Ransomed iPhones are the latest sign that "digital security" is an oxymoron
Australian iPhone users are reporting that their devices have been "hacked" and held for ransom by someone calling themselves Oleg Pliss. The attacker is offering access to affected devices in exchange for around $100, according to the Age, and has compromised iPhones across Australia. The attacks have been reported to Apple and to relevant local authorities.
These reports continue months of security woes for Apple customers. First it was revealed that the company had failed to implement a security standard in its mobile operating system; then we learned that the issue affected its desktop operating system, too; and now Australians are being locked out of their own smartphones and asked to pay some unknown hacker for access.
And those are just the problems specific to Apple. There's been the Heartbleed bug that crippled two-thirds of the Internet, multiple security breaches each affecting millions of consumers, and the constant knowledge that intelligence agencies around the world are spying on, well, everyone. If these problems have taught us anything, it's that the term "digital security" is an oxymoron.
There's little anyone can do about these attacks. Consumers can't fix a fundamental flaw in an operating system, they can't audit large companies to make sure their security is up to snuff, and they can't force companies to better protect the information entrusted to them. In this case it seems that they can't protect themselves by changing their passwords, either, as some reports claim that devices have been attacked even after a successful password change or reset.
Given Apple's unwillingness to clearly explain security problems to its customers, its inability to implement basic security features, and, most recently, its incapacity to remember to make sure consumers can download operating system updates by renewing a critical SSL certificate, people might think that Apple's security tech is as effective as crossed fingers and rabbit feet.
[image by kevincollins123]