Outrage Over iCloud Hackers in China

By Neil Marques ‘16

chinaappleThe Chinese government is, yet again, faced with outrage over its eavesdropping and privacy monitoring actions. This time the allegations appear more severe. Man-in-the-middle attacks are being staged by Chinese authorities on Apple’s iCloud network. Hackers set up their own relay point or website between two individuals and control the flow of communication between both parties by choosing what to send to both people and what each person sees on their end. Since the hackers can intercept any of this data, they can acquire any types of passwords, contacts, photos, or other personal information. Activist groups are in uproar about these events especially because unlike previous attacks on industry giants like Google and Yahoo, this attack appears to be a nationwide incident carefully planned to align with the release of the new iPhone.  When Google and Yahoo were attacked in China, authorities could only access mainly the information users were searching; Apple’s iCloud feature is a sensitive and personally detailed portfolio of the account’s holder.

It seems like that in this day and age, the internet is actually holding all aspects of an individual’s life together. It is constantly and consistently used and relied on for its services and knowledge. This explosion of ease to be able to surf the web and gain access to just about anything is scary to many such as the Chinese government. If it was not clear before, this incident has made it evident that some kind of product or service is required in terms of personal privacy that will allow the average person to feel confident that his or her actions are genuine and not being monitored. Everyone has fallen in love with the convenience that accompanies the cloud that they have become complacent with the jeopardized security.

As for the future, this is not a great move for the Chinese government. Now more than ever, large companies will be all that more hesitant to work with Chinese authorities. With this huge attack on personal privacy, China has shown that it plans to adamantly stick to and enforce its censorship agenda no matter the cost. Customers for services where accounts are required, such as iCloud, are sure to dwindle. As for previous incidents with companies like Google and Yahoo, it seems that major search engines like these have more power than companies like Apple since the community actually relies heavily on search engines for information retrieval and especially research. In order for countries that engage in censorship to innovate and advance in all fields, the wealth of information on the internet must be made available.

Apple has handled this relatively smoothly following the outrage; it helps that Apple can afford to suffer some small loses given its huge success worldwide. Apple has already released an iCloud security package that guides the user on the key security elements of the system while offering tips to spot possible warning signs. To battle all the malicious software intent that is constantly brewing, the public can continue to educate themselves on warning signs and be smart about internet traffic. It would be a shame if an individual’s desire for knowledge was threatened due to the possibility of censorship repercussions.

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