AT&T sent out an email to all Apple 3G iPad owners on Sunday night, apologizing for, and trying to explain, the breach that exposed some 114,000 email addresses, blaming the incident on the "malicious" work of "hackers."
Last week, Gawker reported that a hole in AT&T's security left the email addresses of thousands of 3G iPad owners—including dozens of members of the political, military and media elite—exposed. The group that alerted Gawker's Ryan Tate to the flaw, Goatse Security, gave the email addresses to Tate only, and later defended their actions in a lengthy blog post.
Not that AT&T cares. In an email they sent out on Sunday night, the telecommunications company said that the group "maliciously exploited" an AT&T process and described the group's acquisition of the email addresses as an "attack."
The company went on to explain the leak in greater detail, and reiterate their earlier apology for the breach. The full email text is below.
June 13, 2010
Dear Valued AT&T Customer,
Recently there was an issue that affected some of our customers with AT&T 3G service for iPad resulting in the release of their customer email addresses. I am writing to let you know that no other information was exposed and the matter has been resolved. We apologize for the incident and any inconvenience it may have caused. Rest assured, you can continue to use your AT&T 3G service on your iPad with confidence.
Here's some additional detail:
On June 7 we learned that unauthorized computer "hackers" maliciously exploited a function designed to make your iPad log-in process faster by pre-populating an AT&T authentication page with the email address you used to register your iPad for 3G service. The self-described hackers wrote software code to randomly generate numbers that mimicked serial numbers of the AT&T SIM card for iPad – called the integrated circuit card identification (ICC-ID) – and repeatedly queried an AT&T web address. When a number generated by the hackers matched an actual ICC-ID, the authentication page log-in screen was returned to the hackers with the email address associated with the ICC-ID already populated on the log-in screen.
The hackers deliberately went to great efforts with a random program to extract possible ICC-IDs and capture customer email addresses. They then put together a list of these emails and distributed it for their own publicity.
As soon as we became aware of this situation, we took swift action to prevent any further unauthorized exposure of customer email addresses. Within hours, AT&T disabled the mechanism that automatically populated the email address. Now, the authentication page log-in screen requires the user to enter both their email address and their password.
I want to assure you that the email address and ICC-ID were the only information that was accessible. Your password, account information, the contents of your email, and any other personal information were never at risk. The hackers never had access to AT&T communications or data networks, or your iPad. AT&T 3G service for other mobile devices was not affected.
While the attack was limited to email address and ICC-ID data, we encourage you to be alert to scams that could attempt to use this information to obtain other data or send you unwanted email. You can learn more about phishing by visiting the AT&T website.
AT&T takes your privacy seriously and does not tolerate unauthorized access to its customers' information or company websites. We will cooperate with law enforcement in any investigation of unauthorized system access and to prosecute violators to the fullest extent of the law.
AT&T acted quickly to protect your information – and we promise to keep working around the clock to keep your information safe. Thank you very much for your understanding, and for being an AT&T customer.
Senior Vice President, Public Policy and Chief Privacy Officer for AT&T