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Has the world turned upside down? Hackers who've made headlines for torturing tech companies are turning to honest work. Last week, the blog Techunwrapped revealed that George Hotz, otherwise known as "Geohot," is working at Facebook on a new iPad app.
The hire is notable for Hotz's successful hacks of corporate software. He's best known for "jailbreaking" Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPhone -- a process that involves using software to bypass iTunes and install unauthorized smartphone apps. Sony (NYSE: SNE ) once sued him – then settled with him -- after he published root keys for bypassing security measures built into the PlayStation 3 console.
Hotz's hire comes in the wake of news that hackers operating under the moniker LulzSec have disbanded after 50 days of successful hacks of government systems, Sony, AOL (NYSE: AOL ) , and AT&T (NYSE: T ) , among others.
Call it an uneasy truce. Or maybe sleeping with the frenemy. Either way, hiring hackers is better than having them attack revenue-generating initiatives. In Facebook's case, hiring skilled coders could very well prove critical to its plan to upset long-established operating systems as the primary hosts for mobile and desktop software.
You might also call this a homecoming. Ever since Steven Levy described the Hacker Ethic in his 1984 classic, Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, the industry has slowly homogenized the otherwise rebellious act of infusing a machine with the intelligence to do something. Insanely Great has given way to Insanely Cheap and Easy to Reproduce in China.
Until lately, that is. The Wild West nature of the Web has the potential to give rise to new hackers and big ideas. So while Hotz's hiring is in many ways minor news, as a tech investor with an interest in the rise and ultimate triumph of cloud computing, I like the spirit of the experiment. Silicon Valley needs its pirates. Do you agree? Disagree?
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