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Thieves Hack iPhones, Demand Ransom To Get Them Unlocked

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Thieves have now figured out a way to freeze your smartphone, demanding that you pay up to get back your access.

As CBS 2's Tracee Carrasco reported Wednesday, the scam has gone global. But experts have some advice on what you can do to avoid getting hacked for ransom.

Nathan Sohm of Victorville, Calif., was one of many iPhone users who discovered a cryptic random text message on Tuesday.

"(The message said), 'Hacked by Oleg Pliss,' and I tried to open my phone and it just brought up a password, and I've never set a password on my phone," Sohm said.

The message continued, "For unlock device YOU NEED send voucher code by 100 $/eur one of this (Moneypack/Ukash/PaySafeCard) to I sent code 2431402312."

The hackers found a way to use the "Find my iPhone" feature through iCloud to disable iPhones, iPads and iMacs until they get their money, Carrasco reported.

iPhone security expert Ivan Drucker warned the scam can happen anywhere.

"It could be you, and it really could be anybody -- no one is really immune," Drucker said.

It is unclear how the hackers gained access to the Apple accounts, but Drucker said there are ways to protect yourself.

First, make sure your iPhone has a passcode.

Second, activate the two-step verification for Apple ID, which means in addition to your password, you will receive a new code to enter every time you sign in.

"When you log in, you receive a special number on your phone and then you type that in as well. That makes it almost impossible for somebody else on the Internet to log in because they don't have your phone," Drucker said.

An Apple representative told CBS 2, "Apple takes security very seriously, and iCloud was not compromised during this incident. Impacted users should change their Apple ID password as soon as possible and avoid using the same username and password for multiple services."

But that provided very little comfort to victims such as Shom.

"I'm probably going to end up just completely resetting the device," he said.

The cyber attack was first spotted in Australia, and was reported in the U.S. just this week, CBS Los Angeles reported. It happened just as Apple is preparing for its annual Worldwide Developers Conference next week, CBS News reported.

The company reportedly has plans to unveil a new "smart home" control system at the conference, CBS News reported.

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