Norwegian Hacker Says He Can Bypass AT&T on i-Phone

A well-known hacker claims to have overcome restrictions on Apple Inc.'s iPhone, allowing highly technical users to bypass AT&T Inc.'s network to use the phone's Internet and music features.

In a post dated July 3 on his blog, Jon Johansen, 23, a prolific hacker of consumer electronics gadgets since he was a teenager in Norway, said "I've found a way to activate a brand new unactivated iPhone" without signing up for AT&T service.

"The iPhone does not have phone capability, but the iPod and Wi-Fi work. Stay tuned!" he wrote on his long-running blog, which is combatively named "So Sue Me." The post was entitled "iPhone Independence Day," a play on the July 4 U.S. holiday.

The site contained technical details for other hackers, as well as links to software necessary to complete the process.

One potential use would be for an iPhone user living or traveling outside the United States to access the iPhone's music player and Internet service over Wi-Fi connections without using the phone.

AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel said it was necessary to activate the iPhone on AT&T's network to ensure optimum performance. Using the phone without AT&T's two-year service contract was unauthorized under the phone carrier's exclusive network service contract with Apple, Siegel added.

"Any other use of the device is not authorized and we can't guarantee the device will perform as intended to. We'll monitor situations like this and if necessary we will take appropriate action," he said. "Our terms and conditions are very clear."

He did not elaborate on potential action AT&T might take.

Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris declined to comment on Johansen's claims.

Apple has yet to reveal network operator deals in markets outside the United States. But the iPhone is a quad-band GSM phone and will work in many parts of Europe and Asia with international roaming deals arranged by AT&T, Kerris said.

Neither Apple nor AT&T have disclosed sales figures since the iPhone went on sale in the United States on June 29, but some analysts have estimated sales of up to 700,000 units for the costly coveted phone's first weekend on the market.

Johansen became known as "DVD Jon" earlier this decade for helping to reverse engineer the code used to protect DVD movies against piracy, saying he did so in order to play them on his Linux computer.

The computer activist has engaged in a cat-and-mouse game with Apple to bypass copyright controls on various Apple products, including QuickTime, iTunes and Apple TV.

Copyright 2007 Reuters Limited.

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Sinead Carew, Reuters
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