Hacker tricks Apple into wiping journalist’s devices

By Stephen C. Webster
Monday, August 6, 2012 11:28 EDT
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A caterpillar eats an apple. Photo: Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved.
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Wired journalist Mat Honan got hacked this weekend, but it’s Apple that’s now bracing for the fallout.

With the help of an Apple tech support agent, an unknown hacker accessed Honan’s iCloud account and remotely erased all the data on his iPad, iPhone and Macbook, including more than a year’s worth of photos, all through the use of what he called “very clever social engineering.”

In other words, someone obtained some basic, cursory information about Honan via the Internet, then called Apple and successfully enlisted their support in the hack.

While it’s not quite clear what methods of trickery the hacker used on Apple’s tech support agent, it was enough to convince Apple to change Honan’s password. From there, the hacker wiped his devices, then gained access to his Google email account, his Twitter account, and a Twitter account belonging to Honan’s former employer, tech blog Gizmodo.

“Because I’m a jerk who doesn’t back up data, I’ve lost at more than a year’s worth of photos, emails, documents, and more,” Honan wrote on his personal blog on Friday. “And, really, who knows what else. It’s been a shitty night.”

He added that Apple confirmed that the hacker bypassed their security questions, but that the company made no further comment and was working to recover his data. Honan was expected to publish a more complete account of the hack in Wired later on Monday.

The hack comes just a day after Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak predicted there would be “horrible problems” stemming from the current trend of moving data to cloud-based storage solutions.

“I really worry about everything going to the cloud,” he told an audience in Washington. “I think it’s going to be horrendous. I think there are going to be a lot of horrible problems in the next five years. With the cloud, you don’t own anything. You already signed it away.”

Photo: Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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