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Apple Devices in Australia Locked, Held for Ransom
Apple Devices in Australia Locked, Held for Ransom

By Barry Levine
May 27, 2014 2:02PM

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Reportedly, those with a passcode set on their device can still unlock it, while those without one could not. Those non-passcoders can, restore the device to its last backup point, but all data since that backup will be lost. Apple has instructions on how to use Recovery Mode on a device. Users may also want to bring their device to an Apple store.
 



There's been a mass kidnapping of Apple devices in the Land Down Under. No, really.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald and other sources in the country, owners of iPads, iPhones and Macs in Queensland, New South Wales, Western Australia, South Australia and Victor have received messages that they have to pay a PayPal account if they want their devices unlocked.

Similar reports have been flowing into Apple's support forums.

'Locked Itself'

On Sunday, for instance, a user called veritylikestea in Melbourne wrote, "I was using my ipad a short while ago when suddenly it locked itself." At the same time, a message on the user's phone -- not clear if it was an iPhone -- said the devices "had been hacked by 'Oleg Pliss' and she/she/they demanded $100 USD/EUR" be sent to an account at PayPal. A PayPal spokesperson has said that any payments sent as ransom to one of its accounts will be refunded.

The user added that "I did recently purchase some new apps -- perhaps one of these has something to do with it."

Other users have also reported that the name Oleg Pliss was used. The Herald reported that an Oleg Pliss is a software engineer at Oracle, another is a banking professional in Ukraine, and there are still others listed in Russia.

Other Australian users on the Apple support forum report similar problems and there have been similar tweets on Twitter. One user, Casey Maree, said she was "woken up at 2 am by hacked 'Find My iPhone' asking for money."

iCloud Hack?

The Herald said there were "dozens" of such incidents across Australia. Several have reported that it appears their iCloud accounts and "Find My iPhone" functionality were hacked to create this lockout. The Find My iPhone feature allows an account owner to remotely lock a device, such as when it is lost or stolen.

Reportedly, those with a passcode set on their device can still unlock it, while those without one could not. Those non-passcoders can, however, restore the device to its last backup point, but all data since that backup will be lost. Apple has instructions on how to use Recovery Mode on a device. Users may also want to bring their device to the nearest Apple store, with ID to prove they have a right to unlock it.

Apple has not yet commented on the reports.

Time magazine said some of the reports of owners being locked out, with demands for $50 or $100, have begun surfacing from some users in New Zealand, as well as travelers in and out of Australia and at least one person in the U.S. with no apparent ties to Australia.

Some are speculating that iCloud was hacked by account log-ons obtained in a phishing scheme, or through a compromised Internet service provider, which might explain why the attack is aimed almost entirely at Australian users. However, more than one ISP has been serving the victims.
 

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