FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Hackers Used Government Spyware to Data-Rob iCloud

by

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.

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.

We’ve all seen movies about nefarious types stealing a nuclear weapon. What a disaster! Here is a case of criminal hackers using, apparently legally, a government spying weapon. The movies are frequently cautionary tales; maybe having those bombs isn’t such a good idea. Well, we have proof that giving governments and police the ability to completely steal data from a citizen is an equally bad idea — besides being a complete trashing of people’s legal rights.

Still, raising this as an issue is a lot like discussing what kind of clothing to wear while walking through a hurricane. Why do you need to know? Or, applied here, why are you storing your personal (and private) data — or any data for that matter — on some company’s computer?

That is what the “cloud” is. When the double-talk of marketing and the razzle-dazzle of product announcement is stripped away, this “cloud” is nothing more than a group of storage devices (big computers) that hold data — just like your computer. There is no difference in the basic technology; it’s a bunch of hard drives.

There are some differences in that cloud technology moves your data (in pieces) among thousands of storage devices and brilliantly unites it before your download it. So that your essay can end up being on six different computers, in pieces, and the storage software will pull it together when you need it. This is called “resource sharing”.

But you don’t need resource sharing on your personal computer and movement activists and organizations certainly don’t need to store their info on computers they have no control over. They information — always partial and often inaccurate– from agents and informants who would spend months sitting in on your meetings can now be accurately and quickly downloaded in minutes.

The safest and most secure place for your data is on your own computer’s hard drive. The safest place for your office network’s data is on a computer that is part of that network. Your data should never be stored on a device you cannot trust.

To be sure, there are some real benefits to having a storage cloud (as I always disclaim when called for: we at May First/People Link have such a service). But those benefits can be wiped out by the cloud company’s data practices.

To wit, are you sure your data won’t be given up or used? Google has a cloud system that will give up your data to the government immediately upon receipt of an order and processes some of that data to develop user profiles for marketing. Apple’s service doesn’t even have to turn it over; the government can use that EPPB software.

You’ll never know your data has been stolen.

In the end, maybe all this isn’t worth thinking about. Why should we be surprised that, in a society that celebrates the quick buck washed with the waters of scary nihilism, techie-thugs steal data? Or should any of this shock us when the companies protecting us from those hackers give up your data to the government and then downplay the amount of data stolen?

What’s worth thinking about is this: Are you willing to take this kind of chance with your data?

Alfredo Lopez writes about technology issues for This Can’t Be Happening!

Alfredo Lopez writes about technology issues for This Can’t Be Happening!

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
March 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump is Obama’s Legacy: Will this Break up the Democratic Party?
Eric Draitser
Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nothing Was Delivered
Andrew Levine
Ryan’s Choice
Joshua Frank
Global Coal in Freefall, Tar Sands Development Drying Up (Bad News for Keystone XL)
Anthony DiMaggio
Ditching the “Deep State”: The Rise of a New Conspiracy Theory in American Politics
Rob Urie
Boris and Natasha Visit Fantasy Island
John Wight
London and the Dreary Ritual of Terrorist Attacks
Paul Buhle
The CIA and the Intellectuals…Again
David Rosen
Why Did Trump Target Transgender Youth?
Vijay Prashad
Inventing Enemies
Ben Debney
Outrage From the Imperial Playbook
M. Shadee Malaklou
An Open Letter to Duke University’s Class of 2007, About Your Open Letter to Stephen Miller
Michael J. Sainato
Bernie Sanders’ Economic Advisor Shreds Trumponomics
Lawrence Davidson
Moral Failure at the UN
Pete Dolack
World Bank Declares Itself Above the Law
Nicola Perugini - Neve Gordon
Israel’s Human Rights Spies
Patrick Cockburn
From Paris to London: Another City, Another Attack
Ralph Nader
Reason and Justice Address Realities
Ramzy Baroud
‘Decolonizing the Mind’: Using Hollywood Celebrities to Validate Islam
Colin Todhunter
Monsanto in India: The Sacred and the Profane
Louisa Willcox
Grizzlies Under the Endangered Species Act: How Have They Fared?
Norman Pollack
Militarization of American Fascism: Trump the Usurper
Pepe Escobar
North Korea: The Real Serious Options on the Table
Brian Cloughley
“These Things Are Done”: Eavesdropping on Trump
Sheldon Richman
You Can’t Blame Trump’s Military Budget on NATO
Carol Wolman
Trump vs the People: a Psychiatrist’s Analysis
Stanley L. Cohen
The White House . . . Denial and Cover-ups
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Marines to Kill Desert Tortoises
Farhang Jahanpour
America’s Woes, Europe’s Responsibilities
Joseph Natoli
March Madness Outside the Basketball Court
Bill Willers
Volunteerism; Charisma; the Ivy League Stranglehold: a Very Brief Trilogy
Bruce Mastron
Slaughtered Arabs Don’t Count
Ayesha Khan
The Headscarf is Not an Islamic Compulsion
Pauline Murphy
Unburied Truth: Exposing the Church’s Iron Chains on Ireland
Ron Jacobs
Music is Love, Music is Politics
Christopher Brauchli
Prisoners as Captive Customers
Robert Koehler
The Mosque That Disappeared
Franklin Lamb
Update from Madaya
Dan Bacher
Federal Scientists Find Delta Tunnels Plan Will Devastate Salmon
Barbara Nimri Aziz
The Gig Economy: Which Side Are You On?
Louis Proyect
What Caused the Holodomor?
Max Mastellone
Seeking Left Unity Through a Definition of Progressivism
Charles R. Larson
Review: David Bellos’s “Novel of the Century: the Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables”
David Yearsley
Ear of Darkness: the Soundtracks of Steve Bannon’s Films
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail