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Cybersecurity Researchers Charged with $2.5 Million Virtual Gift Card Fraud Against 'Apple'

The recent revelation has triggered growing concern among consumers.
Cover Image Source: Security logo | Pexels | Photo by Pixabay
Cover Image Source: Security logo | Pexels | Photo by Pixabay

A recent incident that took place in California has brought two individuals, Noah Roskin-Frazee and Keith Latteri, into the spotlight. Accused of orchestrating a meticulously planned virtual gift card heist, the duo stands charged with defrauding a major corporation of $2.5 million. While the court papers remain discreet about the victim's identity, all signs point to tech giant Apple as the target of this elaborate scheme.

Source: GettyImages | Scott Barbour  Staff
Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Scott Barbour Staff

The modus operandi involved exploiting vulnerabilities in the contractor's infrastructure, allowing the scammers to meticulously order gift cards and hardware. The financial gains amounted to $2.5 million and $100,000, respectively. However, the scheme extended beyond monetary theft, encompassing the resale of stolen assets to third parties. This not only defrauded the company but also impacted the customer support business contracted by the tech giant, resulting in losses running into millions.

While the court papers maintain discretion about the victim's identity, the description of "Company A" in the indictment aligns strikingly with Apple's corporate profile. Described as a corporation headquartered in Cupertino, California, involved in the development, manufacturing, licensing, support, and sale of computer software, consumer electronics, personal computers, and services, the circumstantial evidence overwhelmingly points towards Apple as the unsuspecting victim of this cybercrime.

Pexels | Plann
Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Plann

The success of Roskin-Frazee and Latteri's virtual heist can be attributed to their strategic access to key Apple backend systems. The Log Program, integral for customer support in searching and ordering replacements, and the Toolbox program, enabling edits within a limited timeframe, played crucial roles in their operation. Moreover, the third-party contractor's Jamf MDM platform, typically used for configuring Apple devices, became an unexpected tool in the crime.

Hacker silhouette typing on computer keyboard while hacking system | Pexels Photo by Anete Lusina
Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Anete Lusina

Leveraging a password reset tool on a targeted account, the scammers unearthed credentials for staff accounts with access to the company's VPN servers. Once connected to the contractor's VPN, they exploited remote desktop software, gaining control over computers in India and Costa Rica. The contractor's Jamf MDM platform facilitated access, creating a reverse SSH tunnel to the accused's Microsoft Azure account, ensuring continued remote access from December 2018 to March 2019.

Armed with legitimate credentials and VPN access, Roskin-Frazee and Latteri infiltrated what court documents describe as "Company A's Connect application." A likely reference to Apple's App Store Connect, this served as the gateway to control the Toolbox, allowing them to manipulate orders during a brief window. The alterations included extending service contracts, adding products, and audaciously changing all prices to zero.

Apple acknowledged Roskin-Frazee in a December 2023 security update, a day before his indictment. Alongside his colleague "Prof. J." of ZeroClicks Lab, he was recognized for reporting a macOS Ventura bug. 

Tim Cook at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference | Getty Images | Justin Sullivan
Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Justin Sullivan

The intricate web of systems exploited underscores the urgent need for fortifying backend infrastructure against sophisticated attacks. As the cybersecurity landscape continues to evolve, cases like these serve as reminders, emphasizing the need for robust security measures to safeguard against increasingly sophisticated cyber threats. The renowned tech giant, celebrated for its robust security measures, now raises concerns about the safety of its customers.