Apple denies iCloud/Find my iPhone breach, says ‘very targeted attack’ hit certain celebrities

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Apple has responded to this week’s hackings of celebrity iCloud accounts, which resulted in postings of private photographs. Here’s Apple’s statement in full:

CUPERTINO, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–We wanted to provide an update to our investigation into the theft of photos of certain celebrities. When we learned of the theft, we were outraged and immediately mobilized Apple’s engineers to discover the source. Our customers’ privacy and security are of utmost importance to us. After more than 40 hours of investigation, we have discovered that certain celebrity accounts were compromised by a very targeted attack on user names, passwords and security questions, a practice that has become all too common on the Internet. None of the cases we have investigated has resulted from any breach in any of Apple’s systems including iCloud® or Find my iPhone. We are continuing to work with law enforcement to help identify the criminals involved.

To protect against this type of attack, we advise all users to always use a strong password and enable two-step verification. Both of these are addressed on our website at http://support.apple.com/kb/ht4232.

Apple says that it conducted an investigation for more than 40 hours, and denies that iCloud or Find my iPhone was actually breached. Apple is presenting this as a very targeted username, password, and security questions hack on “certain celebrity accounts.” Apple recommends that users utilize the 2-step verification service for Apple IDs/iCloud. The company also says it is continuing to work with law enforcement on finding the hackers involved.

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Australian Mac and iOS users find devices remotely locked, held for ransom (and how to keep yours safe)

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The Sydney Morning Herald reports that several Australian Mac, iPhone, and iPad users are finding that their devices have been locked remotely through Apple’s Find My iPhone service by someone using the name “Oleg Pliss.” The hacker (or hackers) then demand payments of around $50 to $100 to an anonymous PayPal account in order to restore the devices to their owners.

An active thread on Apple’s support forum was started yesterday as users started to discover that they had been targeted by the attack. According to that discussion, users are finding all of their devices locked at once rather than a single device per user. Based on that report and the fact that Find My iPhone is being used to hold the devices hostage, it seems likely that the perpetrator has gained access to these users’ iCloud accounts—possibly through password reuse by those users—rather than some device-specific malware or hack.

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Yet another Java vulnerability discovered, researchers recommend disabling browser plug-in

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Following an attack on a smaller number of corporate Macs that exploited a flaw in the Java browser plug-in, researchers from security firm FireEye warned users of yet another new Java zero-day vulnerability. According to a blog post published yesterday (via IDG), browsers running Java v1.6 Update 41 and Java v1.7 Update 15 are now vulnerable to a malware attack that installs a remote access tool known as McRAT. The exploit is reportedly different from the one used to attack Facebook, Twitter, Apple, and several other companies last month. Following the earlier attack, Apple released an update to Java for users to version 1.6.0_41. These recent vulnerabilities come after several updates over the last year to Java addressing exploits.

FireEye recommended users disable Java until Oracle addresses the issue:

We have notified Oracle and will continue to work with Oracle on this in-the-wild discovery. Since this exploit affects the latest Java 6u41 and Java 7u15 versions, we urge users to disable Java in your browser until a patch has been released; alternatively, set your Java security settings to “High” and do not execute any unknown Java applets outside of your organization.

Oracle provided the instructions below for uninstalling Java on Mac: Read more