back to article Thieves smash hole in wall to nab $500K in Apple iKit

Unidentified individuals managed to break through the wall of a coffee equipment maker's bathroom in a shopping center this week to enter and rob an adjacent Apple Store. The raid occurred on April 2, 2023, between 1900 and 2000 PT, at the Apple Store at Alderwood Mall, in Lynnwood, Washington, a city just north of Seattle in …

  1. Mayday Silver badge


    Guessing we’ll see this process:

    Store owners block IMEIs of all stolen devices (probably other Apple specific/proprietary blocking methods too) through carriers

    Crooks post to Craiglist or similar lots of phones for only $500 or more/less

    People buy “cheap phones”, because of course everyone verifies the source before purchase when too good to be true

    Crooks keep cash

    Buyers have a $500 brick

    Insurers pay store whatever the retail price is

    1. chivo243 Silver badge

      Re: Process

      ^^ Yep! any gear on display at an Apple store is already on a list.

      My gut says inside job, but anyone working at an Apple store would know about the immediate bricking of the devices... so it's a theft for scam operation?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Process


        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Process

          That will be the excuse Apple provides for why phones have to have all parts locked so that you can't use them for spares. It will make some sense when they say that, which is why they won't mention how it also gets them plenty of business for unlocking those components from devices that weren't stolen. Depending on the models, the criminals might be able to use some of the parts as spares, but with a lot of pieces that will be unusable after they're removed or because of serial locking.

          1. gnasher729 Silver badge

            Re: Process

            Paranoia? Conspiracy theories?

            1. doublelayer Silver badge

              Re: Process

              Which part? That they serialize parts so that you can't swap them between device, because I'm afraid that's old news, not a conspiracy theory. Their reasons for doing so were to avoid stolen parts and a vague thing about customer safety which they didn't explain, possibly because it would be unlikely to convince anyone who didn't already accept their reasons. Did I make another claim you found to be paranoid, conspiratorially-minded, or flawed?

    2. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: Process

      block IMEIs of all stolen devices

      Apple can simply blacklist them so they are bricked the moment they contact an Apple server for whatever, no need to involve carriers at all.

      I imagine stolen iPhones are useless as phones, and are instead destined to become spare parts.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Process

      I did buy a cheap-ish, supposedly second-hand refurbished phone on Baxkmarket, checked its IMEI as soon as it arrived on those free websites, and lo and behold, it was on those blocklists.

      Sent it back and got a refund.

    4. gnasher729 Silver badge

      Re: Process

      How does this require the first step where a phone is stolen? Couldn’t you just ship a real brick?

  2. Richard Crossley

    Where were the plastic police?

    7pm on a Sunday, and someone is cutting a hole through a wall after breaking into a coffee shop.

    I guess the mall wasn't open at the time, so where were security? It's not like this would be quick or quiet.

    1. cookieMonster Silver badge

      Re: Where were the plastic police?

      Cutting a hole in a wall????

      1. Nifty Silver badge

        Re: Where were the plastic police?

        Must have been the hole in the wall gang.

    2. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: Where were the plastic police?

      It's not like this would be quick or quiet.

      If that picture is genuine, it looks (as far as I can tell) like a fairly standard plasterboard stud wall (sheetrock to our leftpondian friends). It even looks as if they avoided the studs. I could cut a hole like that through a single sheet of plasterboard with my penknife in about 10 minutes with low noise levels - certainly low enough that a security guard wandering past the front door of the shop wouldn't hear it, given that toilet cubicles tend to be behind a couple of closed doors. With a "proper" handsaw - something like a pruning saw would be good - maybe five minutes. There's a couple of layers to get through of course. Electric saw would make a bit more noise.

      Not 100% certain, but in the UK I believe that the partition between two separate businesses (or fire-compartments within a business) like this would have been built with at least a single thickness block wall for noise as much as fire protection.

      There are also much better materials than plasterboard; Fermacell is a good example. We have it at home (for those walls which are not built of block) and it's a dream for hanging shelving, pictures, safety fixings for tall cupboards etc.


      1. monty75

        Re: Where were the plastic police?

        If the yanks build their retail stores anything like they build their houses, you probably could have kicked a hole through the wall in a minute or so.

        1. seven of five

          Re: Where were the plastic police?

          broken down with with a stern look.

        2. ian 22

          Re: Where were the plastic police?

          USian construction: we have no concerns about Viking raiders, and in an atomic war neither bricks nor stones will save us. In any case, our construction is designed to not kill us in an earthquake.

          1. WolfFan Silver badge

            Re: Where were the plastic police?

            Surely there must be concerns about Comanche/Kiowa/other indigenous of your choice/assorted palefaces of your choice? Given the choice, I would prefer a Viking visit to a Comanche visit: usually more survivors after the Vikings leave.

          2. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

            Re: Where were the plastic police?

            designed to not kill us in an earthquake

            That's what you hear in California. When you ask a Californian why they build from the same papier-mâché in the Carolinas where there are no earthquakes but lots of hurricanes the answer is, "Oh, there they can't afford better materials." Seriously, I had this conversation with a Californian. [Disclaimer - he said that, I am only reporting it.]

            The real answer is, of course, Hollywood requirements: movie scenes where a car smashes right through a building, emerges on the other side, and continues on its way with barely a scratch look quite realistic and can be shot on location.

          3. Nifty Silver badge

            Re: Where were the plastic police?

            "USian construction: we have no concerns about Viking raiders, and in an atomic war neither bricks nor stones will save us. In any case, our construction is designed to not kill us in an earthquake."

            I'm blown away by that detail.

        3. Michael Strorm Silver badge

          Re: Where were the plastic police?

          If the photo The Register used as the front page thumbnail is an accurate reflection of this story, then it appears that the wall was made from thin paper that a boxer was easily able to punch his way through.

          The Boxer says he had nothing to do with it, but that's a lie. Lie-la-lie-lie-lie-lie-lie. Lie-la-lie. Lie-la-lie-lie-lie-lie-lie, lie-lie-lie-lie-lie.

      2. 080

        Re: Where were the plastic police?

        Thermal blocks are just as easy to cut with a saw. For plasterboard use a Stab Saw

  3. Major N

    Re: Are you sure?

    Something similar happened to my first place of work.. except slightly less value was lost.

    I was a callow youth of 16 or so, working a Saturday shop in a high street bakery. I came in one morning to get changed for my shift, and upon entering the rear of the shop, found a man staring at me through a hole in the wall into the adjacent property, which was a travel agents.

    Turned out some thieves had broken into the office upstairs, come down, smashed through the partition wall into the bakery, chiseled through the wall into the travel agents, and proceeded to fail to break into their foreign currency safe. They then failed to break into the floor safe of the bakery, which only held a hundred pounds or so in change and float anyway, and proceeded to leave only with the already ancient and unused, valueless, 486-era PC which was gathering dust in the office upstairs.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Are you sure?

      I recall a situation where the manufacturing company I worked for stored all their finished goods in a warehouse off-site.

      The building had a large shutter (for vehicle access for loading/unloading) and a single side door (for people). Both of these were alarmed.

      However, one weekend some crims decided to drive a car through the brick wall at the side and gain access to the stock area (which was not covered by IR detectors/sensors - only the shutter and side door were being monitored).

      And as the alarm did not go off, they had plenty of time to come and go as they pleased and the break-in was only discovered the following Monday.

  4. PhilipN Silver badge

    Law suits all round

    Given it's the USA the coffee wallah will probably sue Apple for the damage to his wall - for putting temptation into the minds of miscreants. Plus of course the usual shock, nervous breakdown, inability to maintain an erection etc etc

    First rule of trial lawyers : go for the deepest pockets.

    1. ian 22

      Re: Law suits all round

      Second rule of trial lawyers: sue everyone in sight.

  5. jmch Silver badge


    "Shrink" is estimated at "$700,000 per $1 billion in sales"

    That's $700 per million or 70c per $1000, or 0.07%. Seems to me that with modern tagging and security, shoplifting is barely a rounding error, and organised retail theft is only an issue for very small, high-value items.

    To point out that while 0.07% seems tiny, in retail with notoriously low margins that could be less than 1%, that can be 10%+ of profits

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Chainsaw? SolarWinds? ..and so on!

    Once upon a time.....I worked in a big office block with lots of different businesses renting offices.

    Our office had the (obligatory) keypad/badge scanner on the door to our office.

    Then one Monday we arrived at work......some bad guys had used a chainsaw to cut a 6x4 door sized "door" in the to the real door!!! They walked off with all the laptops and printers in the office.

    Huh....keypad/badge scanner.....a joke!!!! Computer-based security!!! A joke!!! A chainsaw......just the ticket!!!

    Perhaps in a SolarWinds time....there might be a message there?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Chainsaw? SolarWinds? ..and so on!

      Actually, quite a lot of the keypads you can buy for home use are also a joke because ALL of the electronics are in the exposed unit.

      In other words, knock the thing off the wall and you have access to the wire that will open the door.

      If you ever buy a keypad/scanner/NFC access control unit, make sure that removeing the vulnerable part outside only means that you now no longer have the ability to send the right data to the important bit of the electronics. Commercial, large scale systems have that anyway because they have centralised credential management, but the rubbish they sell for small premises and home use should come with warnings.

      1. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: Chainsaw? SolarWinds? ..and so on!

        Or, in many cases, just hold a magnet in the right place, which will deactivate the relay that powers the electromagnet.

      2. usbac

        Re: Chainsaw? SolarWinds? ..and so on!

        Years ago I had to purchase a VOIP (SIP) outdoor door-phone for the company. Almost every one I found had all of the electronics, including the relay that released the door lock, located in the outside unit. It amazed me how many manufacturers went that route. Cheaper to build, of course.

        I finally found a unit made by Algo where the outdoor unit was just a speaker (also used as the mic) and a button. Not much someone can do with that. Also, the outdoor unit was fairly cheap to replace in the case of vandalism, which had been a problem in the past.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. katrinab Silver badge
          Black Helicopters

          Re: Chainsaw? SolarWinds? ..and so on!

          "Also, the outdoor unit was fairly cheap to replace in the case of vandalism, which had been a problem in the past."

          That will be why the others don't do it that way ...

  7. TheMaskedMan Silver badge

    Back in my student days, nearly 40 years ago, a bunch of miscreants turned up at the college with a van and a couple of trolleys. They casually walked in, unplugged a bunch of PCs, loaded them on to the trolleys and wheeled them out, with one luckless student holding the door open for them as they left.

    Thinking back on it, I'm amazed that something like that didn't happen more often. We all had ID cards, but there was none of your modern lanyard malarkey, no requirement to show ID at at all times. Anyone could just walk in off the street and wander around the campus. As long as they looked studenty - think scruffy, with a harassed, caffeine-deprived expression and a big rucksack - it's unlikely that anyone would have challenged them. And yet crime on the campus (at least proper crime, not just students mucking about) was pretty rare. I miss the old days:(

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'm still waiting for some criminals to brazenly load up faulty parked cars in London and making off with them before the actual truck arrives.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Mr. Moose

      TAMU: Ampex for the Win!

      Talk about easy pickin's:

      In the 1970's, I was attending an electronics school associated with Texas A&M University. I could walk to the campus from my apt. One evening, I was on campus, and noticed a new auditorium under construction or rehab. I just sauntered into the empty building, which was open, and proceeded to snoop around. I saw the huge air vents under the floor, but didn't walk into them too far, etc.

      I went into the newly constructed control room, where they were still finishing the drywall, and there, laying out on the counter, not even installed into the rack, was a brand new fancy Ampex tape deck. It, and the new, uncovered, mixing board, was covered in dust from the drywall operation. I was horrified at the dust, and at the realization that I could have walked off with the whole kit and caboodle if I was so inclined. I left empty-handed.

    3. Ropewash

      You can get away with pretty near anything if you have a white van, a blue shop coat and a toolbox.

      I used to do machine repairs at a large manufacturing site and would usually bypass the hassle of getting a badge from security each visit. Never got stopped once.

    4. Snapper

      Back in the late 80's I got a call from a client who'd just had 10 Macintosh IIci's delivered and installed by me and my assistant a few days before.

      TOM: 'Can you tell me why two of your guys picked up all the new computers just as the studio was starting up this morning?'

      ME: 'Tom, you know me and David (assistant), and we don't have any other staff, so it wasn't us!'

      TOM: 'They were wearing white coats and seemed to know what they were doing!'

      ME: 'I bet they did!'

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Back in my student days, we were laying ethernet cable in the ceiling of various labs, including the robotics lab. Cheap student labor.

      We were suddenly confronted with campus security with drawn guns, alerted by the silent alarm guarding $30 or $40 million dollars worth of research robots.

      That was late '80s or thereabouts.

      The fun part is our mangler got quite the bollocking from both the dean and the chief of police.

  8. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Theft list

    In the past, the US has both CDMA and GSM networks, and apparently it was pretty stupid -- the CDMA carriers kept one list, the GSM carriers kept another, and neither was synchronized with any overseas GSM theft list. So (for the newer phones that supported both CDMA and GSM) you could just steal one from AT&T or T-Mobile and sell it to a Verizon or possibly Sprint user (Sprint liked to customize their phones...), or the other way around. With all US networks now being 4G LTE and 5G NR (most 2G and 3G has been totally shut down...), they do now have one theft list.

    Something amusing I read... so, if you go to activate a stolen phone on most carriers now, the phone just won't work -- it'll either do nothing, or ONLY allow calls to customer service. Apparently on AT&T, it does that for about an hour, THEN you start getting calls from AT&T customer service taking the piss with you... asking if you're aware that phone was stolen, where did you get the phone from, you are aware you won't be able to activate it anywhere right?, and so on. I'm not an AT&T fan but I think that policy is both great and very amusing.

  9. Bruce Ordway

    Pharmacies too

    A few years ago a pharmacy in a local "strip mall" was burgled in the same manner after thieves gained access to an adjoining business.

    They easily punched thru the drywall into the pharmacy and made off with opioids... mostly.

    Sometimes you're only as secure as your neighbors?

  10. Rufus McDufus

    Roof job

    I worked in one office building of a certain online retailer about 20 years ago. There was a new building being constructed next door, around the same height as ours - 10 storeys or so. One morning it had transpired a number of laptops had been lifted from the desktop support office. Turns out the crooks had used the crane on top of the building next door to lower someone onto the roof of our building, they'd got in that way and somehow got down to the floor where the laptops were. Presumably they'd exited the same way.

    Funny thing was the laptops were all broken and in for repair.

    1. Snapper

      Re: Roof job

      Early 90's a client had 40 macs stolen from their 5th floor office by thieves using the 3rd floor flat roof of a disused college in north London, connected (get this) by four ladders roped together to cross the 10m gap between the buildings.

      I have to admit, I still admire the organisation and sheer brass balls of the thieves.

      I had to replace all 40 computes, which made for a very busy but very profitable week.

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