Apple devices held hostage using Find My iPhone

Hackers are demanding ransoms to unlock devices that were locked with the Find My iPhone tool, according to forum posts

Hackers appear to be exploiting Apple's Find My iPhone service to lock up phones and tablets and send ransom demands to their owners.

A number of reports on Apple's support forum tell of devices displaying messages that they have been hacked by "Oleg Pliss" and demanding payment of a $US100 ransom via PayPal to unlock them. Most of the reports were from Australians but there were also reports from a Briton and a Canadian.

The hackers seem to have used the Find My iPhone feature or its equivalent for other Apple gadgets to lock the devices and send the message, according to the forum posts that were first highlighted by The Age.

The feature is meant to help users find their lost or stolen Apple devices. If Find My iPhone is enabled for a lost device, the owner can log into Apple's iCloud service to see where the missing device is located on a map, or track where it has been. Users can decide to immediately lock the missing device, displaying a custom message on the screen.

Some users said they had accessed iCloud and indeed saw that the lost mode was enabled for their devices. However, they were unable to disable the lock mode and regain access to their devices. Others tried to restore the devices to factory settings, which appeared to work for some of them.

An Apple spokesman couldn't immediately comment on the problem, but one forum user reported Apple's customer service is "pretty sure the restore is the only way forward."

It is unclear at the moment how the hackers are gaining access to the devices. One possibility is that they gained access to a database with user names and passwords used for several services, including iCloud. Those login credentials could have been used to enable the lost mode and lock the devices

At least one of the users said their iCloud password was the same as the one they used for eBay, whose database with login credentials and other personal information was recently hacked, prompting the company to ask its users to reset their passwords. Others said they re-used their password for iCloud, but did not use it for their eBay accounts.

Attacks similar to the eBay breach occurred recently at Yahoo, Adobe and dating network Cupid Media.

The latest messages on the forum thread are from hacked users who said their AppleIDs have been disabled, leading to speculation that Apple could have started isolating hacked accounts.

Loek covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Applesecurity

More about Adobe SystemsAppleeBayIDGindeedPayPalYahoo

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Loek Essers

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place