Stolen Apple IDs used in string of digital payment thefts in China, says report

Apple reportedly says some accounts were accessed through phishing scams.

Marrian Zhou Staff Reporter
Marrian Zhou is a Beijing-born Californian living in New York City. She joined CNET as a staff reporter upon graduation from Columbia Journalism School. When Marrian is not reporting, she is probably binge watching, playing saxophone or eating hot pot.
Marrian Zhou
2 min read

Alipay says it's working with Apple to figure out how the hackers got in. 

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Apple is reportedly encouraging people to turn on two-factor authentication a week after it emerged that stolen Apple IDs were used to steal money from digital payment accounts in China.

The iPhone maker on Tuesday said it found a "small number of our users' accounts" had been accessed through phishing scams. "We're deeply apologetic about the inconvenience caused to our customers by these phishing scams," Apple said in a Chinese-language statement, according to The Wall Street Journal

Apple didn't immediately respond to CNET's request for further comment.

Popular Chinese e-transaction giants Alipay and Tencent Holdings warned users last week that hackers used hijacked Apple IDs to steal cash from customers' accounts, according to a Bloomberg report. It's unclear how much the hackers stole.

Apple on Tuesday said victims of the scam hadn't enabled two-factor authentication, according to the Journal. The company reportedly didn't reveal how hackers got their hands on the users' Apple IDs and passwords but said people should turn on two-factor authentication -- which requires users to enter a code after putting in a password -- to further protect their accounts.

Alipay said in a blog post last week that it was working with Apple to figure out how the hackers got in. The company warned that customers may be vulnerable to theft if they've linked their Apple IDs to Alipay accounts, WeChat Pay or credit cards. Alipay suggested users lower their transaction limits to prevent large amounts of money from being stolen.

Tencent, which developed the popular chat app WeChat, reportedly said it had also contacted Apple. It advised users to safeguard their Apple ID. WeChat has more than a billion users worldwide and can be used to pay for basically anything in China.

Alipay operates under Ant Financial, which is controlled by Jack Ma, the billionaire co-founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba.

Alipay and Tencent Holdings didn't respond to requests for comment.

First published on Oct. 11, 10:51 a.m. PT.
Update, Oct. 16, 7:52 a.m. PT: Adds reported response from Apple.