The Oleg Pliss affair: Apple devices hijacked in Australia
FORTUNE — The first report appeared on Apple’s AAPL support site Monday at 4:47 a.m. from a user in Melbourne, Australia, who called herself veritylikestea.
“I was using my ipad a short while ago when suddenly it locked itself,” her post began. “I went to check my phone and there was a message on the screen saying that my device(s) had been hacked by ‘Oleg Pliss’ and he/she/they demanded $100 to return them to me.”
Within 24 hours, the discussion veritylikestea started had generated 230 replies, 11,000 views and — this being Apple — at least 20 news stories. Whoever was passing themselves off as Oleg Pliss (the name of a senior software engineer at Oracle) had struck perhaps a dozen users, most of them in Australia and New Zealand.
So far, there have been no reports of ransoms being paid. Users who had set a passcode on their devices were able to unlock them the usual way. Users who hadn’t could call Apple support or follow the instructions at iOS: Forgot passcode or device disabled.
It’s not clear how the highjacking was carried out. The leading theory is that someone bought or hacked their way into a list of Australian iCloud e-mail addresses and passwords.