AT&T brand iPad email security whistleblowers “malicious”; carrier is “dishonest” counters Goatse Security

Jun 14, 2010
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AT&T has contacted their iPad WiFi + 3G customers with an explanation for the email security breach revealed last week, though the group responsible for identifying the exploit has denied any "malicious" wrongdoing.  According to the carrier's letter, which went out to 3G-capable iPad owners via email late this weekend, the so-called Goatse Security group are "unauthorized computer "hackers" [who] maliciously exploited a function designed to make your iPad log-in process faster" before combining customer email addresses into a list and then "distributed it for their own publicity."

However, Escher Auernheimer of Goatse Security describe's AT&T's comments as an attempt to "crucify" them over identifying the flaw, and takes issue with the carrier's suggestion that they "acted quickly" to address the problem.  In fact, he claims, AT&T "had plenty of time to inform the public before our disclosure" and points to their mass-mailing of all customers as an example of them not even knowing exactly how many were potentially affected.

Either way, the FBI are looking into the exploit and AT&T say they will be working with them - though seemingly with the intent to "prosecute violators" of their systems rather than to identify whether they themselves were to blame in any way.  This one seems unlikely to die any time soon.

June 13, 2010

Dear Valued AT&T Customer,

Recently there was an issue that affected some of our customers with AT&T 3G service for iPad resulting in the release of their customer e-mail addresses. I am writing to let you know that no other information was exposed and the matter has been resolved. We apologize for the incident and any inconvenience it may have caused. Rest assured, you can continue to use your AT&T 3G service on your iPad with confidence.

Here’s some additional detail:

On June 7 we learned that unauthorized computer “hackers” maliciously exploited a function designed to make your iPad log-in process faster by pre-populating an AT&T authentication page with the e-mail address you used to register your iPad for 3G service. 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. 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 e-mail 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. They then put together a list of these e-mails and distributed it for their own publicity.

As soon as we became aware of this situation, we took swift action to prevent any further unauthorized exposure of customer email addresses. Within hours, AT&T disabled the mechanism that automatically populated the e-mail address. Now, the authentication page log-in screen requires the user to enter both their e-mail address and their password.

I want to assure you that the e-mail address and ICC-ID were the only information that was accessible. 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.

While the attack was limited to e-mail address and ICC-ID data, we encourage you to be alert to scams that could attempt to use this information to obtain other data or send you unwanted email. You can learn more about phishing by visiting the AT&T website.

AT&T takes your privacy seriously and does not tolerate unauthorized access to its customers’ information or company websites. We will cooperate with law enforcement in any investigation of unauthorized system access and to prosecute violators to the fullest extent of the law.

AT&T acted quickly to protect your information – and we promise to keep working around the clock to keep your information safe. Thank you very much for your understanding, and for being an AT&T customer.

Sincerely,

Dorothy Attwood
Senior Vice President, Public Policy and Chief Privacy Officer for AT&T


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