iTunes gifting scam plunges Reg reader into the red

'Apple has turned iTunes into pseudo-PayPal, without security'


Surfers who link their debit or credit card to iTunes have reason to be cautious after a Reg reader found his bank account plunged into the red overnight following £1,000 in fraudulent iTunes gift purchases.

Reg reader Peter woke up one morning last week to discover an email informing him of a "£10 Monthly Gift for wqfaqapk445@hotmail.com", an account he'd never heard of.

Apple describes iTunes Monthly Gifts as a "great way to give a gift that keeps on giving". The vouchers, sent to a recipient's email address, can be used to purchase music and audio books from the iTunes Music Store.

Peter checked his iTunes purchase history, where to his horror he discovered scores of these "Monthly Gift" purchases – all of which had been generated within a short space of time on 19 January, but only one of which generated an email.

As a result of the fraudulent purchases, Peter's bank account plunged from its £700 positive balance to £300 into the red, forcing him to borrow from friends in order to pay household bills until the mess was sorted out.

Peter promptly contacted both Apple and his bank (HSBC) over the scam. Apple responded with an automated message before suspending his iTunes account, a day after the damage was done. HSBC reacted better, restoring funds to his account so that Peter was able to make his mortgage payment, and sending him a form so that he could confirm in writing that he had had nothing to do with the disputed transactions.

Peter – who has had an iTunes account for years, spending an average of around £5 a month and never using it to make a gift purchase – is highly critical of Apple's handling of the matter.

"After years of buying Apple products and using iTunes to buy some music and apps now and again, they'd taken the whole day to get back to me and basically claimed no responsibility or offered any help," Peter, who works in IT and is aware of the security issues around online accounts, told El Reg.

"How is it even possible for iTunes to be used as some type of glorified bank account? Why the hell would I want to use iTunes to transfer money to people?

"It it completely unacceptable that Apple has turned iTunes into some type of pseudo-PayPal without the security measures, monitoring and care being taken to run something so important," he concluded.

Peter is unclear on how his iTunes account might have been compromised. Phishing attacks (or worse) aimed at iTunes users are far from uncommon – though Peter reckons it's more likely the hacker guessed his password rather than he mistakenly handed it over. In general, malware infection or the use of the same password on another site that falls victim to a hacking attack are routes towards becoming a victim of this type of attack.

It's unclear how Peter's account was compromised (we'll probably never know) or how many other people might also have been affected by the same scam. The fraudulent gift purchase most closely resembles the mass compromise of iTunes accounts linked to PayPal, widely reported in August 2010.

A quick search of "iTunes + fraud" reveals that Peter's case is far from unique, with other victims who link their iTunes account to a debit card account also waking up to discover hundreds of dollars in fraudulent purchases. Unlike the iTunes / PayPal scam, the many victims of iTunes-related bank fraud were not all hit around the same time, so the minor variant of essentially the same scam has escaped media attention, at least until now.

Peter's tale of woe raises questions about whether iTunes ought to allow monthly gifts, given that it is a secondary facility that appears to be easily abused. "iTunes isn't just a system for buying a bit of music; it's turned into a banking system that can wipe out your finances and put whole families into financial limbo," Peter warns. ®

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • Emotet malware gang re-emerges with Chrome-based credit card heistware
    Crimeware groups are re-inventing themselves

    The criminals behind the Emotet botnet – which rose to fame as a banking trojan before evolving into spamming and malware delivery – are now using it to target credit card information stored in the Chrome web browser.

    Once the data – including the user's name, the card's numbers and expiration information – is exfiltrated, the malware will send it to command-and-control (C2) servers that are different than the one that the card stealer module uses, according to researchers with cybersecurity vendor Proofpoint's Threat Insight team.

    The new card information module is the latest illustration of Emotet's Lazarus-like return. It's been more than a year since Europol and law enforcement from countries including the United States, the UK and Ukraine tore down the Emotet actors' infrastructure in January 2021 and – they hoped – put the malware threat to rest.

    Continue reading
  • Voicemail phishing emails steal Microsoft credentials
    As always, check that O365 login page is actually O365

    Someone is trying to steal people's Microsoft 365 and Outlook credentials by sending them phishing emails disguised as voicemail notifications.

    This email campaign was detected in May and is ongoing, according to researchers at Zscaler's ThreatLabz, and is similar to phishing messages sent a couple of years ago.

    This latest wave is aimed at US entities in a broad array of sectors, including software security, security solution providers, the military, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, and the manufacturing and shipping supply chain, the researchers wrote this month.

    Continue reading
  • Now Windows Follina zero-day exploited to infect PCs with Qbot
    Data-stealing malware also paired with Black Basta ransomware gang

    Miscreants are reportedly exploiting the recently disclosed critical Windows Follina zero-day flaw to infect PCs with Qbot, thus aggressively expanding their reach.

    The bot's operators are also working with the Black Basta gang to spread ransomware in yet another partnership in the underground world of cyber-crime, it is claimed.

    This combination of Follina exploitation and its use to extort organizations makes the malware an even larger threat for enterprises. Qbot started off as a software nasty that raided people's online bank accounts, and evolved to snoop on user keystrokes and steal sensitive information from machines. It can also deliver other malware payloads, such as backdoors and ransomware, onto infected Windows systems, and forms a remote-controllable botnet.

    Continue reading
  • Zscaler bulks up AI, cloud, IoT in its zero-trust systems
    Focus emerges on workload security during its Zenith 2022 shindig

    Zscaler is growing the machine-learning capabilities of its zero-trust platform and expanding it into the public cloud and network edge, CEO Jay Chaudhry told devotees at a conference in Las Vegas today.

    Along with the AI advancements, Zscaler at its Zenith 2022 show in Sin City also announced greater integration of its technologies with Amazon Web Services, and a security management offering designed to enable infosec teams and developers to better detect risks in cloud-native applications.

    In addition, the biz also is putting a focus on the Internet of Things (IoT) and operational technology (OT) control systems as it addresses the security side of the network edge. Zscaler, for those not aware, makes products that securely connect devices, networks, and backend systems together, and provides the monitoring, controls, and cloud services an organization might need to manage all that.

    Continue reading
  • AMD targeted by RansomHouse, attackers claim to have '450Gb' in stolen data
    Relative cybercrime newbies not clear on whether they're alleging to have gigabits or gigabytes of chip biz files

    If claims hold true, AMD has been targeted by the extortion group RansomHouse, which says it is sitting on a trove of data stolen from the processor designer following an alleged security breach earlier this year.

    RansomHouse says it obtained the files from an intrusion into AMD's network on January 5, 2022, and that this isn't material from a previous leak of its intellectual property.

    This relatively new crew also says it doesn't breach the security of systems itself, nor develop or use ransomware. Instead, it acts as a "mediator" between attackers and victims to ensure payment is made for purloined data.

    Continue reading
  • HelloXD ransomware bulked up with better encryption, nastier payload
    Russian-based group doubles the extortion by exfiltrating the corporate data before encrypting it.

    Windows and Linux systems are coming under attack by new variants of the HelloXD ransomware that includes stronger encryption, improved obfuscation and an additional payload that enables threat groups to modify compromised systems, exfiltrate files and execute commands.

    The new capabilities make the ransomware, first detected in November 2021 - and the developer behind it even more dangerous - according to researchers with Palo Alto Networks' Unit 42 threat intelligence group. Unit 42 said the HelloXD ransomware family is in its initial stages but it's working to track down the author.

    "While the ransomware functionality is nothing new, during our research, following the lines, we found out the ransomware is most likely developed by a threat actor named x4k," the researchers wrote in a blog post.

    Continue reading
  • Interpol anti-fraud operation busts call centers behind business email scams
    1,770 premises raided, 2,000 arrested, $50m seized

    Law enforcement agencies around the world have arrested about 2,000 people and seized $50 million in a sweeping operation crackdown of social engineering and other scam operations around the globe.

    In the latest action in the ongoing "First Light", an operation Interpol has coordinated annually since 2014, law enforcement officials from 76 countries raided 1,770 call centers suspected of running fraudulent operations such as telephone and romance scams, email deception scams, and financial crimes.

    Among the 2,000 people arrested in Operation First Light 2022 were call center operators and fraudsters, and money launderers. Interpol stated that the operation also saw 4,000 bank accounts frozen and 3,000 suspects identified.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022