Celebrity Nudes Hack Very Bad News For Apple

Just how vulnerable is the iCloud?

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© 2017 Apple/Flickr - Eric Schmuttenmaer

Last night, photos began to be circulated online which purported to be nude images of a large number of female celebrities. While there is no way to tell if all of these images are indeed legitimate, several of the celebrities involved have taken to twitter to denounce the leak, which by proxy seems to verify at least some of the photos.

The nude pictures themselves were first shared on 4chan’s /b/ board by an anonymous user who alleged that he/she had obtained them from from Apple’s iCloud hosting service. The user also reported to be holding video footage which they were trying to sell to tabloid magazines and websites for a “six figure sum”.

Image: © 2014 Apple

While it is yet unclear if this anonymous user was indeed the person who hacked all of these photos, or merely just one of the first people to find them, there are wide-ranging security implications. Given the large number of photographs and large number of subject celebrities, the evidence suggests that they were obtained through a software exploit in the iCloud rather than social engineering, or so-called revenge porn.

This has serious implications for the average, non-celebrity user. 

Should Apple’s iCloud have been compromised this has serious implications for the average, non-celebrity user. Due to the nature of cloud-based storage, information, while password-protected, is not encrypted where it is stored. This means that should a hacker be able to gain access to the location where all of the cloud data is stored, they will be able to access every file at will.

While these reports of an iCloud breach are still unconfirmed, Apple’s lack of an official statement denying a hack doesn’t look good. Should it turn out to be the case, such a scandal would come as very bad timing for the company. Apple plans to release on September 9th two new iPhone 6 models as well as possibly the highly anticipated iWatch. These devices will very likely feature strong cloud integration as part of their ecosystem strategy. If people perceive the iCloud to be risky, then this could seriously hurt sales at this critical early stage.