iPhone & iPad users held to ransom by Apple ID hackers

Apple has denied reports that hackers compromised its iCloud online storage service to carry out a series of remote attacks against Australian iPhone and iPad users.

A slew of Australian Apple users have reported being locked out of their iPhones, iPads and Macs remotely by hackers since Monday.

Victims have flooded Apple support forums with reports of being locked out of their devices by a group or individual claiming to be Oleg Pliss.

A message that appears on the affected devices also demands $100 or Euros from the owner to unlock a passcode the hackers have put in place.

"I have no idea how this happened. I am not aware of being exposed to malware or anything else, although I did recently purchase some new apps," wrote Veritylikestea, who first raised the alarm about the attacks.

In order to send a message of that ilk and lock a device, the hackers would have had to gain access to a user's Apple ID and password, and used that to log into the firm's online storage service iCloud.

From here, they could add passcode protection to devices using Apple's Find My iPhone/iPad feature.

The forum reports seem to suggest the attack took place in the early hours of yesterday morning in Australia, with many writing about being woken up by the message arriving.

At the moment, only Australian devices without passcode protection in place seem to be affected.

Some users claim to have regained access to their devices by restoring it from a backup via iTunes, and many others are resetting their iCloud passwords as a precaution.

Apple has since released a statement insisting that iCloud was not to blame for hackers gaining access to the victims' devices.

"Apple takes security very seriously and iCloud was not compromised during this incident," the statement reads.

"Impacted users should change their Apple ID password as soon as possible and avoid using the same name and password for multiple devices.

"Any users who need additional help can contact AppleCare or visit their local Apple retail store," it concludes.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.