When it comes to security and privacy, Apple is usually viewed as ahead of the game. Partially, this is because the company’s products and services – particularly its computer operating systems like macOS – aren’t as widely used, making the systems less attractive to attackers. It’s also due to the company’s stance on privacy overall.
While Apple products and services may be more secure on average, no company is completely immune to attacks or data-related missteps. With that in mind, here’s a look at the history of Apple data breaches since 2010.
Apple Data Breach Timeline
May 2010 – High-Profile Individuals Contact Details Exposed
After an Apple employee lost an iPhone, the contact information for a variety of high-profile individuals became accessible to unauthorized individuals. The contact list included leaders in the entertainment and finance spaces, as well as government personnel.
It isn’t clear precisely who or how many people were included in the compromised contact list.
June 2010 – 114k iPad Users’ Data Exposed
While this breach was technically the fault of AT&T, it directly impacted iPad users. An AT&T network vulnerability was exploitable, allowing the data of around 114,000 iPad users to be potentially exposed. While the security issue was fixed, individuals whose data was potentially at risk may have been unaware of an intrusion into their privacy.
September 2012 – 12 Million Apple Device IDs Leaked to the Internet
In 2012, BlueToad, a mobile publishing company, said that an attack on their network led to the leak of Apple device IDs online. The company said that the event results in the theft of Apple UDIDs from their system.
The group claiming responsibility said that they gained access to the UDIDs in March 2012, though news of the hack wasn’t released until September. Overall, the attackers claiming responsibility said they had access to 12 million UDIDs, which they said were accessed after taking an FBI agent’s computer.
The FBI denied the allegations that an agent’s laptop was involved. Additionally, the agency said that the FBI had neither sought nor obtained the UDID data in question.
July 2013 – Apple Developer Portal Hacked, Exposing Information of 275k 3rd-Party Developers
While this Apple data breach didn’t impact consumers directly, it did expose the data of the approximately 275,000 registered third-party developers using the Apple developer portal. Developer names and IDs were visible after the attacker exploited a vulnerability, and mailing and email addresses may have also been exposed.
However, the person claiming responsibility for the breach asserted that their intentions weren’t nefarious. Instead, they claimed that their goal was to expose bugs that could be exploited and that they reported everything they discovered to Apple to allow the company to take appropriate action. The person also states that after they alerted the tech giant to the bugs, the portal was taken offline.
Apple did confirm that the system was accessed by an unauthorized person. Additionally, the company stated that the personal information of the registered developers might have been exposed.
Some developers who may have been impacted were also required to perform password resets. While passwords were never explicitly listed as being exposed, the move suggests that password details may have either been visible to an attacker or password-related data was copied, though it isn’t clear if that was the case.
September 2014 – Hundreds of Celebrity Nude Photos Stolen in iCloud Hack
In September 2014, news of a large-scale hack involving hundreds of nude photos of celebrities began making headlines. The images made an appearance on 4chan, spurring concerns about a breach of Apple’s iCloud service.
While Apple denied the leaked photos were the result of a major breach, instead claiming that celebrities had been targeted by hacking attempts involving their usernames, passwords, and security questions. Still, the event sparked significant concern about the safety and security of the iCloud service.
August 2015 – KeyRaider Malware Steals Data from 225k iPhone Users
KeyRaider, a form of malware that targeted iPhones, gave attackers access to login credentials, private keys, certificates, and online purchase receipts from approximately 225,000 iPhone users. This gave attackers the ability to make unauthorized purchases or, potentially, use any credentials to access personal data.
It was also believed that the malware could be used to lock a user’s device, allowing attackers to levy ransom demands for unlocks.
Only jailbroken devices were impacted by the malware. However, based on the scale, it still made the attack one of the largest to impact the Apple device landscape.
August 2019 – Hackers Place Monitoring Implants on iPhones
Researchers at Google warned iPhone users in August 2019 that an exploit allowed an unknown number of iPhones – potentially thousands per week – to download monitoring implants without the users’ knowledge. By visiting an infected website, hackers could install malware and gain access to personal data stored on the devices, including contacts, photos, chat histories, location data, and more.
The company claimed that security flaws involving Safari, the browser found on iPhones, was responsible. Additionally, they stated that devices using iOS 10 to iOS 12 were all vulnerable.
Apple later asserted that Google gave a “false impression of mass exploitation,” declaring that the breach was narrow in focus and the attack vector involved less than a dozen websites that were connected to the Uighur community in China. Additionally, Apple said that patches designed to fix the issue were released six months prior to Google’s announcement.