Boost Your iCloud Photo Se­cu­rity

5 sim­ple steps

iPhone Life Magazine - - Gear Guide - By jim karpen

the news couldn’t have come at a worse time for Ap­ple. A week be­fore its Septem­ber 9 launch of the iPhone 6, there were re­ports that hack­ers ac­cessed over 100 celebrity iCloud ac­counts, re­sult­ing in leaked nude pho­tos of fa­mous women such as actress Jen­nifer Lawrence and model Kate Up­ton be­ing posted widely on the web.

Ap­ple quickly re­sponded by say­ing th­ese were tar­geted at­tacks on spe­cific ac­counts and that hack­ers hadn’t suc­ceeded in breaching Ap­ple’s sys­tems. Nev­er­the­less, it ap­peared that Ap­ple had over­looked the need to pro­tect iCloud ac­counts from brute-force at­tacks in which soft­ware rapidly makes hun­dreds of guesses un­til it finds the cor­rect pass­word. Ap­ple quickly re­leased a fix that locks out a user af­ter sev­eral failed at­tempts, but some ac­counts were still vul­ner­a­ble.

All of this sug­gests that you may want to take steps to pro­tect your­self should some­one ever try to steal your pri­vate pho­tos that you’re stor­ing in the cloud.

Here are 5 steps you can take to boost your iCloud photo se­cu­rity.

1Create a Stronger Pass­word

The best first step to se­cur­ing your pho­tos is one you’ve likely heard be­fore: cre­ate a stronger pass­word. It’s no longer enough just to mix in spe­cial char­ac­ters and num­bers. Your pass­word should ide­ally be at least 14 char­ac­ters and dif­fer­ent for each site you ac­cess.

To change your pass­word, go to My Ap­ple ID ( ap­pleid.ap­ple. com). Click on Man­age your Ap­ple ID and sign in. Click on Pass­word and Se­cu­rity, then se­lect Change Pass­word.

Ap­ple re­quires at least 8 char­ac­ters, but you should go for 14. They also re­quire at least one num­ber and at least one low­er­case and one up­per­case let­ter. Don’t use your child’s or spouse’s name, a fa­vorite color, or the word “pass­word,” as many hack­ers typ­i­cally try th­ese first. Don’t use com­mon words and then tack on num­bers and sym­bols at the end—scat­ter them through­out. To make your pass­word eas­ier to re­mem­ber, Mash­able of­fers the help­ful hint of string­ing to­gether dic­tio­nary words that aren’t nor­mally re­lated, like “grass­box­fid­get,” such that your fi­nal pass­word could be “Grass4*Box!Fid­get.”

2Select Proper Se­cu­rity Ques­tions

If you for­get your pass­word, you can ac­cess your Ap­ple ac­count by an­swer­ing se­cu­rity ques­tions. That means, of course, that some­one else could too, if they knew the an­swers. Ap­ple of­fers some 20 ques­tions to choose from, so be sure to se­lect ques­tions that oth­ers would be un­likely to know or be able to fig­ure out, such as the least fa­vorite car you’ve owned or the first thing you learned to cook.

3Avoid Phish­ing Scams

By now you’re prob­a­bly aware that the bad guys will of­ten send out of­fi­cial-look­ing emails ask­ing you to log into your ac­count. But they then send you to a bo­gus page that looks like the real thing and cap­ture your user­name and pass­word when you log in. Be very wary of such emails. Even when I re­ceive an email that I’m sure is le­git­i­mate, such as from PayPal, I still al­ways go to my browser to log into my ac­count rather than click­ing on the link in the email.

4Back Up to Your Com­puter Rather Than iCloud

Some peo­ple may de­cide to take the ex­tra­or­di­nary step of not us­ing Pho­toStream (iOS 7) or Photo Li­brary (iOS 8) in or­der to keep their pho­tos out of the cloud. But the hack­ers who got into the celebri­ties’ ac­counts had spe­cial soft­ware that let them ac­cess the per­son’s backup of their de­vice stored in iCloud. So even if the celebri­ties hadn’t up­loaded the nude pho­tos to the cloud, the hacker was able to get them from the backup. If you use Ap­ple’s iTunes soft­ware to back up your de­vice to your com­puter in­stead of back­ing up to the cloud, you’ll be less vul­ner­a­ble.

5En­able Two-Step Verification

The strong­est se­cu­rity mea­sure you can take is two-step verification, which Ap­ple be­gan of­fer­ing last year. In ad­di­tion to hav­ing you log in with a user­name and pass­word, two-step verification en­tails Ap­ple send­ing a 4-digit se­cu­rity code via text mes­sage to your phone. You en­ter the code to ver­ify your iden­tity and com­plete your sign-in.

While Ap­ple had ac­ti­vated this fea­ture for iTunes ac­counts and Ap­ple ID ac­counts, it wasn’t yet avail­able for iCloud at the time the celebri­ties’ ac­counts were hacked. Ap­ple has rolled this out for iCloud as well.

You can se­cure your iCloud, iTunes, and Ap­ple Store ac­counts by fol­low­ing th­ese steps to en­able two-step verification:

In your In­ter­net browser, go to My Ap­ple ID, click on Man­age Your Ap­ple ID, and sign in. Click on Pass­word and Se­cu­rity. An­swer your se­cu­rity ques­tions, and then un­der Two-Step Verification, click Get Started. Ap­ple will email you a verification code, which you will then en­ter in or­der to con­tinue.

You will then need to wait three days be­fore you can com­plete sign­ing up. Ap­ple will send an email let­ting you know when the wait­ing pe­riod is over. When you re­ceive the email, sign back in at My Ap­ple ID, click on Pass­word and Se­cu­rity, an­swer your se­cu­rity ques­tions, and then click Get Started un­der Two-Step Verification.

En­ter your phone num­ber. Ap­ple will text you a verification code. Then en­ter the code and you will be given a 14-char­ac­ter Re­cov­ery Key, which you should print and store in a safe place. Then con­firm your Re­cov­ery Key, check the box, and click En­able Two-Step Verification. From then on, any time you make a pur­chase or ac­cess your ac­count from a new de­vice, Ap­ple will text you a verification code that you must en­ter in or­der to com­plete your sign-in. Jim Karpen, Ph.D, is on fac­ulty at Ma­har­ishi Uni­ver­sity of Man­age­ment in Fair­field, IA. He has been writ­ing about the rev­o­lu­tion­ary con­se­quences of com­puter tech­nol­ogy since 1994. His Ph.D dis­ser­ta­tion an­tic­i­pated the In­ter­net revo­lu­tion. His site,, con­tains se­lected regular col­umns writ­ten for The Iowa Source.

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