Last week, Wired columnist Mat Honan’s digital life was destroyed by hackers who were able to connect to his Apple ID and remotely erase all of the data on his iPhone, iPad, and MacBook.
Apple responded today to Honan via a spokesperson, Natalie Kerris. In a statement to Wired, where Honan posted an account of his experiences, Apple promised to look into how users can protect their data and security better when they need to reset their account passwords.
“Apple takes customer privacy seriously and requires multiple forms of verification before resetting an Apple ID password,” said Apple, via Kerris. “In this particular case, the customer’s data was compromised by a person who had acquired personal information about the customer. In addition, we found that our own internal policies were not followed completely. We are reviewing all of our processes for resetting account passwords to ensure our customers’ data is protected.”
This all happened because the hackers were able to get a hold of Honan’s email address, his billing address and the last four digits of a credit card he has on file. Once the hacker had this info, he or she called Apple, asked for a reset to the iCloud account in Honan’s name, and was given a temporary password.
“In many ways, this was all my fault,” Honan wrote. “My accounts were daisy-chained together. Getting into Amazon let my hackers get into my Apple ID account, which helped them get into Gmail, which gave them access to Twitter. Had I used two-factor authentication for my Google account, it’s possible that none of this would have happened, because their ultimate goal was always to take over my Twitter account and wreak havoc. Lulz.”
The real problem here, he noted, is that the companies he relied on to keep his data safe have competing security practices. “In short, the very four digits that Amazon considers unimportant enough to display in the clear on the web are precisely the same ones that Apple considers secure enough to perform identity verification,” he wrote. “The disconnect exposes flaws in data management policies endemic to the entire technology industry, and points to a looming nightmare as we enter the era of cloud computing and connected devices.”
This echoes a statement today from Steve Wozniak, who predicts many “horrible problems” our reliance on the cloud will cause within the next five years.
As Mat Honan found out today, our interlinked, cloud-based computing utopia can, like many tools before, be used for good or evil. We’ll all need to be personally careful with our security practices, as well as demanding better accountability and more viable practices from the industry leaders we trust with our data, which is sometimes another word for “precious photos and memories.”