One sensationally reported incident this week exposes a dual threat: your data isn’t safe on a corporate-controlled “cloud” and spying software made for police and government agencies makes it completely accessible.
The leaking of celebrities’ photos, most compromising and some nude, from Apple’s iCloud storage system shows how silly we can be about nudity and celebrity and what our media thinks is important in the world. These were self-shot photos nude people and nudity is something we can all see in the mirror!
There is, however, a very important point to the entire affair and, unlike the naked photos, it’s worth talking about.
From phone to computer! But to whose computer?
Apparently, according to Apple, this wasn’t a breach; there was no break-down in the security system for the company’s giant storage service. Instead, the hackers used what is called a “brute force attack” — a password-guessing method that uses software readily available to hackers to guess and test passwords to access a private account.
In the last couple of days, however, experts have become almost sure that the software used to capture the iCloud user data is a program designed for use by police and government surveillance. The program is called EPPB or Elcomsoft Phone Password Breaker and it’s made by a Russian outfit called Elcomsoft. Elcomsoft specializes in selling it to government authorities but it will sell it to anyone willing to pay the price. Apparently these hackers got a hold of that program and maybe, indeed, have done so through legal purchase.
The scenario goes like this: a hacker uses a program called iBrute which is a brute-force password guessing program for the iPhone. Yeah, there is actually such a program. It’s available free on line. With that, you can acquire certain types of information. But if you manage to get the user’s password with iBrute, you can then use EPPB to capture the user’s entire storage — everything they have on the iCloud and nobody will know.
The instructions appear on hacker message boards. “Use the script to hack her passwd…use eppb to download the backup,” wrote a hacker on the Anon-IB message board (or forum). “Post your wins here ;-)” That’s what they call data theft: “wins”.
This appears to be what these hackers did and, as of this writing, they’re still doing it. Data is currently still being stolen from iCloud. Apple appears unable to stop it.
The company points out that it offers a two-part verification system; you need to get a code emailed to you in addition to your username/password. This means that most people really aren’t vulnerable, it says. Apple called the hack “very targeted” to a few celebrities and claimed it had ended. Given the information about EPPB and the continuous theft of data from iCloud accounts, that statement seems highly questionable.