As leaked nude photos of celebrities including Jennifer Lawrence make headlines, rumours of an iCloud hack have surfaced.
Apple has yet to comment on whether its cloud storage service was compromised, but if you’re worried that any ‘personal’ pictures might not be personal anymore, there are steps you can take to lock things down.
iCloud is a great service. Instead of having photos and documents take up valuable space on your iPhone and iPad’s internal storage you can instead sling up to 5GB of pictures into the cloud where they can be accessed later, or on another device.
You can also use it to remotely track your iPhone if you’ve left it behind in a bar or a friend’s house.
But for all its plus points, iCloud can be a privacy time bomb if you don’t use it properly. Here we’ll tell you how you can tighten up iCloud and ensure that your private data stays private.
1) Choose a strong password
Apple prides itself on iCloud’s security. It uses 128-bit AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) to keep your files and photos safe and even higher 256-bit AES to encrypt things like passwords, iTunes purchases and credit card details.
This makes it hard for anyone on the outside to hack into Apple’s servers and steal your security details.
However, there is one main vulnerability that iCloud has: You.
When setting up iCloud you’ll be asked to create an Apple ID and password to use with it. By picking a weak or easy to guess password, you’re making iCloud – and everything you store in it – more vulnerable.
To Apple’s credit, it forces you to pick a fairly strong password during set up. The password you create has to be a minimum of eight characters and it must contain at least one number, one uppercase letter and one lowercase letter.
Picking a combination of numbers and letters in varying cases is a good way to avoid brute force attacks – where several combinations of passwords are injected at once – and stop anyone who finds (or steals) your phone from second-guessing your Apple ID.
While an eight character password is good, go one better. The longer and more complicated your password is, the harder it is to crack. This logic doesn’t just apply to Apple IDs, this should be your rule of thumb for all passwords – Dropbox, Gmail, your wireless router, everything.
It’s all well and good us saying ‘pick a long and complex password’ but the thing about long and complex passwords is that they’re hard to remember.
Luckily, excellent webcomic xkcd has compiled this handy guide which tells you how to create a password that’s a) strong and b) easy to remember.
2) Turn on two factor authentication (2FA)
As well as picking a robust password, turning on two step verification or two factor authentication (2FA) is an easy way to greatly improve iCloud security.
Turning on 2FA means that any time you want to access iCloud, buy something on iTunes or App Store, you’ll need to enter a 4-digit PIN as well as your Apple ID.
After successfully entering your Apple ID, a PIN number will be sent to your iPhone via text message. Entering your PIN will then let you access whatever Apple services you’re after.
Without both your password and the PIN number, you won’t be able to access your Apple account.
Turning this on is easy. Head over here and sign in with your Apple ID as normal. Once you’re signed in, select Password & Security.
Under Two-Step Verification, click Get Started and follow the on screen instructions.
As well as sending a PIN number to your iPhone (or any phone that you designate as your trusted device), you’ll be given a Recovery Key which you can use to gain access to your Apple account should you lose or forget your Apple ID. You should print this out or write it down for safekeeping.
3) Stop iCloud Photo Stream automatically backing up your photos
If you don’t want iCloud’s Photo Stream automatically storing pictures of you in the nude online then you can easily put a stop to that.
From your iPhone or iPad’s home screen, go to Settings > iCloud
Once here, scroll down to the bottom of the page where you’ll see Storage & backup. Tap this and then scroll down until you see iCloud backup.
If automatic back ups are turned on, then the switch will be positioned to the right with the background coloured green. Tap this to disable automatic uploads.
Every time you sync your phone to iTunes your files will be backed up. Any pictures you don’t want saved this way you’ll need to manually remove.
4) Delete pictures stored in Photo Stream
Anything you don’t want stored in the cloud should be saved elsewhere first and deleted from Photo Stream.
Should iCloud be compromised in some way, your tasteful nudes will be beyond the reach of any grubby hacker hoping to post their findings or 4chan or wherever.
Once you’ve backed up your photos (assuming you want to keep them), deleting them from Photo Stream is easy.
Go into Photos and tap Albums on the bottom right. Then tap My Photo Stream and hit Select in the top right of the screen.
Select anything you want to delete, hit the dustbin icon and erase anything sensitive from the cloud forever.
On devices running iOS 6 or iOS 5, the process is slightly different – head into the Photos app, open up Photo Stream, select what you want and then hit the delete button.
Hopefully you’ve found this guide helpful and you’ve now enabled two-step security and backed up anything you don’t want leaked to the Internet. Feel free to leave any other questions you have in the comments or get in touch with us on Twitter.