9.  The iPhone Hacker
George Hotz, 18
Most hacking exploits earn their creator at best notoriety, and at worst, a prison sentence. But when George Francis Hotz became the first person to unlock Apple's iPhone last August, enabling it to work with any GSM wireless carrier, he got a $50,000 Nissan 350Z and three more iPhones. The car was courtesy of Certicell, a Louisville-based firm that resells used handsets; Certicell also took the opportunity to hire the then-17-year-old as a consultant.
But Hotz is no one-trick wonder. Before he ever touched the innards of an iPhone, he had won a $20,000 prize in a national science competition sponsored by Intel. The title of his project--"I Want a Holodeck"--proves he's nothing if not ambitious.
These days, the New Jersey teen is studying biotechnology at the Rochester Institute of Technology. For fun, he hacked the magnetic stripe on his student ID card, enabling him to unlock any door on the RIT campus. But he still finds time to play with iPhones. In February, Hotz published another exploit that permits a full software unlock of the latest iPhone software, earning him an additional $1182 from a Web-sponsored unlocking contest.
Memo to Steve Jobs: Hire this kid now, before he puts you out of business.