A shadowy hacking group obtained the email addresses of over 114,000 owners of Apple iPads by exploiting a vulnerability at US telecom giant AT&T, a Silicon Valley website reported on Wednesday.
Valleywag, a property of Gawker Media, said the hackers turned over the email list and it contained the email addresses of a number of high-profile iPad users including US business leaders, politicians and military officials.
Valleywag published the names of some on the list but not their full email addresses. They included New York Times Co chief executive Janet Robinson, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.
The iPad owners whose email addresses were compromised were subscribers to AT&T's 3G plan which provides cellular connectivity to the touchscreen tablet computer from Apple.
Valleywag said the hackers, who go by the name of Goatse Security, obtained the numbers used to identify a subscriber on AT&T's network known as the ICC IDS, which stands for integrated circuit card identifier.
In a statement, AT&T acknowledged there had been a data breach and issued an apology to customers who had been affected.
"AT&T was informed by a business customer on Monday of the potential exposure of their iPad ICC IDS," AT&T said.
"The only information that can be derived from the ICC IDS is the email address attached to that device," it said.
"This issue was escalated to the highest levels of the company and was corrected by Tuesday; and we have essentially turned off the feature that provided the email addresses," AT&T said.
"We are continuing to investigate and will inform all customers whose email addresses and ICC IDS may have been obtained," AT&T said.
"At this point, there is no evidence that any other customer information was shared." Valleywag said Goatse Security has previously revealed vulnerabilities in the Firefox and Safari Web browsers.
It said the AT&T breach revealed the email addresses of iPad owners in companies such as Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley and staffers in the Pentagon, Senate, House of Representatives, Department of Justice, NASA and Department of Homeland Security.
Valleywag owner Gawker Media also runs the popular technology blog Gizmodo, which obtained a secret prototype of an Apple iPhone in April after it was lost in a California bar and published details and pictures of the device.