iOS Device Ransom Attacks Continue to Target Users in U.S. and Europe

A few years ago, a number of users in Australia were victimized by attackers remotely locking iPhones, iPads, and Macs using Find My iPhone on iCloud. Compromised devices typically displayed Russian ransom messages demanding payments of around $50 to $100 for the device to be unlocked.

australian_ios_device_hacked

A ransom message targeting a Mac in 2014 with the common pseudonym "Oleg Pliss"

At the time, IT security expert Troy Hunt noted that the attackers were likely using compromised emails and passwords exposed from various online security breaches to log in to iCloud accounts. AOL and eBay, for example, were among several high-profile companies that suffered data breaches in 2014.

Apple later confirmed that iCloud was not compromised, and that the eventually-arrested attackers had instead gained access to Apple IDs and passwords through external sources. Russian website MKRU said the attackers obtained the credentials via phishing pages and social engineering techniques.

Since then, CSO security blog Salted Hash has discovered that, since at least February of this year, these ransom attacks have returned and now target users in the U.S. and Europe. The methods used by attackers are said to be the same ones used in 2014, starting with a compromised Apple ID.

It starts with a compromised Apple ID. From there, the attacker uses Find My iPhone and places the victim's device into lost mode. At this point, they can lock the device, post a message to the lock screen and trigger a sound to play, drawing attention to it.

In each of the cases reported publicly, the ransom demanded is usually $30 to $50. If a victim contacts the referenced email address, in addition to payment instructions, they're told they have 12 hours to comply or their data will be deleted.

The website shared screenshots and linked to a number of Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit users whose devices appear to have been held for ransom in recent months, but there is speculation that the problem could be much larger than that. The following excerpt is highly questionable, however, and could very likely be incorrect.

Earlier this week, a security professional posted a message to a private email group requesting information related a possible compromise of at least 40 million iCloud accounts.

Salted Hash started digging around on this story after the email came to our attention. In it, a list member questioned the others about a rumor concerning "rumblings of a massive (40 million) data breach at Apple."

The message goes on to state that the alleged breach was conducted by a Russian actor, and vector "seems to be via iCloud to the 'locate device' feature, and is then locking the device and asking for money."

The report adds that "for now, let's assume there hasn't been a massive iCloud data breach." Apple has not commented on the matter.

Given that the Apple ID credentials involved in the ransom attacks are believed to originate from online security breaches, Salted Hash pointed towards a recently compromised Mac-Forums.com database, which allegedly includes 291,214 accounts, being sold for around $775 on the darknet.

There is currently no evidence to suggest that the Mac-Forums database has any relation to these ransom attacks, but users with an account on that website should change their passwords out of an abundance of caution. Setting a device passcode and enabling two-factor authentication for your Apple ID is also highly recommended.

Apple has a support document outlining steps to take if you think your Apple ID has been compromised. Also read security and your Apple ID.

Top Rated Comments

LordQ Avatar
63 months ago
Apple under Tim Cook is slipping...
WTF? That comment doesn't make any sense here.
Score: 57 Votes (Like | Disagree)
djcerla Avatar
63 months ago
Apple under Tim Cook is slipping...
Reading comprehension is slipping faster, apparently.
Score: 39 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Tubamajuba Avatar
63 months ago
Apple under Tim Cook is slipping...
Apple is responsible for third party security breaches? Really now.

I've got an idea! Let's start reading articles instead of making baseless comments after glancing at a headline. Deal?
Score: 33 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Kaylor Avatar
63 months ago
Apple under Tim Cook is slipping...
What does Tim Cook have to do with people using weak passwords, using the same passwords between accounts, not changing them regularly, ect. ?
Score: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)
BittenApple Avatar
63 months ago
Apple under Tim Cook is slipping...
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
sziehr Avatar
63 months ago
This sort of thing makes me wonder why companies have not latched on more vigorously to things like touchID. I can not just impersonate that over the phone in a far off land. I have to get into your secure enclave or have your physical phone. This is the direction everything needs to go.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Top Stories 57 Feature

Top Stories: Apple Event Next Tuesday, Mini-LED iPad Pro, iPhone Rumors

Saturday April 17, 2021 6:00 am PDT by
It feels like we've been waiting forever for new Apple products, but the wait is almost over as Apple has announced a media event for next Tuesday, so make sure to tune into MacRumors for full coverage of everything Apple announces. While that was the big news this week, we also got some new details on Apple's iPhone plans for 2022 and 2023 courtesy of analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, and we also saw...
flat imac 3d 3 teal

Reliable Leaker Hints Redesigned Colorful iMac to Debut at 'Spring Loaded' Event

Saturday April 17, 2021 4:43 am PDT by
Reliable leaker known as l0vetodream has hinted that Apple may debut its rumored redesigned and colorful iMac at its "Spring Loaded" event on Tuesday, April 20. In a tweet, the leaker posted an image of Apple's logo used for marketing the upcoming event and an image of the retro rainbow Apple logo alongside the colorful lineup of G3 iMacs. Apple leaker Jon Prosser previously reported that...
duan rui iphone 12 13 notch

New Images Show Smaller iPhone 13 Notch Compared to iPhone 12

Saturday April 17, 2021 11:38 pm PDT by
Leaker known as "DuanRui" has shared more images that could give us our best look yet at Apple's redesigned notch for the iPhone 13. The new pictures follow similar images shared by the leaker last week, but the latest shots include a comparison with the existing iPhone 12 notch. DuanRui posted three images on Twitter that apparently originate from Weibo, although source details remain...
iPad Pro Feature Orange

Wedbush Analysts Say 'Spring Loaded' Event Will Debut New iPads With 'Modest Price Increase,' Along With 'a Few Surprises'

Monday April 19, 2021 6:37 am PDT by
Apple is planning to launch a new entry-level iPad, iPad mini, and iPad Pro at its "Spring Loaded" event tomorrow, along with "a few surprises," according to Wedbush analysts. In a new note to investors, seen by MacRumors, Wedbush analysts Daniel Ives and Strecker Backe explained that the iPad will be the main focus of Apple's "Spring Loaded" event, with new entry-level iPad, iPad mini, and ...
important battery message iphone 11

Some iPhone 11 Users Seeing Increased Battery Health Percentages After iOS 14.5 Recalibration Process

Friday April 16, 2021 6:32 am PDT by
In the sixth beta of iOS 14.5, Apple introduced a recalibration process for the battery health reporting system on the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max to address inaccurate battery health estimates for some users. Apple said this process might take a few weeks to be completed, and now that two weeks have passed since the sixth beta of iOS 14.5 was released, some users are...
third gen Apple pencil leaked video

Video of Alleged Third-Generation Apple Pencil Leaks Ahead of Apple Event

Friday April 16, 2021 6:13 am PDT by
A video purporting to be of the third-generation Apple Pencil has today been shared online, showing a glossy finish that mirrors previous leaks. New ✏️ ready to 🚢 #AppleEvent @TommyBo50387266 pic.twitter.com/s4RCDwDi5M— 漢尼斯·拉斯納 🇨🇳 (@ileakeer) April 16, 2021 The brief video from Twitter account @ileakeer, spotted by 9to5Mac, shows an Apple Pencil with a glossy finish much like the...
iPad Pro

New 12.9-Inch iPad Pro Will Be 0.5mm Thicker to Accommodate Mini-LED Display

Monday April 19, 2021 11:30 am PDT by
The upcoming 12.9-inch iPad Pro will be thicker than the previous-generation version, likely due to the inclusion of the mini-LED display. We've heard several rumors about the change in thickness, and now leaked design images have confirmed it. A source that designs accessories for Apple devices sent MacRumors a series of photos that feature exact dimensions for the new iPad Pro models, and...
parler app

Apple Approves Parler to Return to App Store

Monday April 19, 2021 7:51 am PDT by
Following the removal of the app in January, Apple will now allow the social media app Parler to return to the App Store following changes to how the social media network moderates content, CNN reports. On April 14, in a letter to Sen. Mike Lee and Rep. Ken Buck obtained by CNN, Apple said that the app has improved the way it moderates content, and says those changes are "sufficient" for it...
iphone 12 120hz thumbnail feature

LTPO Displays Supporting 120Hz Refresh Rates Again Rumored for iPhone 13 Pro Models

Friday April 16, 2021 10:01 am PDT by
The two higher-end "iPhone 13 Pro" models that are coming in 2021 are expected to use LTPO display technology to enable 120Hz refresh rates, according to display analyst Ross Young. Young reaffirmed the detail in a tweet that said he'd heard rumors about only one model featuring LTPO, which he says is inaccurate. Heard some rumors in the industry and media that there would only be one ...
maxresdefault

Hands-On With Anker's MagSafe-Compatible Battery Pack

Thursday April 15, 2021 9:39 am PDT by
Anker, a company known for its range of accessories designed for Apple products, recently came out with one of the first MagSafe-compatible battery packs, so we thought we'd check it out to see how it compares to a standard battery pack. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Design wise, Anker's power bank looks like a typical battery pack, but it has magnets built in...