Top Hacker A 'Good Guy' Who Wants To Help

Apr 7, 2016

Hacker Charlie Miller breaks into iPhones to find weaknesses.
Credit Staff / WGLT

The man often referred to as "one of the most technically proficient hackers on Earth" is the keynote speaker for Illinois State University's Science and Technology week.

Charlie Miller speaks at ISU Tuesday night, April 12 as part of the university's President Speaker Series. During a GLT Sound Ideas interview, Miller said he's been hacking things since he was a kid, and now spends time hacking his own kid's toys.

"What would happen if a bad guy starts talking through this toy or this doll or this baby monitor, and I just go from there basically," Miller said.

"I'm a good guy, and I use an iPhone and I look at security of iPhones because I use one. I don't want bad guys to hack into my phone," said Miller. "I can find bugs in the devices I use and get them fixed."

Miller was named by Popular Mechanics one of the internet's ten most controversial figures of 2008. That was the year he won a huge cash prize for finding a critical bug in the Mac Book Air. Miller also hacked the Safari web browser and got himself kicked out of the Apple App store. He's confident his fixation for Apple products is healthy.

"I love Apple products and I really think they're cool. I have a lot of time to play with their products and when I find something wrong with them, I always point them out to Apple and Apple fixes them. But  I imagine Apple would wish I would stop looking at their products sometimes."

Miller said, while it seems there are constant warnings about online security breaches, he's hopeful people won't sacrifice exploring new technology at the expense of security.

"People hear about cars and hospitals getting hacked and they get really scared and maybe they don't want to buy a new car or go to the doctor. But that's exactly the wrong thing to do. The risks of these far, out-there hacks happening to you are so much smaller than the benefit people get from new technology," Miller said."

Miller said he was happy the way the recent dispute between the federal government and Apple about unlocking a terrorist suspect's iPhone ended up.

"There's now this vulnerability out there that allows you to get code running on an iPhone that I don't know about, Apple doesn't know about, but the FBI does knows about."

Miller said he likely would not have been able to unlock the iPhone himself.

Miller's address, "If You Make It, We Can Break It!" is at 7 pm April 12 at ISU's Bone Student Center.

Other events planned during ISU's Science and Technology week include a a professional development dinner for students, a 5K run, a round-table on women in leadership, the induction of new members into the College of Arts and Sciences (CAST) Academy of Achievement, and a presentation on the intersection of motor control and cognitive psychology.