Hackers with the amorphous protest movement “Anonymous” and “AntiSec” said Monday night they caught the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) red-handed spying on Apple customers, and published over 1 million unique device identification numbers they allegedly pulled out of an FBI database.
In all, the hackers claimed that the FBI files they accessed had more than 12 million Apple UDIDs, the unique identifier associated with every iPhone and iPad that comes off the production line. They also said that most UDIDs in the FBI’s database had names, cell phone numbers and addresses attached to them, which were edited out before publication. Apple has sold nearly 200 million iPhones and more than 50 million iPads since both devices’ debut.
Apple has been phasing out the UDID standard, and recently made changes to prevent third-party applications from sending users’ UDIDs to unknown parties. Apple told a congressional inquiry in 2010 that it cannot track iPhones in real time, but a hacker named Eric Smith noted that third party applications can transmit UDIDs, which could potentially be linked to the owner and used to track that person.
And that’s precisely what hackers with Anonymous think the FBI was doing.
They claimed to have tapped into a Dell laptop owned by Special Agent Christopher K. Stangl, an FBI cyber security expert. They downloaded several files, including one that contained “12,367,232 Apple iOS devices including Unique Device Identifiers (UDID)” and other personal information, they wrote in a text file published online. “[The] personal details fields referring to people appears many times empty leaving the whole list incompleted [sic] on many parts. no other file on the same folder makes mention about this list or its purpose.”
While it’s not immediately clear what the FBI is doing with the Apple UDIDs and detailed information on device owners, Gizmodo pointed out that the acronym “NCFTA” could stand for the National Cyber-Forensics & Training Alliance, a nonprofit that acts as an information-sharing gateway between private industry and law enforcement.
“People are frustrated, they feel the system manipulating them more than ever,” the hackers wrote. “Never underestimate the power of frustrated people. For the last few years we have broke [sic] into systems belonging to Governments and Big corporations just to find out they are spending millions of tax dollars to spy on their citizens. They work to discredit dissenting voices. They pay their friends for overpriced and insecure networks and services.”
They conclude: “Governments around the globe are already in control of us in real life, and they have now declared war on the people to take over the Internet. It’s happening now. It’s not waiting for you to wake up. So now my dear friends, it’s your turn to decide where you belong, and what you are made of.”
An FBI spokesperson at the agency’s New York office was not available to comment.
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