There are few jailbreak hackers in the world regarded as highly as Nicholas Allegra, also known as “comex.” In the earlier days of iOS, Allegra released JailbreakMe, the first and only web-based jailbreak of its kind. He has worked on numerous jailbreaks throughout the years, but recently he’s been working off the radar.
Allegra has been in hiding for the last year because of Apple. The 20-year-old Brown student’s expertise in iOS security was noticed by the all-seeing eye of Cupertino last August, and for the past year Allegra has been working as an intern at Apple, presumably helping patch the vulnerabilities he so adeptly reverse engineered. As of today, Allegra no longer works at Apple, and there’s no telling what he’ll do next.
In a series of tweets earlier today, Allegra revealed that his internship with Apple is now over. “So… no point in delaying,” Allegra told his 190,000+ Twitter followers. “As of last week, after about a year, I’m no longer associated with Apple.”
Allegra worked two separate internship stents at Apple, the first during the fall of 2011 and the second during this past summer. According to Allegra, he’s no longer with the company because he “forgot to reply to an email.” Forbes spoke with Allegra about the news, and the prodigy hacker explained that you’re expected to answer job offers from Apple pretty quickly. It took him too long to reply back, and his chance to renew his position as a remote intern was blown. “I wasn’t too happy about it, but it didn’t seem like I was able to fix it,” he told Forbes. “So that’s what it is.” From the tone of his response, it sounds like we wouldn’t have minded sticking around at Apple for awhile longer.
Now for the question that everyone is begging to ask: Is comex about to get back into jailbreaking? According to Forbes, probably not for awhile:
When I asked Allegra what he plans to work on now, he said he’ll focus on his studies at Brown, and doesn’t foresee working on new jailbreaking tools for iOS any time soon. That may come as a disappointment for iPhone users, who have been waiting for a crack for iOS 6, a feat that may be far more difficult for the jailbreaking community to pull off than for earlier mobile operating systems due to Apple’s further tightening of iOS’s security measures.
There’s also a good chance that Allegra isn’t legally allowed to dabble in the kind of hacking that made him a household name. While working with Apple, you have to sign extensive non-disclosure statements—you’re basically sworn to secrecy for at least a certain period of time. If Allegra has seen the innards of iOS from Apple’s end, then he possesses very valuable trade secrets. Taking advantage of them could be seen as a federal offense.
A jailbreak for iOS 6 is being worked by other brilliant hackers in the jailbreak community, most notably pod2g and the Chronic Dev Team. Dev Team member planetbeing tweeted today that he has Cydia tweaks running on a jailbroken iPhone 5, and he’s one step closer to a tethered (and then eventually untethered) jailbreak. It will take some time before a full iOS 6 jailbreak is ready for the public, but it’s definitely being worked on. Who knows how much faster the process would go if Allegra hopped back on board.
Forbes ran a great profile on Allegra last year that detailed his impressive talent for jailbreaking. To create JailbreakMe, Allegra used techniques that make the NSA look outdated. According to other prominent security researchers, Allegra is years ahead of his competition. His talents will be of great use in whatever he decides to focus on, even if it’s something like the Wii U game console. Maybe he’ll work on jailbreaking iOS again one day, but maybe he won’t. Regardless of what the future holds, he’ll always have millions of jailbreakers who think he turned his back on them. For all anyone knows, Allegra could be the main reason iOS 6 is so hard to crack.
Today Allegra tweeted, “Also, to clear the record a bit: anyone who thinks I “sold out” for money doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”