Is iCloud safe to use?

While iCloud has improved security by introducing optional two-factor authentication, the company’s data centers are located in the United States, where there is currently no comprehensive consumer data privacy law at the federal level.

Apple’s online service iCloud is one of the largest cloud providers on the market. It allows you to synchronize up to ten devices and acts as a backup service for iOS devices. But how secure is iCloud?

To provide a thorough answer to this question, the topic of iCloud security has to be considered from several angles. It’s necessary to look at how iCloud is encrypted, where data centers hosting iCloud data are located, and how secure these data centers are. Lastly, it’s important to research how iCloud handles data protection. As users might be saving sensitive information to iCloud, in-depth and reliable data protection measures are important. In this article, we’ll answer these most pressing questions and clarify how safe iCloud is.

How is iCloud encrypted?

Encryption for iCloud data is two-fold. Data such as backups, photos, contacts, calendar entries and voice memos are backed up with 128-bit AES encryption. This encryption is used for data already saved on servers as well as during transfer. Passwords are further secured with 256-bit encryption. For even more robust data protection, users can also opt for end-to-end encryption which secures data with two-factor authentication. This ensures that only you have access to your data, restricting access for Apple or other third parties.

How does Apple process user data?

If you don’t opt for end-to-end encryption, your iCloud data can be accessed by Apple. Although the company states in their terms and conditions that no data analysis can be traced back to individual users, various internet privacy activists have accused Apple of not telling the whole truth. They claim that although the analysis data is anonymized, Apple can still assign it to individual users using a special ID.

Is iCloud safe against cyberattacks?

In the past, there have been a number of incidents that have raised the question of how secure iCloud really is. For example, a major iCloud data leak occurred in 2014 when hackers were able to exploit a vulnerability in the Find My iPhone function, allowing unauthorized parties to access iCloud. After the incident, Apple fixed the vulnerability in the system.

In 2017, hackers managed to take advantage of the same security gap, locking numerous iPhones and threatening to delete data from iCloud. Apple reacted by implementing two-factor authentication, a security measure that makes carrying out such attacks much more difficult. However, this additional security measure is optional and not used by all iCloud users.

iCloud’s security has made media headlines on multiple occasions, however, most of the coverage has centered on social engineering attacks. These have included phishing attacks where users voluntarily gave away their contact details and instances where hackers were able to gain access to iCloud as a result of users recycling passwords for multiple services. These security vulnerabilities are even more reason for iCloud users to use two-factor authentication since the combination of a password and confirmation code is a strong defense against such attacks. When answering the question of whether iCloud is secure, to a certain extent, it depends on how careful its users are when using the service.

Where are iCloud’s servers located?

Apple uses servers that are located in data centers in the United States. U.S. data protection laws, or rather lack thereof, apply to all data saved in iCloud. On a federal level, the U.S. doesn’t have a singular, comprehensive data protection law that covers all types of data. Individual states like California, Colorado and Virginia have passed their own, robust data protection laws. In some cases, though, data can be stored by third-party providers, which is permitted under U.S. law. For users that want to ensure their data is safe, this may be cause for concern.

The Cloud Act of 2018 gives U.S. authorities the right to access data that has been uploaded to American servers. This means that companies are required to forward data to the government if ordered to do so by a court. Although the U.S. government’s reach also extends to data stored overseas in some cases, German cloud providers and other European cloud service companies often outperform their U.S. counterparts in rankings of the most secure clouds.


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How does the location of a server affect iCloud’s data privacy?

Theoretically, the U.S. government has the right to request any data stored on American soil. This ruling does not necessarily exclude the right to request access to Americans’ data stored overseas. However, data stored in any EU country is subjected to the very robust data privacy law of the EU, the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). This law regulates the protection of personal data in Europe and ensures the free (voluntary) exchange of such data. One of the key points of this regulation is that data may only be processed by a service provider (in this case, the cloud service provider) if there is a clear mandate to do so. Whether Apple’s cloud service meets these requirements and to what extent data protection is upheld by iCloud is questionable. Furthermore, data privacy experts have fundamental doubts about the compatibility of the Cloud Act with the GDPR.

How secure is iCloud for companies?

iCloud safety is not only a question of consumer privacy. For companies relying on cloud solutions the question becomes all the more complex. Many companies want to offer their customers cloud solutions because of the practicality and flexibility they offer. However, in the case of customers’ and company data, data protection is a big concern that must be evaluated in detail by every company. It’s worth noting that iCloud was originally intended for private use only. The Business Manager Agreement from iCloud doesn’t offer much help, which is why companies can easily find themselves in a gray area when it comes to data protection with iCloud.

Conclusion: Is iCloud safe?

Is iCloud secure enough for business requirements? The answer is: It depends. Although Apple has made significant improvements in recent years and strengthened the cloud service’s encryption, it’s not the best option if you need to store highly sensitive data. There are more robust cloud services out there. A comparison of cloud storage providers can help you to find out more about different providers and the security features that they offer. It’s also important to remember that a service is only as secure as its users are careful. So, remember to use two-factor authentication, create a strong password, and enable end-to-end encryption (if possible), no matter which cloud provider you use.

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