The man responsible for leaking explicit photos of dozens of celebrities back in 2014 has been formally charged today. According to a post on the Department of Justice website, a man from Pennsylvania has been charged with felony computer hacking after obtaining access to Gmail and iCloud accounts of more than 100 different people, the majority of whom were celebrities.
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There are still many unknowns surrounding the leaked celebrity nudes. While Apple appears to have ruled out a theory that a Find My iPhone vulnerability allowed easy brute-force password attacks, some commentators are suggesting that the wording was sufficiently vague that this may indeed have been one route in. (Apple might be arguing that it’s not a breach if the correct password was required.)
But one thing does now appear clear: rather than a single hacker gaining wide access to iCloud, the photos were instead amassed over time by a number of different individuals likely using several different approaches. Phishing was doubtless one of them – some of the claimed emails from Apple are reasonably convincing to a non-techy person – but another was almost certainly to exploit one of the greatest weaknesses found in just about every online service, including iCloud: security questions.
[Update: Tim Cook has confirmed these were the two methods used] …
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A forensics consult and security researcher who analyzed metadata from leaked photos of Kate Upton said that the photos appear to have been obtained using software intended for use by law enforcement officials, reports Wired. The software, Elcomsoft Phone Password Breaker (EPPB), allows users to download a complete backup of all data on an iPhone once the iCloud ID and password have been obtained.
If a hacker can obtain a user’s iCloud username and password with iBrute, he or she can log in to the victim’s iCloud.com account to steal photos. But if attackers instead impersonate the user’s device with Elcomsoft’s tool, the desktop application allows them to download the entire iPhone or iPad backup as a single folder, says Jonathan Zdziarski, a forensics consult and security researcher. That gives the intruders access to far more data, he says, including videos, application data, contacts, and text messages …