March 24, 2023

Bits Blog: Hackers Claim to Have 12 Million Apple Device Records

Unique strings of letters and numbers known as UDIDs are assigned to each of Apple's mobile devices.Chris Goodney/Bloomberg NewsUnique strings of letters and numbers known as UDIDs are assigned to each of Apple’s mobile devices.

4:39 p.m. | Updated Adding F.B.I. statement.

Hackers have released a file that they say contains more than one million identification numbers for Apple iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch devices. They claim to have obtained the file by hacking into the computer of a federal agent.

The hacking group, known as AntiSec — a subset of the loose hacking collective known as Anonymous — posted copies of the file on Sunday and, in an online message, claimed to have a total of more than 12 million Apple identification numbers and associated personal data in their possession. They said they obtained the file in March by hacking into the laptop of a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent in the bureau’s New York field office.

The F.B.I. denied that the file was obtained from one of its agents.

“The F.B.I. is aware of published reports alleging that an F.B.I. laptop was compromised and private data regarding Apple UDIDs was exposed,” the bureau said in a statement. “At this time there is no evidence indicating that an F.B.I. laptop was compromised or that the F.B.I. either sought or obtained this data.”

Apple’s unique device identifiers, known as UDIDs, are strings of letters and numbers assigned to Apple devices. On their own, they are not of much value to hackers, but stitched together with other data — name, e-mail address, ZIP code, date of birth or driver’s license, for example — they can be used to compile a profile of a person that could be used to, say, answer their online security questions.

Apple has recently moved away from letting its app developers use device identifiers to make it harder for marketers to tie that that information to other data and track users across apps. Steve Dowling, an Apple spokesman, did not return requests for comment.

“A UDID is just a jumble of digits,” said Jim Fenton, the chief security officer of OneID. “It is only powerful when it is aggregated with other information.”

In their statement on the bulletin board PasteBin, the hackers said that they had obtained a file with “a list of 12,367,232 Apple iOS devices, including Unique Device Identifiers (UDID), user names, name of devices, type of device, Apple Push Notification Service tokens, zipcodes, cellphone numbers, addresses, etc.”

Of the file posted online, only a few identifiers were tied to e-mail addresses, apparently because the device’s owner chose to use an e-mail address when naming the device.

The hackers claimed to have obtained the file from the computer of Christopher K. Stangl, a member of the F.B.I.’s Cyber Action Team. A spokesman for the F.B.I. did not immediately comment on the reported breach, but security experts said the file could have been obtained from anywhere.

“There are a million ways this could have happened,” said Marcus Carey, a researcher at Rapid7. “Apple could have been breached. ATT could have been breached. A video game maker could have been breached. The F.B.I. could have obtained the file while doing forensics on another data breach.”

The hackers said, in their statement, that no other file on the breached computer mentioned the list of unique identification numbers or its purpose.

For now, Mr. Carey said that without more information, the breach posed little danger to those whose identification numbers had been exposed. “This is smoke, not fire,” Mr. Carey said. “This poses very little risk. None of this information could be used to hack someone or launch an attack.”

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Round of Layoffs to Start at Research in Motion

As it struggles with the declining popularity of the BlackBerry line of smartphones, Research In Motion said on Monday that it would begin laying off about 2,000 employees, 10.5 percent of its work force, this week.

While the company had previously announced that it planned to cut employees, the number of jobs lost was higher than some analysts expected, perhaps suggesting that the company’s situation was deteriorating more rapidly than earlier thought.

RIM also announced changes to the duties of several executives. While those new arrangements did not appear to be significant, it also said that Don Morrison, the chief operating officer, would retire. Mr. Morrison, who joined RIM in 2000, went on medical leave last month.

The growing popularity of Apple iPhones and phones running Google’s Android operating system in RIM’s crucial North American market have forced the company’s share price down by about half over the last year. Shares in RIM were down over 4 percent, to $26.71, in midafternoon trading on Nasdaq.

While the layoffs, which were announced during a quarterly conference call earlier this year, are a response to the company’s financial situation, they will not resolve RIM’s fundamental problems. RIM’s future outlook now largely rests with a line of BlackBerry phones based around an entirely new operating system known as QNX.

Those phones, however, will not be for sale until an unspecified point next year. In the interim, RIM has introduced phones with an improved version of its decade-old operating system.

The company’s move into the tablet computer market with the BlackBerry PlayBook this spring has also proved disappointing. The device, which uses the new operating system, was introduced without many major features, including e-mail software, a puzzling omission given that BlackBerry phones were the world’s first successful wireless e-mail devices.

RIM has shipped only 500,000 PlayBooks but has not disclosed how many of them have been purchased by consumers and businesses. By comparison, Apple said last week that it sold 9.25 million iPad 2 devices during its last quarter.

In its announcement, RIM said that severance payments and other costs related to the layoffs were not included in its financial outlook for the current quarter. While the company offered no figures on Monday, Mike Abramsky, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets, estimated that the pretax cost would be $200 million to $250 million.

In a note to investors, Mr. Abramsky added that the extent of the cut was “more significant than previously suggested by management.”

RIM said that the layoffs in North America would take place this week. Overseas layoffs will follow later.

While the company did not disclose where the employees who will be made redundant are based, or what roles they perform, the majority of its work force is in Waterloo, Ontario, a city west of Toronto where RIM has its headquarters.

The cuts will give RIM about 17,000 employees, effectively bringing it back to levels of earlier this year. At the end of February, when its fiscal year ended, RIM reported that it had 17,500 employees.

Mr. Abramsky noted that after the cuts RIM would generate revenue of $1.2 million per employee. While that is less than Apple, it is better than Google or Nokia, he said.

RIM’s situation has led several employees to leave the company of their own accord. Brian Wallace, the former vice president of digital marketing and media, recently joined Samsung Mobile. Shortly afterward, he was followed to Samsung by Ryan Bidan, a former Microsoft Games executive who was the senior product manager for the PlayBook.

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