Apple Support Allowed Hacker Access to Reporter's iCloud Account

icloud icon 399x400On Friday, Wired writer Mat Honan recounted the tale of how his iCloud account was hacked which resulted in his iPhone, iPad and MacBook Air getting remote wiped.

The point of entry appeared to be his iCloud account which was then used to gain access to Gmail and then his and former-employer Gizmodo's Twitter accounts.

At 4:50 PM, someone got into my iCloud account, reset the password and sent the confirmation message about the reset to the trash. My password was a 7 digit alphanumeric that I didn’t use elsewhere.
...
The backup email address on my Gmail account is that same .mac email address. At 4:52 PM, they sent a Gmail password recovery email to the .mac account. Two minutes later, an email arrived notifying me that my Google Account password had changed.

At 5:00 PM, they remote wiped my iPhone
At 5:01 PM, they remote wiped my iPad
At 5:05, they remote wiped my MacBook Air.

A few minutes after that, they took over my Twitter. Because, a long time ago, I had linked my Twitter to Gizmodo’s they were then able to gain entry to that as well.

Honan wasn't entirely sure how the hackers had gotten access to his iCloud account. His guess was that they had somehow brute-force guessed the password, while others speculated his password had been keylogged or used in another insecure service.

As it turns out, the hacker was able to call Apple support and convince them they were the user. From an update to the original blog post:

I know how it was done now. Confirmed with both the hacker and Apple. It wasn’t password related. They got in via Apple tech support and some clever social engineering that let them bypass security questions.

After convincing Apple support that they were Mat Honan, the hacker had Apple Support change Honan's iCloud password which gave them full access. From there, they were able to perform the remote wipes on Honan's devices using Apple's Find My iPhone service which offers remote wipe as a security feature for lost devices.

As a somewhat public figure, Honan may have been an easier target than the average iCloud user, but many users may also have personal information publicly available on online services such as Facebook that could be used in a similar fashion. Forbes' Adrian Kingsley-Hughes suggests that Apple "needs to tighten up security and come clean about what went wrong here."

Popular Stories

Beyond iPhone 13 Better Blue Face ID Single Camera Hole

10 Reasons to Wait for Next Year's iPhone 17

Monday July 8, 2024 5:00 am PDT by
Apple's iPhone development roadmap runs several years into the future and the company is continually working with suppliers on several successive iPhone models simultaneously, which is why we sometimes get rumored feature leaks so far ahead of launch. The iPhone 17 series is no different – already we have some idea of what to expect from Apple's 2025 smartphone lineup. If you plan to skip...
iPhone 15 Pro Cameras

iPhone 17 Pro Max Will Be First Model to Feature Three 48MP Cameras

Thursday July 11, 2024 12:20 am PDT by
Next year's iPhone 17 Pro Max will feature an upgraded 48-megapixel Tetraprism camera for enhanced photo quality and zoom functionality, according to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In his n-iphone-tetraprism-upgrade-ca62dd37e364">latest investor note published to Medium, Kuo said the key specification change would be a 1/2.6" 48MP CIS sensor, up from the 1/3.1" 12MP sensor expected to be used...
iPhone 16 Pro Front Update Blue

iPhone 16 Pro Rumored to Support 40W Fast Charging and 20W MagSafe

Wednesday July 10, 2024 3:57 am PDT by
Apple's forthcoming iPhone 16 Pro and iPhone 16 Pro Max will support 40W wired fast charging and 20W MagSafe charging, claims a rumor currently swirling around China. Right now, iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro models are capable of up to 27W peak charging speeds with an appropriate USB-C power adapter, while official MagSafe chargers from Apple and authorized third parties can wirelessly charge...
AirPods Pro Beta Firmware

Apple Releases New AirPods Pro 2 Beta Firmware With Support for iOS 18 Features

Tuesday July 9, 2024 11:46 am PDT by
Apple today released a second beta firmware for the AirPods Pro 2, including both the Lightning and USB-C versions. The updated firmware has a build number 7A5244b and it is available to developers at the current time. This is the second firmware update that Apple has released since announcing new AirPods Pro 2 features in June. There are several new features that are coming to the AirPods...
Beyond iPhone 13 Better Blue Face ID

iPhone 16 Models Rumored to Have Face ID-Related Design Changes

Tuesday July 9, 2024 9:15 am PDT by
iPhone 16 models coming later this year could have some Face ID-related "design changes," supply chain publication DigiTimes said this week. The original source of this information is British newspaper The Telegraph, which six weeks ago reported that Face ID component supplier Coherent was considering selling or repurposing a manufacturing facility in Newton Aycliffe, a small town in...
orka desktop

MacStadium Releases Free Orka Desktop macOS Virtualization Software

Wednesday July 10, 2024 6:55 am PDT by
Mac cloud services provider MacStadium today unveiled Orka Desktop, a free virtualization tool that allows Mac users to create and manage macOS virtual machines locally via an easy-to-use admin panel. Orka users can create or download custom macOS images locally for their own personal use, or to collaborate with team members using a familiar workflow, versioning, audit, and review controls....

Top Rated Comments

Compile 'em all Avatar
156 months ago
Also Apple should allow us set a PIN on turning off an iPhone. Find my Phone is useless if all it takes is turning the whole device off. It would be a 10000 times better if who ever steals the phone can't turn it off immediately.
Score: 74 Votes (Like | Disagree)
hafr Avatar
156 months ago
What chocks me the most is that someone working at Gizmodo doesn't have a backup...
Score: 34 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ThatsMeRight Avatar
156 months ago
Apple really needs 2-step authentication (Google offers it, and it works really great).

I hope they're able to restore his information from his Macbook Air.

Edit @iCrizzo (right below me)
Where is the link from Apple saying this was the case? I see a bunch of Twitter links.
http://www.emptyage.com/post/28679875595/yes-i-was-hacked-hard
This is the user's blog. Apple, obviously, won't admit this ever happened in public.
Score: 34 Votes (Like | Disagree)
kolax Avatar
156 months ago
Anything Gizmodo related I always raise an eyebrow to.

I'll wait to for a response from Apple before taking this story seriously.
Score: 33 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Sensa Avatar
156 months ago
So, let's get this straight...a hacker "decides" to hack the account of a semi-high profile tech guy and then after committing several serious crimes like fraud that could land him in jail for an extended period of time repeatedly contacts the person he hacked when he must know that Apple will surely pursue this matter?

I smell a rat...
Score: 32 Votes (Like | Disagree)
arn Avatar
156 months ago
time to change my mac account password again! :)

Also 1 Password/Lastpass/Keypass are amazing. Use them.

unfortunately, neither of these moves would have helped Honan.

arn
Score: 28 Votes (Like | Disagree)