If you’re Apple iPad,iPhone, or a Mac user then you must have heard of iCloud. iCloud is a cloud-based service that users can avail themselves of for a small fee. This service gives you some extra storage and also periodically syncs all your data including photos, emails, contacts to create a safe backup.
Even though there were some hiccups in iCloud’s past, Apple promises that iCloud is secure and their user’s privacy is in safe hands.
So today in this article, let’s look at some of the security features of iCloud and its benefits, the security-related incidents that took place in iCloud history, and also answer the most important question of this article – Is iCloud safe?
Is iCloud Safe?
iCloud is Apple’s cloud based service that works cross-platform allowing you to store all your personal information on the cloud as a type of backup in case your iPhone or Apple device conks it. To understand how safe iCloud truly is, you must figure out how iCloud works and what precautions you can take as a user to safeguard your data.
How does iCloud work?
The iCloud is designed in such a way that all your Apple devices can be connected. This data can be accessed from various gadgets as long as it’s on the iCloud.
Regardless of the device, they are initially stored on, iCloud makes it easy for you to access your photos, videos, documents, and more.
For example, if you have photos stored on your iPad but want to view them on your iPhone, you can sync and view it as long as both the devices are connected to iCloud.
What Are The Security Features Of iCloud?
The below features are the reasons that all your photos, emails, and other files are secure on the iCloud.
- Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) – The standard feature present in all websites today, this feature makes sure that you’re the authorized user by prompting you to enter the password and also 6-digit code sent to your trusted device.
- Security tokens – With this, you no longer need to store your iCloud password on verified devices, as all the built-in apps like Mail, Contacts, Calendar are authenticated using secure tokens.
- Encryption – The data that is sent and stored on the cloud will be in an encrypted form.
Is iCloud Email Safe?
According to the Apple support page, even though emails are not encrypted on the iCloud, the information that is transmitted between your email and iCloud is encrypted with TLS 1.2 (TLS or Transport Layer Security is a cryptographic protocol used to heighten security over computer networks.).
The reason why the emails are not encrypted is that they’re stored on IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) servers.
This might have been done partly due to performance reasons and also to support features like searching messages on the server or partially downloading messages and attachments. IMAP allows you to access your email when you are online.
When you access your email using IMAP, you’re directly reading it on the server rather than downloading it to your device.
So even if the data stored on the IMAP while you’re accessing your email may not be encrypted, your traffic or the data you sent to the server is encrypted.
Who Can Access My iCloud?
- Any synced Apple devices – If you’re a fan of Apple gadgets, you could have a Mac, an iPhone, and maybe even an iPad and if you have chosen to sync all your devices to iCloud, then all your files are accessible from these devices. So if you’re planning to sell your device then make sure you have turned off sync for it. You can quickly look at your iCloud’s Account Settings to see which devices have access to your iCloud.
- Anyone who has your Apple ID and password – If you have not enabled two-factor authentication then chances are someone can access your cloud by guessing your password.
- Apple itself – Even though your files are encrypted, Apple has the key for unlocking your iCloud backup files. In the past, the US govt has approached Apple to hand over files of a user where he/she is part of a case that is related to terrorism. According to a report published in Jan-2020, Apple has shared customer data with the US government in 90% of cases.
Security Incidents From iCloud’s Past
No product or device in the age of the internet and technology is secure including Apple’s iCloud. Even though Apple has put efforts into making iCloud secure there were few cases of data breaches in the past. Here we take a look at a few of the famous incidents that are related to iCloud.
- iCloud Phone Scam – In 2019, iPhone users started getting calls and messages, telling them their iCloud had been hacked. The cybercriminals duped them into giving their username and passwords.
- Celebgate or the Fappening – Back in 2014, iCloud was breached and hundreds of private photos belonging to celebrities(mostly women) were leaked online. The cybercriminals were able to achieve this due to a flaw present in the “Find my iPhone” feature which helped them crack celebrity passwords and usernames. A few of the celebrities who were targets of this breach are Jennifer Lawrence, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jessica Brown Findlay, and Kaley Cuoco.
- iCloud Hack in China – In 2018, thousands of iCloud customers in China fell victim to phishing scams. The Cybercriminals running this act swiped funds from users’ linked WeChat and AliPay accounts.
How To Improve The Security Of Your iCloud
Apple’s iCloud may come with advanced security features but there are still ways for hackers to access your files. You can avoid such problems in your case by following these simple guidelines:
- Don’t share your password with just anyone: The number 1 rule on their internet, make sure no one has access to the iCloud password or your trusted device (And if you have trusted them with it then make sure they take it to their grave). Also, make sure the password is not written in a diary or a notebook.
- Create strong passwords: Always create strong passwords (And no 123456 is not a strong password). Always make sure you mix capital letters and numbers. Trust me when I say this, Back when I created my Rediff account I used a simple password like ******** but now I have learned the skill of creating a strong password like this- ******** or this – ********.
- Always connect to secure networks: Public Wi-Fi networks are filled with cybercriminals waiting to steal your data which includes accessing your iCloud. So always make sure you’re careful when connecting to a public network. You can also make use of a VPN to keep the connection secure.
- Always update your operating system: Like I mentioned before no device is immune to attacks. Apple makes sure all their devices are secure by releasing updates, so next time you get a prompt to update your device, make sure you do not ignore it.
Do I need iCloud?
If you are having a tough time choosing if you need iCloud or not then we have listed the advantages and disadvantages of using iCloud in this table:
|If the device is stolen or broken, all files, such as photos or documents, are stored in a backup copy.You can access your files anywhere even without your primary device.You can easily view your device’s location.||People who have access to your device can look at all the files present in your iCloud.If you want more storage then you have to pay extra.Even though iCloud is compatible with Windows it works much better on a Mac system due to additional optimizations.|
Turning off sync for iCloud
If you have decided you just want to turn off the sync function for your iPhone, here are the steps you must follow:
Turning off sync on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch
On iOS you can turn off the iCloud sync by following these steps:
- Go to Settings and then click on your name.
- Tap on the iCloud option.
- Switch the iCloud features to Off. You can also choose to turn off sync for selected apps by clicking on each app.
Turning off sync on your Mac
On Mac you can turn off the iCloud sync by following these steps:
- Select System Preferences under the Apple menu.
- Select the Apple ID (If you’re using macOS Mojave or earlier, you don’t need to select the Apple ID).
- Click on the iCloud option and click or uncheck the apps you want to be synced with iCloud.
No system is 100% secure, all systems will have some or other flaw. In most cases, cybercriminals will be the first to discover and exploit it. Apple has tried its best in recent years to uphold its reputation for building safe and secure systems.
As end-users, we have to make sure we follow the safety guidelines when using iCloud.
- Here’s how you can use an Apple Pencil with an iPad
- Click here if you want to know how to remove malware from a Mac
- Check out if your Mac needs an Anti-virus
Daniel Moore is the Founder & Editor-in-chief of Private-Spy, an experienced hacker, lecturer and an all-round fun guy! A writer by day and reader by night, he holds a Master’s degree in Computer applications and believes that privacy is our god given right. Daniel has been known to have published in-depth guides and tutorials that have been used by millions of people across the world.