now he realized that he didn’t necessarily have to find and break into the secret place. He could run a special decryption program in a different part of the machine, and make the key appear there. He had to figure out how to speak to the metldr, and then command it to appear. Within ten minutes, he had coded the PS3 hack.

The cursor blinked, indicating that Hotz had the power to do anything with the PS3: install OtherOS, play pirated games, or run obscure Japanese software. He prepared a Web page and a video documenting what he had done. But he hesitated. Although Apple had never sued anyone for jailbreaking, Sony had reacted fiercely to previous modifications of the PlayStation. Sony had also long boasted about the security of the PS3. Hotz wasn’t just undoing years of corporate P.R.; he was potentially opening the door to piracy.

After that, he received an e-mail from Sony announcing a lawsuit against him.

A California district court granted Sony the restraining order against Hotz, preventing him from hacking and disseminating more details about its machines. It also approved a request by Sony to subpoena information from Twitter, Google, YouTube, and Bluehost, Hotz’s Internet provider, including the Internet Protocol addresses of anyone who downloaded the instructions from his site—a move that further incensed digital-rights advocates. Sony also gained access to records from Hotz’s PayPal account. In some circles, the rebel leader was becoming a martyr. As one fan of Hotz’s posted: “geohot = savior of mankind.”

Yep, hackers around the World were pretty mad, including Anonymous.

In early April, an Anonymous member created an Internet relay chat room called Operation Sony, or #OpSony. “It is the duty of Anonymous to help out this young lad, and to protest against Sony’s censorship,”

On April 4th, Anonymous announced the plan to the public in a press release: “Congratulations, Sony. You have now received the undivided attention of Anonymous. You saw a hornets nest, and stuck your penises in it. You must face the consequences of your actions, Anonymous style.” Within hours, both Sony.com and PlayStation.com were down. Anonymous posted a video on YouTube with its demands: Drop the case against Hotz and allow for modifications on the PS3. Over an image of a Guy Fawkes mask, which the group uses as a symbol, text read, “Leave Fellow hackers like geohot alone.”

That's right, we all know how this ended. The massive PlayStation Network outbreak. And while it is unclear whether someone from Anonymous were responsible for the hack or whether it was just someone taking advantage of the chaos, the events were clearly linked.

Hotz didn't agree with those attacks and posted a rant against the PSN hackers. "Running homebrew and exploring security on your devices is cool,"

That was not the end for all Sony troubles, as soon they had a new force to contend with: an Anonymous splinter group called Lulz Security, commonly known as LulzSec.

The day after the PBS prank, the group began tweeting a series of warnings to Sony. “Hey @Sony,” one read, “you know we’re making off with a bunch of your internal stuff right now and you haven’t even noticed? Slow and steady, guys.” Some saw the warnings as more geohot backlash for the company. “The group is sending a message to Sony for messing with one of their own, hacker George Hotz,” a blogger wrote.

2011 was surely crazy...

Black-hat hackers began posting corporate e-mails, and, during the summer of 2011, attacks on media, technology, and other institutions came almost daily. Nintendo got hacked, and so did Sega, Electronic Arts, the News Corporation, Booz Allen Hamilton, NATO, and Lady Gaga. Even the C.I.A. was hacked, LulzSec claimed. It was the Summer of Lulz. Hotz didn’t mean to inspire a hacker war, but he doesn’t regret what he did.

One night at a restaurant in Palo Alto, he clarified his position on the attacks against Sony. “If being a techno-libertarian leads to online anarchy, so be it,” he said. “I’m not a cause. I just like messing with ****.”

A month after his settlement with Sony, last spring, Hotz moved back to California to take a full-time job at Facebook. But, just eight months later, Hotz quit. “Facebook is a fun place to work,” he said, “but I wonder how people stay employed for so long.”

He wouldn’t say what he was going to do next, but apparently, he won’t be sharing his exploits on the Internet anymore. “I’m through with all that,” he said.

The last thing we know about him is that he was arrested because of marijuana possession (http://www.maxconsole.com/cgi-bin/maxconsole/rknewz.pl?function=detail&id=RKSID00000000000000000681&cat=GENERAL). Well, there you go. He's surely controversial and in certain ways he acts like a normal teenager, but thanks to him we can have control over our entertainment devices, as should be.

"Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg may be his generation’s most famous hacker, but Hotz most embodies its original spirit. He hacks for the technical challenge and the fun."

You can find the full article below. Don't miss it out... it's pretty neat!

NEWS SOURCE: 2012 05/07 by Kushner (via) NewYorker (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/05/07/120507fa_fact_kushner?currentPage=all)

Many thanks to 'Gauss' for writing this summary for me from an advance URL tip from a old close friend of mine!

05-01-2012, 06:53 AM
Why does this guy get all the credit for hacking?

There have been plenty of other hackers that hacked many high profile devices in the past. Only difference is they weren't stupid enough to get caught by using Twitter/Youtube.

05-01-2012, 07:23 AM
Why does this guy get all the credit for hacking?

There have been plenty of other hackers that hacked many high profile devices in the past. Only difference is they weren't stupid enough to get caught by using Twitter/Youtube.

1) for being the first to hack 2 supposedly unhackable systems
2) sony made him famous

05-01-2012, 07:56 AM
That doesn't make him special... Every device is considered unhackable until its hacked.

Where's the recognition for the original iPod jail breakers, Xbox orig/360, PS1, PS2, Wii, NDS hackers, Video/PC game & Software crackers.... etc etc etc.

Geohot needs to go to the back of the line of successful device hackers/crackers. Instead of bumming his way up to the front of the line thanks to the publicity generated by Sony and Facebook.

05-01-2012, 08:06 AM
1) for being the first to hack 2 supposedly unhackable systems
2) sony made him famous

3) for being a dickhead showing his real face to the world like "hi am gonna rob ur bank & steal your gold, here is mah driver license, hunt me plzkthxbai".

Captain N1
05-01-2012, 08:51 AM
he needs to hack in to area 51 and get the alien documents lolz :p

really though id like to see the dsi/3ds hacked.

05-01-2012, 08:57 AM
he needs to hack in to area 51 and get the alien documents lolz :p

really though id like to see the dsi/3ds hacked.

Yeah, someone mail him a 3DS so he can get sued by Nintendo. -- They are worse then Sony when it comes to lawsuits and takedowns!

05-01-2012, 06:17 PM
Hey guys... I omitted a very important part in this summary. I actually thought this was widely known or something like that, but seems it was not lol. Well, GeoHot also met with Sony engineers (on May, last year) to describe his "hacking methodology".

Last May, engineers from Sony invited Hotz to a meeting at its American headquarters, a half hour’s drive north, in Foster City. (“We are always interested in exploring all avenues to better safeguard our systems and protect consumers,” Kennedy told me.) Nervous but curious, Hotz walked into the building eating from a box of Lucky Charms, dropping marshmallows across the lobby. “If there were going to be lawyers there,” he recalled, “I was going to be the biggest asshole ever.” Instead, he found a roomful of PS3 engineers who were “respectful,” he said, and wanted to learn more about how he had beaten their system. During the next hour or so, the man who had started the hacker wars described his methodology.

Sorry about the omission!

05-02-2012, 04:44 AM
So let me get this straight egohot hacks the ps3, Sony then remove otheros because of egohots hack then the whole hacker community go after Sony shouldnt they have gone after egohot for making sony remove otheros? Also does anyone care about some kid hacking a console when you've got western governments electronically monitering its own citizens more and more? Or finding out just how much petrochemical companies are screwing everyone?

05-02-2012, 11:01 AM
shouldnt they have gone after egohot for making sony remove otheros?

no, the security failure was sony's problem, they could (and should) have fixed it but took the "easy" option to just remove it.

put it this way, when the psn was breached did they remove that permanently or did they fix the problem?

if sony had issued a firmware update that disabled other os and clearly stated that the were fixing it and would restore it as soon as they could then much of their subsequent issues wouldn't have occurred, geohot, failoverflow and graf wouldnt have set to work to restore linux, sony wouldnt have had them arrested and then used the courts to rape many peoples privacy which wouldn't then have stirred up hackers around the world to act out of revenge.