Chinese authorities announced today that a network of scammers extracted data from Apple databases and sold it to Chinese black market vendors, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. This underground network consisted of dozens of employees of direct Apple suppliers and other firms Apple outsources work to, and the group gathered users’ names, phone numbers, Apple IDs, and other data and then sold it piecemeal for between 10 ($1.47) and 80 yuan ($11.78) per data point, for a total of 50 million yuan ($7.36 million). It’s unclear if the data gathered was only on Chinese Apple users, or if it included users elsewhere too.
It took Chinese authorities, working out of the southern Zhejiang province, months to build the case before arrests were carried out this past weekend across Zhejiang, as well the Guangdong, Jiangsu, and Fujian provinces. The suspects in question worked in for companies with access to company databases and other tools containing sensitive customer information.
The sale of data in China is nothing new. The country is rife with marketplaces for illegally obtained information, either gleaned from corporate or government databases. However, due to the perception that owners Apple products are more affluent than those with lower-budget smartphones, hackers and other data theft specialists may specifically target iPhone users in an attempt to extort them or gain access to more sensitive data stored in the cloud.
Correction: An earlier version of this article mistakenly identified the suspects as official Apple employees in China. That is incorrect. The employees in question belong to Apple suppliers and companies Apple outsources work to.