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Apple Users Mysteriously Locked Out of iPhones, iPads, and Macs

TL;DR: Apple users are mysteriously being locked out of their iPhones, iPads, and Macs, requiring a reset of their Apple ID passwords. The issue seems widespread, with many affected since Friday, April 26. App-specific passwords have also been reset. Apple has not explained yet, and the cause remains unknown. Resetting passwords and clearing unused ones is advised.

Something strange is happening. Some Apple IDs are mysteriously locking their users out, and so far there’s no explanation why it’s happening. But it’s a real thing—and it happened to me early this morning.

First reported by users on social media, it’s been happening since the evening of Friday, April 26, with people turning to their Apple devices, such as iPhones, iPads, and Macs, only to find they’ve been locked out.

It happened to me first thing Saturday morning, April 27, and it wasn’t a nice feeling. Most of all, it’s just baffling. What did I do that led to my iPhone telling me I was locked out of my Apple ID? Had someone compromised a password of mine? Had I left my iPhone unlocked somewhere without realizing it? Had the guy on the train I’d asked to look after my stuff while I went to the restroom somehow accessed stuff on my iPad?

Of course, all my devices still worked, but none would let me into Apple apps until I’d verified I was me. And doing this turned out to be impossible without resetting my Apple ID password.

As the day went on, I read on social media that I wasn’t alone in this, which was very comforting—maybe I hadn’t done something wrong after all.

Getting Back In

Getting back into my account required a simple, straightforward process: thinking up a new password for Apple ID and setting that up. Not that difficult (though will I remember it? Thank goodness for 1Password), but a nuisance. Plus, as pointed out by 9to5Mac, app-specific passwords previously set up via iCloud have been reset as well. Oh, and I needed to set up Messages on my Mac again.

I got off lightly. I have Stolen Device Protection enabled, but I was at home when I checked my phone this morning. If it had happened a few hours earlier, I’d have been on that train I mentioned, which the iPhone would rightly have deemed was not a trusted location.

It’s hard to know exactly how widespread this is, but the breadth of comments on social media suggests it’s not an isolated incident affecting just a few people.

No Word From Apple

There’s no word from Apple yet about what might have happened, and the company’s system status webpage says all is well with Apple ID, which at least may mean that Apple thinks the issue isn’t happening now. But the cause remains a mystery.

Let’s look on the positive side: it’s good to refresh passwords more often than many of us do (including me). But it’s a process I could have done without today.

I’ll report back as more becomes known.

April 28 Update

There’s still no word from Apple about what might have happened, but there are increasing reports of people being affected. As The Verge reported, one user on Mastodon said that they’d been told by an Apple support team person that “sometimes random security improvements are added to your account.” That’s fair enough, but this doesn’t seem to be that: there seem to be just too many people reporting they’ve had the same issue, including more than a few readers who’ve been in touch with me, for this to seem like a small, random thing.

It’s not the first time this has happened, with a software developer reporting something similar happening in fall 2023.

The thing is, each case is separate, so it’s hard to say if everybody in the current predicament was affected by a bug or if there are different reasons for the reset. However for so many to happen at the very same moment seems puzzling.

One of the most time-consuming things about putting things right seems to be coming up with new app-specific passwords.

If you’re affected by this, fellow Forbes contributor Davey Winder has an excellent how-to on the way to sort out app-specific passwords, with the sensible advice that, as you’re only allowed a maximum of 25 of these passwords, this might be a good time to clear out any unused ones.

It’s a mystery.


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