Hackers steal account info from 225,000 iPhone owners

As posted on September 1, 2015 on www.clarkhoward.com

By Alexandra Thomas Sadler

Hackers have stolen account information from 225,000 iPhone owners, in what's being called "the largest known Apple account theft caused by malware," according to security company Palo Alto Networks

The hack was discovered by Palo Alto Networks and Chinese tech group WeipTech. While the damage is widespread, the good news is that the malware -- known as KeyRaider -- only targets "jailbroken" iPhones.

While KeyRaider is mostly found in Chinese websites and software for jailbroken iPhones, it is now showing up in several other places across the globe, including the United States.

What is jail-breaking?

Jail-breaking a phone allows the owner to access certain file systems that are restricted for security reasons. Breaking into the system allows you to customize the phone and do things like access apps that aren't available in the Apple App Store. And while that may sound great, what you're doing at the same time is removing security barriers that Apple has put in place to prevent these kinds of hacks.

Before jail-breaking a phone, you "need to consider carefully if the additional functionality is worth the additional risk," said Nicko Van Someren, chief technology officer of mobile security company Good Technology.

How the malware affects iPhone owners

Once a jailbroken iPhone is infected with the malware, hackers can access the owner's iTunes App Store account information, including the account username and password, as well as the iPhone's unique ID. The malware also releases all of the information about the owner's App Store purchases and can even block people from recovering their phone once it's taken over by thieves.

And it doesn't stop there. The hackers have released software that allows other people to purchase apps from the App Store for free. But it's actually not free -- they're making purchases with the stolen accounts' information. Some iPhone owners have found purchases in their recent purchase history that they didn't make, while others say they've received alerts from the hackers, demanding the owners contact the number on the screen to regain access to their phone. 

Palo Alto Networks' data found that at least 20,000 people are using the stolen credentials in the App Store. For more information on the hack and the malware, click here.

And if you're still considering jail-breaking a phone, check out this list of things to know before you do it.