Earlier this week, 27-year-old Kwamaine Jerell Ford of Atlanta, Georgia, pleaded guilty to hacking the Apple accounts of a number of famous musicians and athletes, according to a report from The Verge.
It seems Ford gained access to the victims’ accounts by using a phishing scam. Phishing typically involves deceiving potential targets via email, text message, or fake websites. The dubious characters behind these scams will often attempt to recreate the emails from major companies, like Apple, and then pretend to be reaching out on behalf of the company.
In this case, Ford sent emails from addresses pretending to be an Apple support representative. After receiving the login credentials from victims, Ford then took complete control of the accounts by logging in and changing the recovery email addresses, passwords, and security questions attached to each account. Since the original information had been changed, the victims were no longer able to log into their accounts without contacting Apple for assistance.
The Justice Department noted that Apple received “hundreds” of unauthorized logins from the victims’ accounts.
After gaining control of the victims’ accounts, Ford also helped himself to the credit card information of several of the victims. He then used the stolen card information “pay for thousands of dollars in air travel, hotel stays, other travel expenses, furniture, and money transfers to online payment accounts under his control.”
— The Verge (@verge) March 29, 2019
“The high profile victims, in this case, are an example that no matter who you are, hackers like Ford are trying to get your personal information,” FBI special agent Chris Hacker explained.
“This case demonstrates the need to be careful in protecting personal information and passwords, especially in response to suspicious e-mails. Hopefully, this is a lesson for everyone, not just the victims in this case.”
On April 17, 2018, Ford was indicted on six counts each of wire fraud, computer fraud, access device fraud, and aggravated identity theft. On Wednesday, March 27, the hacker pleaded guilty to one count of computer fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.
His sentencing is scheduled for June 24, 2019.
This isn’t the first time Apple’s customers have been targeted by hackers. In 2014, several celebrities were affected after hackers gained access to their Apple iCloud account and leaked personal photos online. Then earlier this year, CBS affiliate WHNT 19 News reported that a phishing scam aimed at Apple users with iTunes accounts had been discovered, as previously reported by The Inquisitr. This phishing scam worked much like Ford’s scam, except it informed users of a fake unauthorized purchase on their accounts. In order to cancel the “purchase,” users were asked to provide sensitive information, which is then used to access other accounts.