1. GoodDesignLover's Avatar
    Like other members of this community I’m glad to have discovered — thanks, Google — it was guarantees of radically superior product security that pushed me into paying Apple’s hair-raising prices.

    Eight years later, I’ve been waiting for over 2 weeks for help with a stalker app stealthily installed on my iPhone 7-plus, a device that cost most of $1,000. It’s been over a week since an intermediary assured me, again, that Apple’s product security specialists ‘are working on it and will be in touch’ — after I asked why no one had called to ask me any questions, as proof of active troubleshooting.

    What could be technically interesting about my case is this: I’m not the stalker’s primary target. That’s an old friend I recently met just once, last month — after a gap of several years and drive of several hundred miles. The stalker/hacker is almost certainly his ex-, who continually intrudes on his life physically, even though they separated years ago. My single call to his iPhone — the first I ever placed, as he was on his way to the restaurant — apparently gave the stalker/hacker enough information to install the unwanted software on mine.

    As I have never met the stalker/hacker, the most likely path for the corruption of my iPhone is an email from my friend’s cell phone that installed not just stalking software but malware capable of sending my iCloud/Apple ID and password to the perpetrator. I am basing this assumption on an article in Wired last July: ‘The simple way Apple and Google let domestic abusers stalk victims’ — involving Apple’s ‘Find My Friends’ feature.

    A socialist might see this as poetic justice for two people communicating over different models of a luxury product, but I was only dragged into the Apple club by my need for a secure device.

    I’d appreciate feedback about:

    whether other customers of this company have recently experienced anything like my long and so far fruitless wait for help from Apple
    my assumptions about the stalker/hacker’s methods
    a recommendation of a truly safe mobile phone from a company whose promises about privacy and security are more than cynical marketing hype.
    10-27-2019 05:59 AM
  2. Al Paca's Avatar
    So sorry to here about your issue and your wait for a fix. Traditionally Apple is much faster at responding to issues and most issues are far less important than what you are dealing with as your safety is a concern.

    That said, Apple in my opinion has kind of taken a strange stance on security. On the one hand they claim security a top priority, the fastest to recognize, and the fastest to globally implement fixes. I think they do more than decent job here when the ability for global exploitation is available.

    In other instances they seem to take their time and the approach, “this could have been prevented by user/owner vigilance”. Meaning Apple cannot stop or create a fix to stop an owner from clicking on a link in an email that in turn installs a virus, malware, etc. The idea that fixing your issue now won’t prevent you from reinstalling the same issue in the future. I don’t agree with this “theory” but it’s one that happens all the time.

    Have they not suggested a full factory reset. Like a complete reinstall and setup as new? It’s a pain in the rear, but usually is what is always suggested anyway.
    GoodDesignLover likes this.
    10-27-2019 08:08 AM
  3. SwitchBeach's Avatar
    Sorry but this seems like a fake story.
    Lee_Bo likes this.
    10-27-2019 08:13 AM
  4. wenrob's Avatar
    Um, this seems a little...”fanciful.” What makes you think this is happening? In any case, if you’re convinced this has happened why not wipe the phone?
    10-27-2019 08:33 AM
  5. Lee_Bo's Avatar
    I’d say if there is stalking involved then maybe the authorities need to be contacted. There’s noting we here at iMore can do.
    anon(50597) and Laura Knotek like this.
    10-27-2019 09:27 AM
  6. GoodDesignLover's Avatar
    Thank you for your specially thoughtful reply, Al Paca. I’ll say a bit about Apple at the end of this answer — my disappointment about security-and-privacy related policies that don’t fit the superb design of its products.

    To those of you suggesting the obvious solution of a factory reset — something I’ve done several times, over the years, on various Apple devices including MacBook laptops — this isn’t unfortunately an option for me. For work-related reasons, I’ve been living for years in an area with limited internet options. No broadband, no hardwired connection, for a start. This has led senior Apple tech support specialists to tell me that backing up my files and photographs to the cloud from my base is impossible. Nor can I reinstall operating systems or install large files for system updates without going to a large city, which entails a journey of at least 4 hours. … I do email crucial scraps of data to myself with strong encryption, and I use hard drives and Time Machine for other backing up. … But my iPhone data preservation needs aren’t covered by those methods. A clean wipe would mean losing too many precious records.

    The not-so-kind responders here don’t seem to realize that I didn’t want to do a core dump in a very long, tedious, first post here. Sceptical questions are welcome, and I’ll do my best to answer them, but please don’t assume that I am a fantasist or complete *****. I’m most interested in finding a good, long-lasting solution. Succeeding in that hope will depend on a good diagnosis of the likely cause or causes. I’ll start with …


    On the long journey on which I met my friend — the stalker’s actual target — at a restaurant, I had other appointments to keep — in more than one city. This meant that it was nearly two weeks after our meeting that I had time to look into a strange call from the area code where my friend lives, which belongs to a place where I’ve had no social contacts for many years. Let’s call that Area, for short. This missed call on my iPhone would have come in a minute or two after my friend entered the restaurant. I didn’t notice the alert in the bustle of greeting him. Spokeo — which I’d never used before — could only tell me that the number belongs to a landline exchange that serves a small section of Area. (We had each called each other’s iPhone for the first time when my friend was on his way to the restaurant, but have had no landline contact for aeons.)

    The chief stalking suspect, my friend’s ex-, also lives in Area, in another house. I don’t know what role — if any — a landline call could play in a stalker/hacker attack, but please bear with me anyway. … That missed call stood out not just for its unusual origin but because I make and receive practically no mobile or landline phone calls — my pattern of many years.

    About 4 or 5 hours after I emailed my friend to ask whether he recognized the mysterious landline number — and over the next 2 or 3 days — there was this curious sequence of events, all unprecedented: (1) Someone shut down Safari in my carrier settings, which explained why I couldn’t get any web pages; (2) The phone refused to shut off, even after several attempts at a hard switch-off (pressing on/off button and home screen button simultaneously) — until I followed another suggestion on an online forum; (3) The iPhone’s battery went from 100 per cent charged to only 43 per cent charged in less than five hours.


    As both the stalker’s primary and secondary targets have been stalked and hacked on Apple’s pricey iPhones, shouldn’t my first recourse be the company’s own troubleshooting experts? Is that really asking too much of what is frequently the world’s richest corporation, with stupendous cash reserves? … My friend is preoccupied and under extreme stress in his save-the-world line of work (think of research into stopping the Ebola virus and finding a cure for autism). His only phone, an iPhone, is actually owned and maintained by a prestigious university — which buys thousands of these devices. … I’ve been treating a report to the FBI as a last resort because it will distract my friend, and because I don’t see why Apple and the university can’t collaborate in troubelshooting.


    If I’m reading Al Paca correctly, he’s saying that Apple acts promptly when large numbers of users around the world are affected by a security lapse or breach, but tends to blame the victim for isolated incidents. … The tech support specialists investigating my case will know that I am exceptionally security-conscious. I use email services with the strongest encryption (am not sure about iCloud email), and Gmail with a physical login key. I have 2nd or 3rd-factor verification for virtually every site where this is possible …

    These were my concluding questions in my Apple support request:

    Does this mean that I have no alternative to buying a new iPhone? And if I did this and carried over the phone number — to save myself the nightmare of calling banks and other businesses that use it to identify me — would I still be vulnerable to the stalker’s doings?

    Alternatively, can you recommend a really good stalker app-detecting and removal tool?

    Which services on my phone will be out of reach until I feel safe, typing in the new iCloud password?
    10-27-2019 10:41 PM
  7. GoodDesignLover's Avatar
    Without the details, isn't that jumping to conclusions just a bit too fast? And what possible motive could there be for a 'fake story' without any names, place, or other identifying details?
    10-27-2019 10:45 PM
  8. GoodDesignLover's Avatar
    I did reply to your kind answer, but possibly in the wrong place -- replying to the last responder I found in the thread, Lee_Bo. Please let me know when you see my message, currently in moderation, as I'm still learning the ropes here.
    10-28-2019 02:18 AM
  9. Wotchered's Avatar
    I find this very interesting...... this is not the first story about slow or no reaction from Apple in suspected hacking cases.
    GoodDesignLover likes this.
    10-28-2019 06:07 AM
  10. GoodDesignLover's Avatar
    I didn't know that, but am not surprised by what you say because of the persistent lack of a response. Tim Cook certainly seems likable and believable, but I now feel taken in by his assurances about putting privacy and security at the top of the company's priority list. It has either been the world's richest or second-richest company by market capitalization for most of this year -- so can afford to throw money at tech support on a par with the customer service at luxury car makers. Yet it leaves a loyal buyer customer like me -- an owner of several of its devices -- in complete silence for over 2 weeks, with not a word about progress or concern. ... You will want to read the longer, technical account of the stalking/hack that I posted, answering the sceptics, which has yet to be released from moderation. (Why??? A newbie asks.)
    10-28-2019 06:30 AM
  11. imwjl's Avatar
    Law enforcement plus some network administration and diagnostics tools should be the first steps. In general Apple support is good but you cannot count on or expect staff trained to address basic retail customer technology issues to be all knowing or have security expertise.

    Going to qualified sources is also important because as much as cyberstalking and bullying exist, so does a phenomenon where people think they're being stalked and they are not.

    My experience here comes from qualified work experience. I've had people make claims we have to look into and with a long career in IT that includes ISP sysop I've had to respond to and work with law enforcement and discovery. The OP might be correct but this seems vague and without the sort of info that lets me know more.

    If stalking is going on or suspected go to qualified professionals starting with law enforcement. Even if it's not really happening you're still dealing with someone more qualified to handle the issue than a first line retail employee. If it is going on you're dealing with an entity that if appropriate must get an appropriate response from Apple.
    Last edited by imwjl; 10-28-2019 at 09:35 PM.
    10-28-2019 08:13 AM
  12. GoodDesignLover's Avatar
    @imwjl, you posted your comment before my more detailed description of the technicalities (#6, above) was released for publication. Please would you let me know whether you take the same view of the problem, and of who is responsible -- now.

    Even though my technical qualifications are in a different sphere, I have long shared your frustration with most people's refusal to take tech-related privacy and security seriously. Among them are some of our most highly-educated and indispensable fellow citizens.

    I don't know what can be done about this in the short-term, but are you saying that Apple bears no responsibility for this intrusion on my iPhone -- for the ease with which I was made a secondary stalking/hacking target? Someone you could see as a victim of collateral damage? (Believe me, I couldn't despise the victim role (pose, in the worst cases) more than I do, but how else would you characterize what has happened to me?)

    Still no response from Apple, btw.

    Thank you for creating this sanity-saving forum, Rene Ritchie -- and I would very much appreciate more replies from experts on these devices who specialize in security.

    Also, what is my best law enforcement option -- local police/sheriffs or the FBI?
    10-28-2019 10:12 PM
  13. Lee_Bo's Avatar
    Well it seems, from reading all this, that a wipe and new setup of said device would probably resolve the issue. Yes, I read you reasons why you can't do that, and I see your reasons. Until that can be done I don't think there's anything else that can be done that hasn't already been suggested.
    10-29-2019 08:36 AM
  14. Annie_M's Avatar

    Thank you for creating this sanity-saving forum, Rene Ritchie -- and I would very much appreciate more replies from experts on these devices who specialize in security.

    Also, what is my best law enforcement option -- local police/sheriffs or the FBI?
    I am so very sorry that you are experiencing this nightmare, and I can understand your frustration. It's got to be really unnerving to go through something like this. However, I need to point out that we are all volunteers here, and all we can do is offer you suggestions and advice. As you know, the real answers must come from Apple.

    I do think that it would be worthwhile to contact the police/or the FBI. I'm not really sure which would be best, and since this forum has nothing to do with that, I have no idea if anyone else here would really know either. That said, if someone else who is reading this thread does have a suggestion, hopefully, they will offer a suggestion.
    Spencerdl likes this.
    10-29-2019 08:58 AM
  15. Spencerdl's Avatar
    10-29-2019 09:00 AM

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