Hackers threaten Apple to wipe millions of iPhone, iCloud data

By @chelean on
Apple
The Apple logo is seen on the facade of the new Apple Store in Paris, France, January 5, 2017. Reuters/Charles Platiau

Apple has responded to the hackers who are allegedly trying to extort the company. The hackers, who call themselves the Turkish Crime Family, want tens of thousands of dollars in cryto-currencies bitcoin and ethereum or iTunes gift cards in exchange for not wiping data from millions of Apple devices.

The hackers claimed they have access to a large cache of iCloud and Apple email accounts. They provided screenshots of their alleged email conversation with Apple to Motherboard. Apparently, the group demanded from Apple US$75,000 (AU$98,000) in either bitcoin or ethereum, or US$100,000 (AU$130,000) in iTunes gift cards. If the tech giant wouldn’t pay, they would reset a number of iCloud accounts and remotely wipe Apple devices.

They said they have access to over 300 million Apple email accounts, including those with @icloud and @me domains. The publication notes, however, that the group appear to be inconsistent with their story. One of the hackers claimed they had 559 million accounts in all. They have given Apple until April 7 to meet their ransom demands.

They claimed to have been in communication with members of Apple’s security team. “Are you willing to share a sample of the data set?” a member of the company wrote to the hackers last week, according to the email obtained by the publication. Motherboard notes that the return address of the email messages had @apple.com domain.

When the hackers uploaded a YouTube video of them apparently logging into some of the stolen accounts, a member of Apple’s security team requested the group to remove the video online because it was “seeking unwanted attention.” The message adds that the company does not reward cyber criminals for breaking the law.

Apple, on the other hand, has denied its system was hacked. “There have not been any breaches in any of Apple’s systems including iCloud and Apple ID,” a company spokesperson told Fortune in a statement. “The alleged list of email addresses and passwords appears to have been obtained from previously compromised third-party services.”

The rep added that they are “actively monitoring” to prevent such incidents. The company is working with law enforcements to identify the alleged hackers.

The data set the group alleged stole might have been “recycled” from a previous hacking incident, a person familiar with the contents of the data set told Fortune. Apparently, the data matched those that were leaked in a 2012 LinkedIn data breach.

Nevertheless, Apple might pay the ransom regardless. Tyler Moffitt, senior threat research analyst at Webroot, an online security provider, said the threat proves Apple is vulnerable to attacks regardless how confident it was of its security.

“Unless there are adequate backup policies in place, I have no doubt that random will be paid, regardless of what Apple publicity claims,” he told news.com.au. “There is a high chance of this data eventually appearing on the dark net.”