Fraudulent iPhone Warranty Scheme Steals Device Data

By Matthew Hines  |  Posted 2010-01-22

The other day I dropped my shiny new iPhone 3GS for the first time since acquiring it several weeks ago. My first reaction was to hop online and order the best carrying case I could find.

(Sidenote: Why is that we typically only move to protect such possessions from harm after we've already scratched them? Am I alone in this foolishness?)

However, while cloaking your iPhone in rubber is one effective way of trying to protect your investment, scammers are seeking to trick owners of the device into handing over information about their handhelds via a new set of phony iPhone warranty schemes.

As first reported by researchers at Sophos, the campaign is being driven by spam that arrives in people's e-mail in-boxes disguised as a message from Apple (distribution address: offering a bonus 1 year warranty extension and asking recipients to click on a link that takes them to a URL that very accurately copies the company's trademark clean marketing style.

After arriving at the URL, people are asked to enter both their phone's serial number and International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number (which is used to identify individual devices to GSM networks and thwart the use of stolen devices). If users can't seem to find the information for themselves, the involved site even directs them to Apple's real support pages to help them do so.

SophosLabs Canada researcher Richard Cohen notes in a recent blog post that schemers likely incorporate the actual Apple content because it makes the site more believable and it saves them the time-consuming task of recreating similar pages on their own.

Upon entering the device info, the site does not even ask for personal information such as an individual's name or phone number, which should be a dead giveaway that it is a scam. While many attacks should raise users' suspicions when they seemingly ask for too much personal information, scams such as this which require surprisingly few details should give pause to people as well.

Despite the scant request for personal details, Cohen theorizes that the scammers are looking for people's phone data specifically to help aid in the use of stolen iPhones.

"There's still a range of nefarious activities they could get up to though - one that springs to mind is that IMEI numbers are used by network providers to block connections from phones registered as stolen, so by harvesting details from live phones criminals might be able to launder stolen phones," he said.

And while it's unclear what other purposes the schemers could use the phone data for, Cohen points out that whatever it is, "it's not going to be good."

So forget about the free warranty and spend a few bucks on a little shell for your handheld. Both you and your iPhone will likely be happy that you did.

Follow eWeek Security Watch on Twitter at: eWeekSecWatch.

Matt Hines has been following the IT industry for over a decade as a reporter and blogger, and has been specifically focused on the security space since 2003, including a previous stint writing for eWeek and contributing to the Security Watch blog. Hines is currently employed as marketing communications manager at Core Security Technologies, a Boston-based maker of security testing software. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of Core Security, and neither the company, nor its products and services will be actively discussed in the blog. Please send news, research or tips to

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