Last week was no romp in the park and Sunday was no day of rest for Apple. On Thursday, the technology giant shut down its developer site -- critical for third-party developers who test their apps in progress -- and posted a notice that the site was down for maintenance. On Sunday, Apple e-mailed developers, admitting that the site had been compromised by an "intruder."
"We have not been able to rule out the possibility that some developers' names, mailing addresses, and/or email addresses may have been accessed," the e-mail said.
The mystery did not last long. An independent security researcher wasted no time to step forward in response to the notice, claiming he had hacked the site as a demonstration and had submitted bug reports on all the vulnerabilities he had found.
The site was taken offline last week and Apple was "working around the clock." Apple assured it was "completely overhauling" its development systems, updating server software, and rebuilding its entire database.
Apple, Just Relax
Posting a video demo of his hack on YouTube with background music similar to video-game rock guitars, Ibrahim Balic introduced himself, said he was the mystery man, and discussed his motives that can be summed up in two words: Apple, Relax.
Balic, a Turkish researcher based in London, was disturbed that this was being treated as an intrusion rather than an exchange of information from researcher to company. OK, he said, he had obtained data on more than 100,000 users, but it was not for malicious purposes. Balic said he wanted to see how deep he could go into the site. In fact, he said, he had submitted bug reports to Apple all along and was surprised to see this being treated as a hack attack.
"Hi there, My name is Ibrahim Balic, I am a security researcher. You can also search my name from Facebook's Whitehat List. I do private consulting for particular firms. Recently I have started doing research on Apple inc.[sic]"
(The White Hat program he referred to collaborates with external security researchers to help Facebook maintain security for users.)
As for the Apple site, Balic said he found 13 bugs and reported these, one by one, through Apple's bug report site. One of those bugs gave Balic access to user details. He stated that he "immediately" reported this to Apple. "I have taken 73 users details[sic] (all apple inc workers only) and prove them [sic] as an example."
Nonetheless, Apple viewed the access as a security breach and on Thursday shut the Developer Center down. Balic said only four hours had passed from the time of his final report to when the site closed down.
"I do not want my name to be in blacklist, please search on this situation," Balic said in a comment posted on a technology Web site. He obtained data on more than 100,000 users, he said, but had no malicious intent. trying instead to alert Apple to vulnerabilities.
"I have over 100.000+ users details and Apple is informed about this. I didn't attempt to get the datas [sic] first and report then, instead I have reported first."
Balic said he is holding on to all evidence, e-mails and images and "bugs that I made through Apple bug-report."
Though an ordeal for Apple and Balic, no consumer panic was called for as consumer systems did not appear to have been at all affected.
The downside for developers is inconvenience of lost time when the site was down, as the site is their lifeline, allowing them to download betas, set up devices and access forums so they can discuss and resolve problems. The site is used for testing apps in progress as well.