A man in the United States, who is serving a 94-month sentence for stealing hundreds of iPhones, has spilled his secret of the criminal trade and disclosed how one can protect oneself from such thefts. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Aaron Johnson, who got arrested last year in Minnesota, revealed how he made approximately $300,000 just by pilfering iPhones and manipulating their financial apps. Surprisingly, his approach seemed beyond innocent to witnesses as the convicted thief said that his victims often handed over their smartphones to him willingly.
Speaking to the publication, the 26-year-old revealed that he would strike bars and clubs by targeting mostly college men because women were more alert to suspicious behaviour. College men were an easy mark as “they’re already drunk and don’t know what’s going on for real,” he said.
Johnson would often talk to his victims, sometimes offering drugs, sometimes claiming to be a rapper who wanted to add them on Snapchat. The victim would then hand over their iPhone, expecting him to tap in his phone number and hand it right back. “I say, ‘Hey, your phone is locked. What’s the passcode?’ They say, ‘2-3-4-5-6,’ or something. And then I just remember it,” Johnson explained.
Once in, the 26-year-old would then change the Apple ID password “faster than you could say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”. He would also deactivate tracking features such as Find My iPhone and add his own biometric to FaceID.
The latter was “the key to everything” as it allowed access to passwords within iCloud Keychain. And after swiftly sidestepping a device’s security protocols, Johnson said he would head straight for banking and cryptocurrency apps while also searching notes and photos for sensitive information like Social Security numbers. Then overnight he would drain those bank accounts and finally would go to stores to buy items using Apple Pay.
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The 26-year-old revealed that he would unload 30 iPhones and iPads on a good weekend and make $20,000. “I had a rush for large amounts at a time,” he told the outlet. “I just got too carried away,” he said.
According to WSJ, the police stated that Johnson and his colleagues stole $300,000. However, he revealed that the figure is much higher, between $1 million and $2 million in all.
Notably, all of this was done before Apple released its Stolen Device Protection in iOS 17.3. This feature intentionally causes an hour-long delay before implementing changes in passwords and Face or Touch IDs when a phone or other product is operating in an unfamiliar location.
Speaking to the publication, Johnson advised people to not share passcodes. As to why he would reveal his tricks, he said, “I’m already serving time”. “I just feel like I should try to be on the other end of things and try to help people,” he added.
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