Following yesterday’s report that a hacker group has been threatening to wipe hundreds of millions of iPhones if Apple does not pay them a ransom, Apple has unequivocally stated that there has been no breach of its systems. Although Apple neither confirmed nor denied the authenticity of the data the hackers claim to have, the company told Fortune that, if the list is legitimate, it was not obtained through any security breach at Apple, suggesting that the “alleged list of email addresses and passwords appears to have been obtained from previously compromised third-party services.”
A person familiar with the contents of the stolen data indicated that many of the email accounts and passwords contained in the list matched data that had come from the 2012 security brach at LinkedIn, which exposed details for more than 100 million accounts. It is not uncommon for criminal hackers to reuse data from past breaches to further their scams, often simply counting on users to reuse passwords across multiple online services, and using journalists to advertise their claims in order to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt, thereby attempting to force the hand of companies such as Apple to respond simply on the basis of public perception. While it’s unknown whether a mass remote wipe of iPhone data is feasible in this scenario, Apple appears to be on the case, with the spokesperson telling Fortune that the company is “actively monitoring to prevent unauthorized access to user accounts and are working with law enforcement to identify the criminals involved.” Apple of course also recommends that users always use strong and unique passwords, and turn on two-factor authentication — generally good security advice in any case, and practices that would help to at least mitigate these risks, if not eliminate them entirely. While the Apple rep didn’t elaborate on what specific steps Apple had taken to monitor this specific situation, they did note that such measures are “standard procedure” for the company at any time.