THE BLOG
10/14/2014 12:17 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Does Apple's iCloud Have a Worm in It?

Few people remain in the dark about the recent security breach at Apple, which resulted in hundreds of leaked personal photographs of celebrities being posted to Reddit or the 4chan image board.

The prevailing belief is that hackers gained access to these images by taking advantage of a flaw in the "Find my iPhone" feature. Using a "brute force" script that automatically tried one password guess after another, they managed to break into these phones.

This process likely took at least several weeks or months, and did not become public until the mass posting of the photos. Since then, Apple has patched the faulty "alarm system" that should have alerted them to the attack as it was occurring.

The company also released a statement denying the Find My iPhone or iCloud services had been the primary target of the breach. In this and various other ways, Apple has labored long and hard to restore consumers' faith in its ability to keep their content secure.

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Still, individuals and business users alike remain hesitant to trust Apple's iCloud service to store their sensitive materials. Companies that have used it for document storage are having second thoughts about the service, as are firms that had been considering starting with it in the near future.

How safe is iCloud for businesses?

As the investigation into the celebrity photo leak proceeds, it's become clear this was not a "full-scale system breach." However, the incident has revealed weaknesses in the system that must be addressed before users should feel safe using it to store private information or images of any sort.

Professionals currently using iCloud may find it meets their needs, or that changing their storage choice is not an option at the moment. If you're in that boat, then engaging in safe storage practices is the best way to protect yourself and your company from future, potentially larger-scale attacks.

Tips to keep information secure while using iCloud include:

  1. Take advantage of two-step verification. Apple offers a "double-login feature," which allows users to enter their password, then receive a second code on another Apple device, with which they can finally log into iCloud. To enable this function, go to Manage Your Apple ID > Password and Security > Two-Step Verification, then follow the instructions to complete the set-up.
  2. Create an iron-clad password. While creating a separate password for every account or device may seem a real pain, many users have learned the hard way how important it is to have a unique, difficult-to-guess password. It should include a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters, and be difficult if not impossible for an outside party to guess.
  3. Refrain from using Find My iPhone. Experts believe the celebrity leak originated with a vulnerability in this feature. On your iOS device, navigate to Settings > iCloud, where "turn off Find my [device]" will be an option. Mac computers offer this under the Apple menu > System Preferences > iCloud, where you can deselect "Find My Mac."
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  5. Store particularly sensitive information elsewhere. When it comes to data such as credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, or health care records, consumer cloud sites such as iCloud simply don't have the security features and capabilities to prevent a break-in. Enterprise cloud services provide a much more secure environment for businesses who seek to protect themselves and their customers.

How suitable is iCloud for businesses?

As businesses seek a high-capacity storage solution for their data, iCloud may seem like an attractive option. People who already use Apple devices have easy access to the service, and moving documents into the cloud appears to be the next logical step.

But experts in cloud storage are advising business owners to think twice about using iCloud for the following reasons:

  • Questionable security features. According to Randy McInnis of SportsBettingDime.com, the "over/under of Apple Pay adoption rate among iPhone users by the end of 2015 is 24.5%." For smart business owners, lack of security paired with a noted history of sensitive data breach signals an unmistakable red flag.
  • Limited to no collaboration is possible. If you work with various constituents, chances are not everyone in your network uses an Apple device. Services such as Google Apps work more effectively among various devices, which makes sharing and collaboration smarter and simpler.
  • Better business sharing options are available. Set-up and flexibility are important considerations when you're hunting for document-sharing solutions. Compared to its competitors, iCloud provides considerably fewer capabilities, not to mention its incompatibility with non-Apple devices.

Regardless of your size or field, running a business effectively and collaboratively is a challenge. The versatility, accommodating nature, and low infrastructural demands of cloud storage make it a compelling option for businesses, but not all services are created the same.

The celebrity photo fiasco is only the most high-profile in a series of reasons that companies should consider more comprehensive and secure file storage and sharing options than iCloud. Working with an enterprise storage solution provider would enable your company to set up customized, well-protected systems that will thoroughly meet your business needs.