Business, Economics and Jobs

Hacker group hits Apple with a small, relatively benign attack, but some see a warning

A group of computer hackers on Sunday posted a document that it said contained usernames and passwords for an Apple server, the latest in a series of attacks on government and corporate websites around the world, the Wall Street Journal reported.

"AntiSec," a campaign that includes hackers from both the online vigilante group Anonymous and from the now-defunct Lulz Security, posted the document containing the link to a supposed Apple server, along with a list of inernal administrative usernames and passwords. AntiSec is Internet shorthand for "anti-security."

Anonymous said the data included about 27 usernames and passwords for the website, Reuters reported. The website, used by Apple for online surveys, on Monday displayed an error message saying that the server was temporarily offline.

A spokesman for Apple declined to comment.

The data weren't connected to the more than 200 million customer credit cards stored with the iTunes vendor, nor were they linked to Apple's "cloud computing" project, but the breach showed that the wave of attacks carried out in part to embarrass big companies would continue, even after the abrupt early retirement of LulzSec last month, according to the Financial Times.

(GlobalPost: LulzSec hackers leak more data, and then say bon voyage, ending high-profile 50-day spree)

Anonymous said Sunday on its Twitter feed that Apple could be a target for hackers, Reuters reported:

"Not being so serious, but well ... Apple could be target, too. But don't worry, we are busy elsewhere," Anonymous said on its Twitter feed, where it shared a link to the data posted on text-sharing website Pastebin.

9to5 Mac, an Apple rumor site, considers the document posted by AntiSec to be relatively benign, according to ZDNet. But the action could be seen as a warning. Though the hackers said they were apparently too “busy elsewhere” to really cause trouble for Apple, that doesn’t mean the company is bulletproof. The message implies that one wrong move, something that might annoy the hackers, could set off a larger attack, ZDNet points out:

The bigger picture here is that Apple will become an increasing target for these hacker groups if the company provides the right trigger. Apple could represent the Holy Grail for malicious hackers given its stash of iTunes customer data. If Sony, AT&T and the CIA can bring hackers headlines just imagine what Apple could do.

Fortune played down the idea that this was a serious problem for Apple:

Coming less than a month after Steve Jobs unveiled Apple's iCloud project, the reports had a predictably unsettling effect. ... In fact, the security of Apple's iTunes database is the envy of many an organization (e.g. Sony, the CIA, the U.S. Senate and the Arizona Department of Public Safety) that has felt the sting of Anonymous, Lulz Security and AntiSec (the splinter group that claimed responsibility for Sunday's prank). In eight years of operation, there has yet to be a credible claim of data hacking into iTunes or the Apple Store.

What happened over the weekend was certainly not that.