How a Hacker Gained Access to a Reporter's iCloud Account

Wired reporter Mat Honan details the exact process by which hackers had gained control of his iCloud account. The hijacked iCloud account resulted in a remote-wipe of his iPhone, iPad and MacBook Air, as well as further intrusions into his Gmail and Twitter accounts.

As previously reported, the hackers were able to convince Apple Support to provide them with a temporary password to access Honan's account. Honan details exactly how this was performed.

Apparently, Apple Support only requires an iCloud user's billing address and last-four digits of the credit card on file in order to issue a temporary password. That temporary password grants full access to the user's iCloud account. Apple spokesperson Natalie Kerris issued this statement which claims that internal policies were not followed completely in Honan's case, but failed to specify exactly how:

“Apple takes customer privacy seriously and requires multiple forms of verification before resetting an Apple ID password. In this particular case, the customer’s data was compromised by a person who had acquired personal information about the customer. In addition, we found that our own internal policies were not followed completely. We are reviewing all of our processes for resetting account passwords to ensure our customers’ data is protected.”

Wired was able to confirm the reported policy themselves by successfully gaining access to another account using only those two pieces of information: a billing address and last-four digits of the credit card number.

As noted by Honan, a target's billing address is generally easy to determine by looking up a domain registration or by public white pages databases. As for discovering the last-four digits of Honan's credit card, Honan's hacker used a loophole in Amazon's security systems which don't protect the last-four digits of their user's credit card information. The hack requires a two-step phone call to Amazon. In the first call, Amazon allows you to add a second credit card to the account by simply offering the account's billing address, name and email address. Then, a second call allows you to add a second email address by verifying the previously added credit card. This second email address then has access to the account information including the last four digits of the original credit card.

Honan's intrusion seemed to be a result of a targeted effort to infiltrate his Twitter account, and a number of items had to line up just right for the hackers to gain access. The situation does reveal that the differing security processes between different providers could open up unwanted opportunities. It also seems to show that at present, a specific user's iCloud account access can be gained with those two pieces of only semi-private information.

Honan's full story about the sequence of events is an interesting read.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
105 months ago

Who cares.. Is it a 'rumor' that someone's iCloud account got hacked or is it a fact? It's a FACT. This site is for RUMORS.


You must be constantly angered by MacRumors then.
Score: 35 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
105 months ago
This happens with a ton of Xbox Live accounts too. Microsoft doesn't seem to care. Also, since it's Microsoft and not Apple, the media doesn't care either.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
105 months ago
Big, scary, simple failures here on the parts of Apple (using the credit card number as ID), Amazon (giving out that number!) and Google (giving out your alternate email address to strangers).

If I had to name 3 companies (that I actually use) which I trust the most to keep things secure, it would have been those 3... before today! (I know Google tracks me, but I’m surprised at this kind of lapse.)

I’m sure I’m not alone today in turning off Find My iPhone/iPad/Mac for the time being. And it’s probably smart to use different credit cards with different services, even if it means more bills to manage monthly. I do already use different (and hard to guess) passwords, and I back up in multiple ways including locally. Very important.

Something NEW is needed to make security usable AND effective for all of us, and incident this shines a light on the problems. What’s scary is, I doubt we'll see the changes (across MANY more companies than these 3) happening fast enough.

P.S. I hope the hackers spend some serious jail time after wiping out the guy’s family photos :mad:
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
105 months ago
Solution: apple needs better security. more than last 4 digits of CC and billing address should be required.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
105 months ago

Who cares.. Is it a 'rumor' that someone's iCloud account got hacked or is it a fact? It's a FACT. This site is for RUMORS.


Really?
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
105 months ago
A blogger is not a reporter!
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Apple Takes Legal Action Against Small Company With Pear Logo

Saturday August 8, 2020 11:09 am PDT by
Apple is taking legal action against the developers of the app "Prepear" due to its logo, according to iPhone in Canada. Prepear is an app that helps users discover recipes, plan meals, make lists, and arrange grocery deliveries. The app is a spinoff of "Super Healthy Kids," and the founders claim that they are facing litigation from Apple. Apple reportedly takes issue with Prepear's logo, ...

Kuo: Global iPhone Shipments Could Decline Up to 30% If Apple Forced to Remove WeChat From App Store [Updated x2]

Sunday August 9, 2020 10:17 pm PDT by
In a worst-case scenario, Apple's annual global iPhone shipments could decline by 25–30% if it is forced to remove WeChat from its App Stores around the world, according to a new research note from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo viewed by MacRumors. The removal could occur due to a recent executive order aiming to ban U.S. transactions with WeChat and its parent company Tencent. Kuo lays out...

Google Maps Debuts New Apple Watch App and CarPlay Features

Monday August 10, 2020 9:16 am PDT by
Google today announced the launch of several features for Google Maps on Apple products, including new CarPlay functionality and a new Google Maps app that works on Apple Watch. The new Google Maps app for Apple Watch works similarly to the iOS app, allowing Apple Watch owners to get directions for a car, bike, public transit, or on foot. The app supports estimated arrival times and...

Foxconn Reportedly Begins Seasonal Hiring Spree for iPhone 12 Production

Monday August 10, 2020 7:03 am PDT by
Apple's largest manufacturing partner Foxconn has begun its seasonal hiring spree to assist with iPhone 12 production, offering employees who recruit qualified applicants up to a 9,000 yuan bonus, according to Chinese media reports. As usual, Foxconn needs as many hands on deck as possible at its factory in Zhengzhou, China to assist with mass production of the upcoming iPhones. Apple is...

Apple May Release 4G-Only iPhone 12 in Early 2021

Tuesday August 11, 2020 5:28 am PDT by
In a research note shared by Business Insider, Wedbush Securities analysts said that Apple may release a cheaper iPhone 12 in early 2021 with no 5G connectivity. Wedbush initially believed Apple would launch a mix of 4G and 5G iPhone 12 models this fall. Following re-examination of Asian supply chains, analysts Daniel Ives, Strecker Backe, and Ahmad Khalil revised the predictions,...

2020 iMac Teardown Reveals Internal Changes and Similarities

Saturday August 8, 2020 12:44 pm PDT by
A teardown video, shared by OWC, reveals the internal changes in the new 2020 27-inch iMac. The 2020 27-inch iMac was announced earlier this week with 10th-generation Intel Core processors, AMD Radeon Pro 5000 series graphics, up to 128GB of RAM, up to 8TB of storage, a 1080p front-facing FaceTime camera, a True Tone display with a nano-texture glass option, higher fidelity speakers, and...

Apple Believes This German Cycling Path Logo Infringes on Its Own Logo

Wednesday May 1, 2019 9:51 am PDT by
Apple recently objected to the logo of a new German cycling path in an appeal filed with the German Patent and Trademark Office, according to German outlets General-Anzeiger Bonn and Westdeutscher Rundfunk. Apple reportedly takes issue with the logo's green leaf and supposed "bitten" right side, attributes the company believes are too similar to its own logo. The logo, registered with the ...

Apple Seeds First Public Beta of watchOS 7 to Public Beta Testers

Monday August 10, 2020 10:33 am PDT by
Apple today seeded the first public beta of an upcoming watchOS 7 update to public beta testers, one week after seeding the fourth beta to developers and a month and a half after the Worldwide Developers Conference. The update can be downloaded after installing the proper profile from Apple's Public Beta website. watchOS 7 should not be installed on a primary device as it is still an early...

Apple Watch Likely to Adopt MicroLED Display Technology in 3-4 Years

Monday August 10, 2020 2:55 am PDT by
This year's Apple Watch Series 6 is expected to feature an OLED screen like previous models, but a future model is likely to be the first Apple product to adopt MicroLED display technology, albeit not for another three to four years. That's the main takeaway reading between the lines of comments made by the chairman of Epistar, Taiwan's top LED producer, which is reportedly working on a...

Apple Seeds iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 Public Beta 4 to Testers

Thursday August 6, 2020 10:05 am PDT by
Apple today seeded new public betas of upcoming iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 updates to its public beta testing group. Today's software releases, which Apple labels as fourth betas to keep them in line with developer betas, are actually the third betas that Apple has provided and they come two weeks after the prior beta releases. Public beta testers who have signed up for Apple's beta testing...