Student earns $50,000/year by unlocking iPhones

April 8, 2011 at 10:44 AM ET

Sam Spratt /
Jailbreaking, as the process of of unlocking iOS devices so that they can run unauthorized software is affectionately called, has turned into a profitable business for one college student.

The economy's in a rough state and getting a job is difficult, but those things are definitely not a worry for Kevin Lee. That particular young man is earning tens of thousands of dollars with Craigslist ads exclaiming things such as "Get Your iPhone Jailbroken Today.”

The Washington Post reports that Lee, a senior at George Mason University, is earning about $50,000 a year by jailbreaking other people's iPhones.

Jailbreaking — as the process of unlocking iOS devices so that they can run unauthorized software is called — is a quick and simple task at this point. It takes Lee only minutes to "download code onto his customers’ iPhones and fling open the portal to an alternative world of apps and software that Apple condemns."

The benefit of jailbreaking — which while frowned upon by Apple, is not illegal — is that it allows iPhone users to user their devices on carriers other than AT&T or Verizon, customize the gadget's interface, or run any number of apps which didn't manage to get approved for Apple's App Store.

And despite how easy the jailbreaking process is, business seems to continue treating Lee well:

“To be honest, when I first started, I did it for my friends, myself, but it has snowballed from there,” said Lee. [...] “I was getting five to 10 customers a week, now it’s 30 to 40. I just had one customer from the Mongolian embassy who was moving to the capital of Mongolia, and he wanted to use the iPhone there.”

Now the big question, as Gizmodo's Kat Hannaford points out, is whether Lee, a computer science major, will stick with his chosen career and education path or "turn his jailbreaking pocket-money into a full-time venture"

Related stories:

Rosa Golijan writes about tech here and there while coping with a Twitter obsession. Sam Spratt — the guy who made the jailbreaking illustration — on the other hand, is all about Facebook.