Apple confirms attack by same hackers who hit Facebook


A man uses a computer at an Apple store inside of Grand Central Station in New York. No user information was compromised in the attack, according to Apple. (LUCAS JACKSON/REUTERS)
February 19, 2013

Apple acknowledged Tuesday that hackers had infiltrated a small number of the company’s computers.

No user information was compromised in the attack, according to the tech giant, which said it had fallen victim to the same hackers that targeted Facebook last month.

The malware found its way onto Mac computers through a vulnerability in an Internet browser plug-in developed for Oracle’s Java program. Apple said it will release a software patch Tuesday to prevent the problem from spreading.

“The malware was employed in an attack against Apple and other companies, and was spread through a website for software developers,” according to company statement given to The Washington Post. “We identified a small number of systems within Apple that were infected and isolated them from our network. There is no evidence that any data left Apple. We are working closely with law enforcement to find the source of the malware.”

The company did not specify how many computers had been impacted, when the attack had occurred or what kind of information the hackers were seeking.

A new report from a Virginia-based security company said it has traced 141 cases of computer hacking to a single Chinese military unit, based outside of Shanghai.

Apple has not shipped computers with Java installed since the introduction of OS X Lion (version 10.6), and the company’s computers automatically disable Java in browsers if it has not been used in more than 35 days.

The hackers who attacked Apple have been linked to the same Chinese-based group that infiltrated Facebook’s network in January, according to Reuters, which first reported the Apple attack.

High-profile cyber attacks linked to Chinese hackers have also hit news organizations, including The Washington Post and the New York Times.

Cybersecurity has emerged as a top priority for the Obama administration and some in Congress. The White House issued a cybersecurity executive order last week directing the Commerce Department to work with companies in vital industries to craft rules for sharing cyber threat information with the government.

Meanwhile, leaders of the House Intelligence Committee reintroduced the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which would allow corporations to share cyber threat data with the government. The measure has drawn some fire from privacy and open-Internet advocates who fear the proposal doesn’t do enough to protect user privacy.

(The Washington Post Co.’s chairman and chief executive, Donald E. Graham, is a member of Facebook’s board of directors.)

Related stories:

Facebook, home of ‘The Hacker’s Way,’ gets hacked; none of users’ personal data compromised

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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