Apple + Security & Privacy

iPhone Ransomware? Dutch Hacker Exploits Jailbroken iPhone Bug and Asks for Money

Posted on by

Read Intego’s latest articles about ransomware on Apple devices.

A Dutch hacker has come up with a novel way to make a few euros. Realizing that jailbroken iPhones are generally accessible via ssh, he “breaks into” them, then sends an SMS alert to their owners, telling them the phones are insecure. For 5 euros, he’ll be happy to tell them how to secure their phones.

A bit of background. For those unfamiliar with the term “jailbreak”, it simply means exploiting a weakness in the iPhone so users can install unapproved applications. (Read Wikipedia’s explanation.) Many users do this to get access to iPhone apps that Apple won’t approve. When an iPhone is jailbroken, ssh, or secure shell, access is available over a network. However, this access uses a default password that most users don’t change. Since this password is easy to find (Google is your friend), it’s a cinch for anyone to hack into a jailbroken iPhone, if they can find it.

So this Dutch hacker “used port scanning to identify jailbroken iPhones on T-mobile Netherlands with SSH running,” according to an Ars Technica article that links to a Dutch-language forum thread explaining the trick. In other words, the hacker just scanned as many phones as he could find, and, in so doing, found those that were jailbroken.

He then directs users, by sending them an SMS, to a web page, where he asks 5 euros for instructions on how to make the phone more secure. This is not technically “ransomware” – malware that usually encrypts files, then asks a user to pay to get a password to get access to the files again – but it’s close.

This is not a complicated task. As Ars Technica says:

security researchers have done similar port scanning in the past, and downloaded users’ SMS databases as a “proof of concept.” However, this is the first time that it seems the technique has been used in the wild. It’s worth noting that the technique is fairly trivial and could be done by anyone with even a modicum of networking know-how.

So, if you have jailbroken your iPhone, you would do well to change the default ssh password. Again, Google will help you perform this simple operation. If you don’t, any enterprising hacker can get access to everything your phone contains. You don’t want that to happen…

How can I learn more?

Each week on the Intego Mac Podcast, Intego’s Mac security experts discuss the latest Apple news, security and privacy stories, and offer practical advice on getting the most out of your Apple devices. Be sure to follow the podcast to make sure you don’t miss any episodes!

You can also subscribe to our e-mail newsletter and keep an eye here on The Mac Security Blog for the latest Apple security and privacy news. And don’t forget to follow Intego on your favorite social media channels: Follow Intego on Twitter Follow Intego on Facebook Follow Intego on YouTube Follow Intego on Pinterest Follow Intego on LinkedIn Follow Intego on Instagram Follow the Intego Mac Podcast on Apple Podcasts

Comments are closed.