Our suggestion to iPad 3G owners: strengthen your passwords and purchase a good spam filter (sound advice in general, though...).  (Source: The Official Schipul Blog)

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel was one of the over 100,000 iPad 3G customers affected by AT&T's breach  (Source: Reuters)
Apple can't be happy with AT&T's epic security fail

In what is one of the biggest leaks of email addresses in recent history, a group called Goatse Security has published the personal email addresses of 114,067 iPad 3G purchasers according to Gawker.  The email addresses were obtained in what appears to be a legal fashion by querying a public interface that AT&T accidentally left exposed.

The names of victims immediately draw attention to the story.  Among them are New York Times Co. CEO Janet Robinson, Diane Sawyer of ABC News, film mogul Harvey Weinstein, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and even White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.  A number of CEOs, CFOs, and CTOs also had their email addresses exposed by the leak.

Additionally, a number of the email addresses exposed were from high-ranking military officials or DARPA researchers.  Among these was William Eldredge, who "commands the largest operational B-1 [strategic bomber] group in the U.S. Air Force."

Every one of these individuals and thousands of other everyday people had their email addresses and corresponding ICC-IDs (integrated circuit card identifiers) leaked.  The ICC-ID is a number used to uniquely identify SIM cards for a particular subscriber's device.

How did Goatse get this treasure trove of data?  Apparently AT&T left a script on their public website, which when handed an ICC-ID would respond back with the email address of the subscriber.  This apparently was intended for an AJAX-style response inside AT&T's web apps.  

The complete lack of protections allowed the group to freely guess ICC-IDs based on known IDs from iPad pictures posted online, and in turn harvest the resulting email addresses.  The only "trick", if you could call it that, which they had to do was to spoof the site into thinking they were using a iPad browser by adding an iPad-style "User agent" header in their Web request.

A simple PHP script later, Goatse Security had a hoards of email addresses to sift through.  And here's the kicker -- before reporting this gaping hole to AT&T, they shared the exploit with various interested parties.  So there's no telling who else used it, how many more IDs were leaked, or what other damage could have resulted.

With the ICC-ID and unique email in hand, malicious parties could easily launch mass attacks to try to gain further access.  For example, it's likely that at least one of those email addresses with the password "darthvader" would return account access.

This huge breach is likely worrisome to those who are thinking of buying an iPad 3G – most people would prefer their personal email address 
not get shared with the masses.  The only consolation here, is that if your password is sufficiently strong and your email address does not hint at your identity, the leak might not be that big a deal (other than subjecting you to a bit of extra spam).

Apple, which has already hinted at its displeasure with AT&T on certain issues, certainly can't be thrilled about this development either.  It releases a hit new product, and now thanks to the service provider over a hundred thousand of its customers have had their personal information compromised.  Apple CEO Steve Jobs surely won't rest until AT&T's gaping hole is filled, but by now the damage is probably already done.  One thing's for sure.  There's going to be 
a lot of fallout from this incredible breach.

Updated: 6:35 p.m. June 9, 2010-

We just received the following official statement from an AT&T spokesperson:

AT&T was informed by a business customer on Monday of the potential exposure of their iPad ICC IDS. The only information that can be derived from the ICC IDS is the e-mail address attached to that device. This issue was escalated to the highest levels of the company and was corrected by Tuesday; and we have essentially turned off the feature that provided the e-mail addresses.  The person or group who discovered this gap did not contact AT&T.  We are continuing to investigate and will inform all customers whose e-mail addresses and ICC IDS may have been obtained.  At this point, there is no evidence that any other customer information was shared.    We take customer privacy very seriously and while we have fixed this problem, we apologize to our customers who were impacted.

"This is about the Internet.  Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can't deal with the Internet, they should shut it off." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis

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