Everyone today speaks of the iCloud. Cloud storage has become so popular with Apple fans and other consumers alike. Apple does not tell you, but when you decide to activate an iCloud account and sync your content to multiple iDevices, you can do so only if you agree to lose 5GB of memory on your memory storage. Apple claims that it gives you “5GB of free storage” (http://www.apple.com/icloud/features/), but it does not tell you that the “free storage” comes out of the memory storage you purchased on your device (whether 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB). Some free storage, huh?
Still, many do not mind losing the memory storage because the iCloud has been such a convenience factor for them. After all, iCloud does back up your content and prevent loss of information should one device die. If you are in a place where one device loses battery, you have one or two more devices that all have the same content—so you can continue what you were doing without interruption. The peace of mind that Cloud storage offers is the incentive in its reception.
What many may not know is that iCloud offers risk while providing convenience. ICloud syncs all your content across your devices (multi-device syncing) so that you do not need to mark a specific webpage on two additional devices, for example. If you surf the web and find something that you want to bookmark, just bookmark the webpage on one device—and iCloud will pass this information along to your additional devices. That same webpage can be seen on your iPod Touch, iPad, and iPhone as it was on your Mac PC.
This same multi-device syncing, however, can lead to security risks. Imagine that you are part of the US Department of Homeland Security. You were just hired by President Barack Obama to serve in one of the positions that he offers you. You are so excited to be working with the President, and you want to do your job as best you can. The President chose you out of a long list of reference applicants—many you thought were better candidates for the job than you. Your fears subside as the President shakes your hand and says, “Welcome to the team.” The White House decides to use iPads for its daily use and hands you one of the new iPads. You have been dying to get your hand on one of these, so you accept it gladly. The good news about the iPad is that it is yours—provided that all the company information be deleted, should you resign your post or get fired by the President. You figure that the company information deletion is a small price to pay for owning an iPad.
One day at work, you notice that it is 7pm, and your spouse is dying of hunger. He or she has called your phone several times and left two voicemails. The texts are just as anticipatory: “When are you coming home?” You normally leave your work at the job and your iPad at work, but tonight, you want to go home and have another hour or two to crunch the data (though your spouse will not be happy). You decide to activate your iCloud account and get a Cloud username and password so as to utilize this feature across all your devices. The moment you arrive home, you notice that the information is being updated to all your devices. This is an awesome opportunity for you, yet you forgot that your son’s best friend (who comes over the house frequently) is a hacker in his spare time and likes to have access to devices over which he has not been granted admin privileges. You sync your devices and open confidential US information up to a security breach. One day, your son’s friend comes over and reveals that he knows about the new projects the country is working on; you, mortified, hold your head in your hands, worried about the state of your new job and promotion. You have reason to worry: it does not look good.
I realize that this is an imaginary situation, but is it possible? Yes, it is! ICloud is made to store data and content and push it to all your iDevices. If a computer hacker gets his or her hands on Homeland Security information (or possibly even a terrorist), all the country’s secrets will be known. If you have read the tech news from last month, you may recall the announcements by the White House of its decision to use the Amazon Kindle over the Apple IPad to send to overseas embassies; this was done because the White House said that Apple’s iPad posed a security breach. This is what The Verge had to say about the rationale behind the selection:
“But based on the Department’s lengthy list of requirements, it appears that the Kindle Touch is the only device currently on the market that suits its needs. In fact, in a separate document the Department specifically listed the iPad as an unsuitable option because it presents ‘unacceptable security and usability risks for the government’s needs in this particular project’ due to its additional features” (http://www.theverge.com/2012/6/15/3089627/department-of-state-kindle-touch-ipad).
The security and user risks the iPad entails are the two factors that made the White House select the Kindle over the iPad. There are various security issues that Apple is working on (computer malware and malware in the App Store), but usability risks are present as well—and one of those could involve gaining access to government files and documents by way of multi-device syncing. When you order the devices and have them present on a wi-fi network, there is no way of knowing what confidential documents and files will end up on an e-book reader headed overseas. That, in and of itself, is too much of a risk to take.