"During the second week of March 2012, a Dell Vostro notebook, used by Supervisor Special Agent Christopher K. Stangl from FBI Regional Cyber ActionTeam and New York FBI Office Evidence Response Team, was breached using the AtomicReferenceArray vulnerability [in] Java," the group said in a post published on PasteBin. "During the shell session some files were downloaded from his Desktop folder. One of them with the name of 'NCFTA_iOS_devices_intel.csv' turned to be a list of 12,367,232 Apple iOS devices..."
The group has published one million and one UDIDs from its list of 12 million, along with Apple Push Notification Service tokens. It has omitted additional data fields associated with the some of the UDIDs, including user names, zip codes, mobile phone numbers, and addresses. Nonetheless, the file includes the user-settable device name field, in which many users have entered their first name or full name.
NCFTA stands for the National Cyber-Forensics & Training Alliance. Since its creation in 1997, the FBI says, the NCFTA "has become an international model for bringing together law enforcement, private industry, and academia to share information to stop emerging cyber threats and mitigate existing ones."
[ Apple has had its share of victories recently. Read Apple Worked A Broken Patent System. ]
So is Apple sharing user data with the NCFTA and FBI to help fight cybercrime?
Apple did not respond to a request for comment. The NCFTA did not immediately respond to a request for comment. After initially declining to comment, the FBI issued a statement disputing AntiSec's claim about the source of the file.
"The FBI is aware of published reports alleging that an FBI laptop was compromised and private data regarding Apple UDIDs was exposed," the FBI said via email." At this time, there is no evidence indicating that an FBI laptop was compromised or that the FBI either sought or obtained this data."
Apple in March began rejecting apps that access UDID numbers and has made it clear that UDIDs are being phased out. In January 2011, Apple was sued in California over alleged privacy and state business law violations because it allowed developers to transmit UDID numbers. That case was dismissed in December 2011. A spokesperson for law firm Milberg LLP did not immediately respond to a request for further information about the litigation.
A study published in September 2010, cited in the case, found that 56 out of 101 apps tested transmitted UDID numbers. Unique identifiers are coveted by advertisers because they allow ads to be targeted to individuals and tracked across services.
Privacy concerns prompted Apple to deprecate the UDID API in iOS 5 and to suggest that developers implement their own apps-specific ID schemes rather than relying on a number tied to a specific device. Instead, Apple wants developers to use "Core Foundation Universally Unique Identifier," which can be the same across multiple devices, making it less compelling for advertisers.
Crashlytics, a company that makes a developer analytics SDK, has developed an open-source alternative called SecureUDID.
Because AntiSec withheld some of the information in the alleged FBI file, the security risks to those whose UDID numbers have been exposed are significantly less than they would be with full names, addresses, and other personal data.
It's possible, however, that a skilled hacker will be able to use these identifiers, probably in conjunction with other information, to spoof Apple's notification service or make a social engineering attack more credible. At the very least, users whose UDIDs have been exposed may be identifiable by name through future usage of apps that reveal a UDID--a simple database look-up can check to see if a UDID matches a name in the AntiSec file.
The exposed data may also pose an operational security risk for the FBI or others engaged in cybersecurity: Some of the devices on the list bear names like "FBI's iPhone," "FBI van#2," and "FBI Surveillance." Presumably the FBI isn't keen to have its devices identified when they access a network with an app that reveals UDIDs.