Monday, May 16, 2022

Apple and Meta have shared data with hackers posing as law enforcement officers

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Apple and Meta have handed over user data to hackers who falsified emergency data orders typically sent by law enforcement, according to a report from Bloomberg† The misstep happened in mid-2021, with both companies falling for the fake requests and providing information about users’ IP addresses, phone numbers and home addresses.

Law enforcement officers often request data from social platforms in connection with criminal investigations, which allows them to obtain information about the owner of a specific online account. While these requests require a subpoena or search warrant signed by a judge, emergency data requests do not — and are intended for life-threatening situations.

False emergency data requests are on the rise, as explained in a recent report from Krebs on security† During an attack, hackers must first gain access to a police station’s email systems. The hackers can then falsify an emergency data request that describes the potential danger of not sending the requested data right away, while assuming the identity of a law enforcement officer. According to Krebssome hackers are selling online access to government emails, particularly with the aim of targeting social platforms with fake emergency data requests.

Such as Krebs notes that the majority of bad actors performing these fake requests are actually teenagers — and according to Bloomberg, cybersecurity researchers believe the teenage brains behind the Lapsus$ hacking group could be involved in carrying out this type of scam. London police have since arrested seven teenagers in connection with the group.

But last year’s string of attacks may have been carried out by members of a cybercriminal group called the Recursion Team. Although the group has disbanded, some of them have joined Lapsus$ under different names. Officials involved in the investigation said: Bloomberg that hackers gained access to the accounts of law enforcement agencies in multiple countries and targeted many companies over the course of several months from January 2021.

“We review every data request for legal adequacy and use advanced systems and processes to validate law enforcement requests and detect abuse,” Andy Stone, Meta’s director of policy and communications, said in an emailed statement to The edge† “We are blocking known compromised accounts from making requests and are working with law enforcement to respond to incidents of suspected fraudulent requests, as we did in this case.”

When asked for comment, Apple directed The edge to his law enforcement guidelineswhich states: “If a government or law enforcement agency is seeking customer information in response to an emergency government and law enforcement information request, it may contact a government or law enforcement agency supervisor who filed and solicited the emergency government and law enforcement information to confirm to Apple that the emergency request was legitimate.”

Meta and Apple aren’t the only well-known companies hit by fake emergency data requests. Bloomberg says hackers also contacted Snap with a falsified request, but it’s not clear if the company has followed up. Krebs on securityDiscord’s report also includes confirmation from Discord that the platform gave away information in response to one of these bogus requests. Snap and Discord did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The edge.

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