FBI investigating iPad e-mail leaks

The investigation was opened Thursday after 114,000 e-mail addresses were obtained

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has opened an investigation into the leak of an estimated 114,000 Apple iPad user e-mail addresses.

Hackers belonging to a group called Goatse obtained the e-mail addresses after uncovering a Web application on AT&T's Web site that returned an iPad user's e-mail address when it was sent specially written queries. After writing an automated script to repeatedly query the site, they downloaded the addresses, and then handed them over to Gawker.com.

Now the FBI is trying to figure out whether this was a crime. "The FBI is aware of these possible computer intrusions and has opened an investigation into addressing the potential cyberthreat," said Lindsay Godwin, an FBI spokeswoman.

The investigation was opened Thursday by the FBI's Washington Field Office, she said. Godwin did not know if the investigation was opened at the request of Apple or AT&T. AT&T declined to comment, and Apple has not replied to requests for comment.

According to Gawker, Goatse hackers were able to download e-mail addresses belonging to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer. They also gained access to addresses belonging to employees of Google, Amazon, Microsoft and the U.S. military.

The hackers did this by guessing thousands of unique numbers -- called ICC-ID (Integrated Circuit Card Identifier) -- belonging to iPad users and feeding them into the AT&T Web site.

They wrote a PHP script that flooded AT&T's Web site with possible ICC-ID numbers and logged responses when the site returned an e-mail address. According to an interview with AT&T Chief Security Officer Ed Amoroso, the script exploited a feature on the Web site designed to auto-fill a login form with an e-mail address in order to speed things up when iPad 3G users went to view their AT&T accounts.

In a blog post Thursday, Goatse said that it did nothing illegal. The group obtained the the e-mail addresses via a public Web interface and then gave them to Gawker, but no one else, and has since destroyed the data, it said. "We did not contact AT&T directly, but we made sure that someone else tipped them off and waited for them to patch until we gave anything to Gawker. This is as 'nice guy' as it gets."

U.S. law prohibits the unauthorized accessing of computers, but it is unclear whether the script that the Goatse group used violated the law, said Jennifer Granick, civil liberties director with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "The question is, when you do an automated test like this, [are you] getting any type of unauthorized access or not," she said.

If it turns out the data in question was not misused, it is unlikely that federal prosecutors will press charges, she added.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags iPadfbi

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Robert McMillan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?