One man and a teenager from Russia are under arrest for compromising Apple ID accounts and using Apple’s Find My iPhone service to hold iOS devices for ransom, Russian police said.
Find My Phone is an Apple iCloud feature that allows iPhone, iPad and Mac owners to remotely lock and track their devices if they’re lost or stolen.
A custom message can end up displayed on the lockscreen when the feature activates. In late May, users from Australia and other countries reported they had locked iPhones with a message claiming the device suffered a hack attack by a person or group named Oleg Pliss who demanded $100 or euros to unlock it.
Apple said the incidents were not the result of iCloud suffering compromise but password reuse across multiple online accounts might be the cause of the hijackings.
It’s not clear if the two Moscow residents, aged 16 and 23, were behind the Oleg Pliss attacks, but the Russian Ministry of Interior said the arrests described a similar approach.
The two stand accused of compromising email accounts and used phishing pages and social engineering techniques to gain access to Apple ID accounts. They also faces charges of using the Find My Phone feature to lock the associated devices and send messages to the owners threatening to delete data unless they paid a ransom.
Another technique involved placing advertisements online that offered to rent an Apple ID account with access to a lot of media content. Once users accepted the offer and linked their devices with that account, the attackers then used the Find My Phone feature to hijack them, Russian authorities said.
The Russian Ministry of Interior said it started receiving reports about such attacks in the spring. Regaining control of locked devices proved difficult for victims because they had to present Apple with an identity document and a receipt from the store where they purchased their device, the ministry said.
Police searched the apartments of the two suspects and seized computer equipment, SIM cards and phones.
The two face charges of unauthorized access to computer information under the Russian Criminal Code.