The PJ Tatler

Re: iCloud, iCreepy

Here’s the thing. Steve Jobs isn’t interested in fighting nefarious activities; in fact, if asked, he probably doesn’t care about Weinergate and I’d bet he’s a fan of MoveOn, the group formed to try to get the country to “move on” from Bill Clinton’s peccadilloes back the day. He’s interested in innovating and making money and he is very very good at both. Both of those are laudable, of course, but he’s not a caped crusader fighting drugs and adulterers, he’s a brilliant businessman and we shouldn’t pretend otherwise. But more germane to the creep factor, we have just seen Sony’s PlayStation Network get repeatedly hacked, hard. It went offline for weeks while Sony, one of the most powerful tech companies in the world, tried to figure out what happened. They still don’t really seem to have gotten to the bottom of it. The hackers reportedly made off with the personal information of millions of innocent people. As a PS3 user, I’m one of them. I have no idea how much info the hackers got, who they are or what they intend. Neither does Sony. The fact is, so far that hack job has been a perfect crime. Sony and its co-victims will be dealing with its after effects for years.

Fanboys (disclosure: iPhone user, Apple TV2 owner, Mac user here, so I obviously love the tech) should be aware that iCloud will be the mother of all hacker targets. And Apple has shown that while it has been mostly immune from garden variety online threats like the viruses that plague the PC world, it’s not invulnerable. Every iteration of its iOS has been quickly jailbroken. Its latest, iOS5, is only out in beta — and was jailbroken within 24 hours of the beta release. (And yeah, I still can’t wait to get my hands on the real iOS5 when it hits the streets this fall.) I’d wager that Apple has made iCloud as secure as it possibly can because it’s in their business interests to do so. But I’d also wager that hackers worldwide will be that much more determined to break in, and with iCloud backing up schedules, contact information, etc where users don’t have true control, iCloud will be a mother lode of potentially useful personal information that can be used for identity theft and in other ways against innocent people. Like Sony’s PSN, Apple’s affluent international user base makes iCloud an irresistible target. It will be hacked. The only question is, by whom and for what purpose?

Steve Jobs is a great guy and genuine American success story and I generally like Apple as a company, but Jobs won’t live forever and most humans aren’t as benevolent as he seems to be. iCloud is 95% cool stuff and features but it’s also a Pandora’s Box of unintended vulnerabilities and consequences. I guess that’s why I find it mildly iCreepy. The simple solution is to turn iCloud off, but there’s no guarantee that the off switch really works: Didn’t we just have a run of stories about iPhones (and Droids) secretly logging GPS information?