New Details Emerge on Security Researcher Potentially Responsible for Dev Center Outage

Early this morning, independent security researcher Ibrahim Balic speculated that he may be responsible for the security breach that caused an extended outage of Apple's Developer Center, which has been offline since late last week.

Despite Balic's claim that he reported his findings directly to Apple and did not intend to act maliciously, information that he gave in an interview with TechCrunch suggests somewhat questionable behavior.

Balic, who has reported 13 different bugs to Apple, originally discovered an iAd Workbench vulnerability on June 18 that allowed a request sent to the server to be manipulated. This security hole could be used to acquire the names and email addresses of iTunes users (even non-developers). After finding the loophole, Balic wrote a Python script to harvest data from the vulnerability and then displayed it in a YouTube video, which may have put him on Apple's radar.

balicbugs

A screenshot of Balic's submitted bug reports. Click to enlarge.

In addition to the iAd Workbench bug, Balic also discovered and submitted a report on a bug that caused the Dev Center site to be vulnerable to a stored XSS attack. While Balic says that it was possible to access user data by exploiting the Dev Center issue, he claims that he did not do so. According to TechCrunch, Balic's YouTube video (which has since been removed) contained full names and email addresses, and it is unclear where they originated.

It's too bad, though, that the video seemed so definitive: After showing off images of Apple's downed Dev Center and the company's official response, Balic then showed a slew of files that seem to contain full names and email addresses. It seems pretty damning, but Balic says that he never went after the Developer Center site directly, and all that user information he highlighted came from the iAd Workbench. Two separate bugs paved the way for one very confusing video.

Balic claims that he harvested data on 73 Apple employees and 100,000 other iTunes users, but he says that he did not use the Developer Center exploit that he first submitted on July 16, instead garnering the data from the iAd Workbench issue.

TechCrunch reports that the data that Balic gained (limited to email addresses and Apple IDs) may have come from non-developer accounts, though Apple has clearly stated that only developer accounts were affected.

Throughout our conversation, Balic maintained that he was only ever trying to help Apple. When asked why he downloaded all that user data rather than simply reporting the bug, Balic says he just wanted to see how "deep" he could go. If he wanted to do ill, he says, he wouldn't have reported everything he found. For what it's worth, he also says he never attempted to reset anyone's password — the farthest he went was to email one of the addresses he had discovered and ask if it was really the person's Apple ID. Balic didn't get a response.

Due to the ambiguity of the source of the names and email addresses shown in Balic's video, it is unclear whether or not he caused the Dev Center outage by manipulating the iAd Workbench bug and it is equally unclear what his intentions were.

Top Rated Comments

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92 months ago
The fact that he showed names and email addresses of his victims makes me not believe a single word about him not being malicious.

A smart and caring person would have blurred out names and addresses in their video.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
92 months ago

"He just wanted to see how deep he could go" ...that's not a white-hat hacker.


Going as deep as possible is exactly what most developers reporting a bug do, in an attempt to be helpful.

And posting a YouTube video of your attack is not the way to deal with a serious security threat like this.


Eh? He didn't show how to do it.

This guy is at the least naive and immature, and at worst malicious. In either case, he's not a professional researcher, he's just a jackass looking for fame.


It sounds like he was scared that Apple might blame him for their goof.

He should have given Apple more time before resorting to doing this. At least a week to respond, it's a large company.


What on earth are you talking about? Resorting to what?

He officially and privately reported the data leaks to Apple, same as he had reported previous bugs. In (what he thought was a) response to his bug report, Apple shut down their website.

Days later, Apple finally posts a note blaming an intruder. He thought they meant him, although it's quite possible that his bug report actually clued them into a much larger problem.

And he still hasn't given any details on the data leak mechanics.

His only goof was showing some names in his video, but heck, even Apple claims those are not sensitive private details.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
92 months ago

A smart and caring company would have made it unnecessary for him to go public.


I don't think you quite realize how security breaches work. He gave apple only a few hours, they probably didn't even get to his request in that time.

He went public immediately after. Real life is not like the movies, you need to find out how much data someone had access to before releasing a statement which takes time. Apple did it pretty quickly IMO.

Releasing something saying "WE GOT HACKED" without knowing anything about it is not only a PR disaster, but its not the right way to do things because people will want answers and you won't be able to give it to them without knowing what the hacker got ahold of.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
92 months ago
Seems to me this guy just wants attention and is clearly getting his wish.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
92 months ago

The fact that he showed names and email addresses of his victims makes me not believe a single word about him not being malicious.

A smart and caring person would have blurred out names and addresses in their video.


A smart and caring company would have made it unnecessary for him to go public.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
92 months ago
"If he wanted to do ill, he says, he wouldn't have reported everything he found."

Something about this just seems a little fishy, I dunno. If I was to break into your house but steal nothing, that would still be a crime. Especially knowing how seriously Apple take security, I think there's the potential for this to balloon out of control.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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