Apple has often displayed uncanny timing, with its well-orchestrated end-of-year iPhone releases. But the leak of racy celebrity photos in the past few days put the company in the unusual position of having to mend its image just days before a highly anticipated September 9 product launch.
Nude photos of Hollywood celebrities, including Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence, posted on internet forums by unknown hackers has sparked condemnation from stars and their publicists, and prompted an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
In the wake of the breach, cybersecurity experts and mobile developers have called out inadequacies in Apple’s and, more generally, cloud-services security.
Some security experts faulted Apple for failing to make its devices and software easier to secure through two-factor authentication, which requires a separate verification code after users log in initially. The process requires several steps and more than rudimentary knowledge of a phone’s workings.
“Making things more private or secure by default instead of having ‘security options’ would go a long way, ” said Matt Johansen, senior manager of the Threat Research Center at WhiteHat Security.
Apple said on Tuesday the hacks were the result of targeted attacks on accounts and not a direct breach of its systems. But the highly public affair remains potentially one of Apple’s worst public crises in years. Speculation continues to spread on blogs about flaws in the iCloud service, which lets computer and mobile users store photos, documents and other data so they can be accessed from a plethora of devices they own.
Apple has dealt with several high-profile public faux-pas in past years, including a maps service criticised for lacking important geographic detail and “Antennagate”, when experts exposed how a flaw in the latest iPhone led to dropped calls. Depending on how the hacks went down, this incident could be as damaging to its reputation, if not more.
“This could be a scary time publicly for Apple,” JD Sherry, of Trend Micro wrote. “They haven't had many, Antennagate and Apple Maps come to mind, and this would most likely trump those.”