Bad Advice Masked as Security

John Gruber makes an excellent point over on Daring Fireball about the rather extreme overreaction to the iCloud celebrity photo theft.

Don’t trust Apple “with any of your data” isn’t just wrong because it’s a hyperbolic overreaction, it’s wrong because it’s potentially dangerous. What has been mostly overlooked in the reaction to this photo leak scandal, and completely lost in Auerbach’s argument, is that backups are a form of security — in the same sense that life insurance is a form of security for your children and spouse.

Exactly right. I see this happen all the time. iCloud backup has been the single most effective tool against data loss I have ever seen. The chances of losing or breaking your phone are orders of magnitude greater than the chances of someone brute forcing their way into your account, unless you happen to be very high profile.

But I will go a step further. Many articles I have read instruct users to simply turn off iCloud entirely, all in one move. This not only removes the security of the backup, but it potentially can lead to data loss itself. Turning off iCloud can cause a user to lose their address book, calendar, notes, documents, and other important data. It has very far reaching consequences. For the most part those stay in iCloud, and can be added back later. But it is entirely possible (again, I have seen this happen) for things to go wrong. Even if not data loss, it can result in duplicates, conflicts, and other issues if iCloud is then reenabled later. Not to mention other cloud syncing (Google, Exchange, etc) may take over and split the data, which is very confusing for regular users to figure out. And many may not realize that turning off iCloud has any of these effects and will just assume that their apps are suddenly broken.

But this is typical of our media culture. Issues that are really bad but unlikely to happen to you are reported breathlessly, while the real dangers go unmentioned. I guarantee you that more people lost their iPhones this weekend than celebrities had photos released. Then again, more people died driving to work than on roller coasters, but guess what gets reported. FUD is alive and well.

Bad Advice Masked as Security was last updated September 4th, 2014 by Michael Truskowski