Security Experts:

Compromised Apple IDs Used to Hold iPhones for Ransom

Cybercriminals are using stolen Apple credentials to lock iPhones, iPads and Macs and hold them for ransom.

Most victims are located in Australia and New Zealand, but there have been reports of victims the United States as well.

The attackers are using compromised Apple IDs to access the Find My iPhone feature in iCloud and enable Lost Mode. Lost Mode allows owners to lock a lost or stolen device and send a message to the individual who’s in its possession.

Hacked by Oleg Pliss“Hacked by Oleg Pliss,” reads the message sent to locked devices. Symantec’s Satnam Narang explained that Oleg Pliss is the name of an Oracle software engineer and someone that the cybercriminals most likely chose at random.

Victims are instructed to send 100 USD/EUR through MoneyPak, Ukash or Paysafecard to have their devices unlocked. The attackers want voucher codes for these payment services delivered to a specified email address.

Users who have set a passcode for their devices can easily unlock them by entering the passcode. Those who haven’t set a passcode can recover their devices only by wiping them and restoring them from a backup. That’s because when the hacker enables Lost Mode, a new passcode must be set.

Apple representatives have told ZDNet that the incident doesn’t involve a security breach of iCloud. A more likely scenario, according to experts, is that the Apple IDs have been obtained in a phishing campaign. Phishing scams targeting Apple customers are highly common and some of the bogus emails are very well designed so it’s likely that a lot of people have taken the bait.

Another possibility is that the attackers have abused data leaked in different breaches, counting on the fact that many people set the same passwords for multiple services. Some have suggested that the cybercriminals might have used data leaked from eBay. However, many of the victims don’t have an eBay account. On the other hand, there are plenty of other major data leaks that the attackers can use to hijack accounts.

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.