Apple Inc. and Meta Platforms Inc., the parent company of Facebook, provided customer data to hackers who masqueraded as law enforcement officials, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.
Apple and Meta provided basic subscriber details, such as a customer’s address, phone number and IP address, in mid-2021 in response to the forged “emergency data requests.” Normally, such requests are only provided with a search warrant or subpoena signed by a judge, according to the people. However, the emergency requests don’t require a court order.
The fraudulent legal requests are part of a months-long campaign that targeted many technology companies and began as early as January 2021, according to two of the people. The forged legal requests are believed to be sent via hacked email domains belonging to law enforcement agencies in multiple countries, according to the three people and an additional person investigating the matter.
The forged requests were made to appear legitimate. In some instances, the documents included the forged signatures of real or fictional law enforcement officers, according to two of the people. By compromising law enforcement email systems, the hackers may have found legitimate legal requests and used them as a template to create forgeries, according to one of the people.
Apple and Meta both publish data on their compliance with emergency data requests. From July to December 2020, Apple received 1,162 emergency requests from 29 countries. According to its report, Apple provided data in response to 93% of those requests.
Meta said it received 21,700 emergency requests from January to June 2021 globally and provided some data in response to 77% of the requests.