Apple denies iCloud breach was responsible for device lockout attack, advises users to change passwords

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Last night we reported that several Mac and iOS users were finding their devices remotely locked by hackers who had gained access to the users’ Find My iPhone accounts and demanded a ransom to return the devices to a working state.

Today Apple issued a statement on the problem, noting that—as suspected—the iCloud service itself was not actually breached, but individual user accounts may have been compromised through password reuse or social engineering:

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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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Nearly a fifth of all grand larcenies in NYC involved Apple products

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Thefts of Apple products made up 18 percent of all grand larcenies in New York City last year, reports the WSJ, citing NYPD figures. Of the 47,000 grand larcenies occuring in the city last year, 8,465 involved Apple products.

Many of the thefts happen on public transportation, where most people are buried in their devices and aren’t paying attention to their surroundings, said Joseph Giacalone, a retired New York Police Department detective. “It’s easy pickings,” he said …  Read more

San Francisco district attorney calls on Apple to enable Activation Lock by default on all iPhones

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When Apple debuted iOS 7 earlier this year, one of the many new features covered at the keynote event was Activation Lock. The feature is an addition to the existing Find My iPhone system that helps recover lost or stolen iOS devices. While Find My iPhone mainly focuses on locating tracking the missing device on a map, Activation Lock is designed to keep thieves from using stolen phones.

George Gascón, San Francisco district attorney, has called on Apple to enable this feature by default, requiring users to opt-out of the service rather than opting in. Gascón cites a recent survey of 313 San Franciscans which revealed that 79% of responding iPhone users had enabled Find My iPhone and Activation Lock.

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Botched Find my iPhone update only allows developers to log in [Update: fixed]

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Update: Apple confirmed on its iCloud status page that Find my iPhone is back to normal:

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The Find my iPhone iOS app has been updated with a new iOS 7-style icon while the rest of the UI remains the same. This icon is the same as the one found on the updated beta.icloud.com website:

However, many are noting that you cannot log in to the new Find my iPhone app without having a developer account: Read more

Apple announces ‘Activation Lock’ theft deterrent feature for iOS 7 ahead of gov’t meeting on rising smartphone crime

Ahead of a meeting with government officials later this month to discuss how Apple could prevent increasing smartphone crimes, Apple today introduced a new feature called ‘Activation Lock’ that it says will be “a really powerful theft deterrent” when released later this fall in iOS 7.

We told you earlier this month that government officials in the US were calling Apple, Google and others to a “smartphone summit” later this month on June 13 to discuss the increasing amount of smartphone related crime in New York city and the rest of the country. State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon have been pushing smartphone makers to come up with solutions to prevent crime and discourage thefts of devices.

Today, during its WWDC keynote presentation ahead of the meeting later this month, Apple introduced the ‘Activation Lock’ feature that will require an Apple ID and password to reactivate a stolen phone after being remotely erased/wiped by the owner through Apple Find my iPhone feature. The login information will also now be required to turn off Find My iPhone.

If a user’s device is stolen, wiping the device clean will essentially leave the thief with a device that is inoperable without the user’s Apple ID and password (as pictured above): Read more

Find My iPhone helps police arrest an armed robbery suspect

LA Times reports that Apple’s Find My iPhone app was used to assist in the arrest of an armed robbery suspect last Thursday. The male suspect entered a female’s home at gun point and took her purse, which held her beloved iPhone inside. The suspect left the home, and thought the coast was clear.

However, the victim then called police and remembered that she had Find My iPhone and notified them. Luckily for her, a random citizen on the street let police use his laptop to track the suspect down via Apple’s website. The officers later found the man and he was arrested on robbery charges. The LAPD told the LA Times how crucial it is to have tracking software installed whenever possible:

LAPD officials say computer and phone theft is a major contributor to crime in Los Angeles, and the theft — and its outcome — illustrate the value and benefit of using tracking applications and software for computers, cellphones and portable tablets.

Find My iPhone was also used in September to help sift through the wreckage in the terribly sad Chilean plane crash. Find My iPhone has important use cases everyday, and we’re glad to see the poor woman got her items back. This is a great reminder that you should have it installed (and to criminals to pass on taking Apple devices!)

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