What To Do If Your iPhone Is Hacked And Remotely Locked
This week, in the hours before daylight, a hacker sent an unsettling alert to iPhone users in Australia. The husband of a Sydney council member received the message at 4 a.m.; a graphic designer was awakened at 2 a.m.
Their phones had been hacked and locked by “Oleg Pliss” and were being held for ransom, unless the users sent money to a PayPal account. The incidents seemed isolated to Australia, but in a troubling development iPhone users in the U.S., writing on Apple’s discussion forum, are starting to report the same strange alert.
“I’m in the US. Never been to Australia,” wrote wheelman2188 on the forum. “Hacked last night [by] the Oleg Pliss nonsense. Currently restoring to try and get it back online.”
Users who had pass codes on their devices seem to have been able to get back in, but those who didn’t have had to restore their iPhones or iPads to the factory setting (hoping that they were backed up on iTunes when they did so).
Ransomware hacking came out of Russia and Eastern Europe about five years ago and spread west, according to the Internet security firm Norton. It has become more prevalent in the past two years with criminals typically charging between $60 and $200 to unlock a computer. Norton estimates that with the various ransomware malware out there, victims have ended up paying about $5 million per year.
This kind of hacking — locking users’ devices and demanding money — has been used on laptops and desktops before but is spreading to mobile. Some tech blogs have speculated that recent security breaches at eBay and Yahoo might be connected to the attacks.