AT&T sent a note to customers affected by the data leak that exposed 114,000 e-mail addresses belonging to Apple iPad 3G owners apologizing for the incident and condemning the actions of Goatse Security.
In the note, AT&T Senior Vice President for Public Policy Dorothy Attwood blamed the situation on “unauthorized computers hackers” exploiting “a function designed to make your iPad log-in process faster.” According to the note, AT&T disabled the mechanism that automatically populated the email address and now has an authentication page log-in screen that requires the user to enter both their e-mail address and their password.
“The self-described hackers wrote software code to randomly generate numbers that mimicked serial numbers of the AT&T SIM card for iPad – called the integrated circuit card identification (ICC-ID) – and repeatedly queried an AT&T Web address,” the note reads. “When a number generated by the hackers matched an actual ICC-ID, the authentication page log-in screen was returned to the hackers with the email address associated with the ICC-ID already populated on the log-in screen.”
“The hackers deliberately went to great efforts with a random program to extract possible ICC-IDs and capture customer e-mail addresses,” it continues. “They then put together a list of these e-mails and distributed it for their own publicity… Your password, account information, the contents of your e-mail, and any other personal information were never at risk. The hackers never had access to AT&T communications or data networks, or your iPad. AT&T 3G service for other mobile devices was not affected.”
The note follows the start of an FBI investigation of the incident. Goatse Security has said it purposely waited until the issue was patched before revealing the situation – and the e-mail addresses they had harvested – to Gawker Media, which first broke the story. In a blog post today, the group defended its actions again.
“If not for our firm talking about the exploit to third parties who subsequently notified them, they would have never fixed it and it would likely be exploited by the RBN or the Chinese, or some other criminal organization or government (if it wasn’t already),” wrote Goatse Security member Escher Auernheimer.
“AT&T had plenty of time to inform the public before our disclosure,” Auernheimer continued. “It was not done. Post-patch, disclosure should be immediate- within the hour. Days afterward is not acceptable. It is theoretically possible that in the span of a day (particularly after a hole was closed) that a criminal organization might decide to use an old dataset to exploit users before the users could be enlightened about the vulnerability.”
Last week, Gawker was contacted by the FBI and issued a preservation notice as part of the investigation. According to the note, AT&T will also be cooperating as well.
“We will cooperate with law enforcement in any investigation of unauthorized system access and to prosecute violators to the fullest extent of the law,” the note reads.