UPDATE 3/24/2017 8:30 a.m. PST: Apple has responded to the hackers allegedly holding them hostage over nearly 300 million user accounts. The tech giant said that if the list of accounts is legit, it didn't come from a breach of any of Apple's systems, that it had to have been taken from previously compromised third-party services. Also, the group of hackers has raised the ransom number from $75,000 to $700,000.
The advent of the smartphone has made it possible to conduct the business of life on the go. With these handy gadgets, we can store important documents, family photos, daily planners and have face-to-face conversations with the help of apps like Skype and FaceTime. Very impressive!
They have become such an important part of our daily lives it's hard to imagine what we would do without them. Unfortunately, millions of iPhone users are at risk of having their devices wiped at the hands of hackers.
Why your iPhone could be at risk
A group of hackers calling themselves the "Turkish Crime Family" claims to have gained access to a massive cache of iCloud and Apple email accounts. Access to these accounts could allow them to wipe everything from the victims' gadget remotely. They could also reset the victims' iCloud accounts.
The hackers allegedly have access to more than 300 million Apple email accounts. This includes people using @me and @icloud domains.
The cybercriminals are demanding that Apple pay them either $75,000 in Bitcoin currency or $100,000 in iTunes gift cards. In exchange for payment, the group would then delete the alleged data cache. They are giving Apple until April 7 to make the payment.
One of the criminals told Motherboard, "I just want my money and thought this would be an interesting report that a lot of Apple customers would be interested in reading and hearing."
Apple has not made a public statement on the extortion attempt. It's unknown whether this threat is real, as the alleged stolen account details have yet to be verified. In the case that the threat is real, there are some security steps you should take before April 7.
What you need to do now
In the chance that hackers have gained access to your Apple accounts, take these steps:
- Change your passwords - Make sure that you change all passwords associated with your Apple accounts. Also, have unique passwords for every site that you have an account. Using the same password across multiple sites should never be done. Read this article to help you create hack-proof passwords.
- Set up two-factor authentication - Two-factor authentication, also known as two-step verification, means that to log in to your account, you need two ways to prove you are who you say you are. It's like the DMV or bank asking for two forms of ID. Click here to learn how to set up two-factor authentication.
- Backup your iPhone - You should backup your iPhone onto your computer through iTunes. If your phone ever gets wiped, you can restore it with your backup on iTunes. Click here to learn how to backup your iPhone.
- Beware of phishing scams - Scammers will try and piggyback on potential breaches like this. They will create phishing emails, pretending to be the affected company, hoping to get victims to click on malicious links that could lead to more problems. Take our phishing IQ test to see if you can spot a fake email.
Hopefully, this extortion attempt is only a bluff. If it's not and you follow these steps you should be fine. Keep checking our Happening Now section and we'll let you know of any updates.