The breach, which comes just weeks after an Apple employee lost an iPhone prototype in a bar, exposed the most exclusive email list on the planet, a collection of early-adopter iPad 3G subscribers that includes thousands of A-listers in finance, politics and media, from New York Times Co. CEO Janet Robinson to Diane Sawyer of ABC News to film mogul Harvey Weinstein to Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It even appears that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel's information was compromised.
The specific information exposed in the breach included subscribers' email addresses, coupled with an associated ID used to authenticate the subscriber on AT&T's network, known as the ICC-ID. ICC-ID stands for integrated circuit card identifier and is used to identify the SIM cards that associate a mobile device with a particular subscriber.
The subscriber data was obtained by a group calling itself Goatse Security. Though the group is steeped in off-the-wall, 4chan-style internet culture—its name is a reference to a famous gross-out Web picture—it has previously highlighted real security vulnerabilities in the Firefox and Safari Web browsers, and attracted media attention for finding what it said were flaws in Amazon's community ratings system.
Goatse Security obtained its data through a script on AT&T's website, accessible to anyone on the internet. When provided with an ICC-ID as part of an HTTP request, the script would return the associated email address, in what was apparently intended to be an AJAX-style response within a Web application. The security researchers were able to guess a large swath of ICC IDs by looking at known iPad 3G ICC IDs, some of which are shown in pictures posted by gadget enthusiasts to Flickr and other internet sites, and which can also be obtained through friendly associates who own iPads and are willing to share their information, available within the iPad "Settings" application.
Some of the Military Accounts that were compromised
Within the tech industry, accounts were compromised at Google, Amazon, Microsoft and AOL, among others. In finance, accounts belonged to companies from Goldman Sachs to JP Morgan to Citigroup to Morgan Stanley, along with dozens of venture capital and private equity firms.
In government, affected accounts included a GMail user who appears to be Rahm Emanuel and staffers in the Senate, House of Representatives, Department of Justice, NASA, Department of Homeland Security, FAA, FCC, and National Institute of Health, among others. Dozens of employees of the federal court system also appeared on the list.
Turns out Apple shouldn't be the first to tout anybody about security issues