Apple’s efforts to fix certain technical problems with iCloud and iTunes have been hampered by “political infighting” among two engineering teams in the company, The Information reports. One manager has already resigned from Apple, with more departures “expected soon.” Apple reportedly wishes to take the cloud infrastructure used in Siri and bring it to more of its services, some of which are within the realm of the iCloud team — iCloud engineers are said to be concerned about job security as the Siri infrastructure encroaches on their domain. Apple is also working to bring all of its iCloud infrastructure in house. [via 9to5Mac]
Apple has published a Report on Government Information Requests covering how it handled demands for information from law enforcement agencies received during the second half of 2015. The company said the “vast majority” of those requests were for information about lost or stolen devices, about which Apple complied 80 percent of the time within the United States. Totals outside the U.S. fluctuated between 52 and 80 percent.
Apple has issued a public response after the U.S. government dropped its lawsuit demanding the company’s assistance in hacking into a terrorist’s iPhone, with the company saying it will continue to aid law enforcement while also continuing to increase the security of its products. “From the beginning, we objected to the FBI’s demand that Apple build a backdoor into the iPhone because we believed it was wrong and would set a dangerous precedent,” Apple said. “As a result of the government’s dismissal, neither of these occurred. This case should never have been brought.”
Apple has been migrating more of its cloud computing to Google, but a new report from The Information claims the company is aiming to create its own extensive set of data centers and servers to bring all of its cloud services in-house. Last week CRN reported Apple has quietly been moving much of its cloud computing to the Google Cloud Platform and away from Amazon Web Services, whose infrastructure it uses to run online services like iCloud. Anonymous sources said Apple is now spending between $400 million and $600 million on Google’s services after becoming dissatisfied with AWS being unable to quickly load photos and videos on users’ iOS devices.
Alongside redoubled efforts to strengthen iOS security, Apple is trying to make iCloud encryption so tough that the company won’t be able hand over information to law enforcement, but has concerns that such strong encryption could be a detriment to users who forget their passcodes, The Wall Street Journal reports. Apple’s current iCloud backups are encrypted, but not tied to a user’s unique passcode, so authorities can access content users back up this way with relative ease. Over the years Apple has provided police with information tied to a variety of court cases, but after FBI demands that Apple build a way to crack a terrorist’s iPhone, the company is faced with the possibility that it could be asked to hack into its own security systems. Tim Cook has reportedly told colleagues that he continues to stand by Apple’s goals to encrypt everything stored on Apple devices and online services, including iCloud. So in response to FBI pressure, Apple wants to re-engineer the iCloud backups with encryption based on each user’s passcode, making the company unable to decrypt the data without the proper passcode. That would take the keys out of Apple’s hands when the government comes asking for information, but it would also leave users who forget their passcode without a viable option for retrieving their personal data, leaving Apple in something of a quandary over how far it’s willing to inconvenience users in order to make its products more secure. [via 9to5Mac]
Recent comments from Apple’s main partner in content delivery hint at the company ramping up its in-house capability to provide faster downloads and streaming speeds to users, Business Insider reports. During an earnings call, Akamai CEO Tom Leighton forecasted a serious drop in revenue from one of the company’s “largest customers” — assumed to be Apple — resulting from “their increased do-it-yourself, or DIY efforts.” Apple is investing heavily in its own custom-designed data centers, and streaming services analysts have tracked OS X downloads now coming directly from Apple as opposed to their usual delivery through Akamai. Tim Cook has put a renewed emphasis on Apple’s commitment to online services like iCloud, but the improved in-house content delivery network would also bolster Apple’s rumored plans to offer streaming TV service, allowing the company more control over the streaming quality and lag that end-users would experience.
The Russian government is considering a bill that would increase taxes on a dozen categories of digital products and services offered by foreign companies like Apple, including ads, games, movies, marketplace transactions and cloud computing, Bloomberg reports. In a recent interview described as “peppered with expletives,” Russian Internet Czar German Klimenko said he is pushing to raise the taxes to level the playing field for Russian competitors, following the lead of other European countries. “When you buy an app from Google Play or the App Store anywhere in Europe, VAT is charged at the place of payment, but not here in our banana republic,” Klimenko said. The new bill proposes an 18 percent value-added tax on an estimated $3.9 billion in profits earned on digital media and services by Apple, Google and other foreign technology companies. Klimenko also railed against Apple’s compliance with U.S. sanctions on Russia after the country annexed Crimea, calling that decision “the point of no return.” Apple declined to comment on the proposed tax increase.
After reports of multiple users being able to go over the old limit of 25,000 songs in their iTunes Match or iCloud Music Libraries, Eddy Cue confirmed Apple has “started rolling out support for 100k libraries,” MacRumors reports. When Apple Music launched in June, Cue promised Apple was working on raising the limit to accommodate larger libraries. Several users have documented pushing past the 25,000 song mark, but Apple still hasn’t updated its support page or made a public announcement, so it’s unclear how many users have access to the extra capacity and when the rollout will be complete.
Apple has announced new pricing tiers for its iCloud Storage Plans, more closely matching the prices offered by competing services such as Google Drive, Dropbox, and Microsoft. Effective today, users can purchase 50GB of iCloud storage for $1/month (users previously only received 20GB for that price), 200GB for $3/month (down from $4/month), or 1TB for $10/month (down from $20/month). Users still get 5GB of storage for free, while the prior 500GB plan which was priced at $10/month has now disappeared rather than being similarly discounted.
BREAKING: Apple says it has not discussed & is not planning MVNO cellular service following reports saying it was planning on doing that.— CNBC Now (@CNBCnow) August 4, 2015
According to a CNBC tweet, Apple has denied reports that it is in talks to launch a mobile virtual network operator service. The denial comes one day after Business Insider published a story claiming Apple was interested in leasing space from existing cellular carriers to provide its own service in which to offer data, calls and texts directly to iPhone users. As of this writing, Business Insider’s original story still ends with the line, “We reached out to Apple for comment on this story and will update if we hear back.”
Apple is testing a service that uses Siri to answer missed calls and transcribe voicemail messages, Business Insider reports. The iCloud service would then deliver voicemails in text form, preventing users from having to listen to their voicemail. Since it can be quicker to leave a voicemail than send a text, but quicker to read a text than access a voicemail, the rumored solution aims to bridge that gap and simplify the interaction from both sides. The iCloud Voicemail service is also able to relay information about where the phone’s owner is and why they’re unable to take the call. Apple employees are testing the service now with the hopes of rolling out the new feature some time in 2016, presumably in iOS 10. Apple has beefed up Siri substantially in recent months, adding commands to control HomeKit-enabled devices and providing more contextually relevant search results in iOS 9.
Apple has publicly released iOS 8.3, noting more than 50 new fixes and improvements across areas such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, Messages, CarPlay, Family Sharing, Accessibility, Enterprise features, orientation and rotation features, and more. The update also boasts improved performance for launching apps, responsiveness of apps, Messages, Wi-Fi, Control Center, Safari tabs, third-party keyboards, and other features. Notably, with iOS 8.3, Apple has also removed the “beta” label from its iCloud Photo Library feature which debuted last fall, optimizing it to work with the new Photos app now available in OS X Yosemite 10.3.3. Other notable fixes and improvements include a new Emoji keyboard featuring over 300 new characters, the ability to filter out Messages not sent by people in your contacts list, a way to report junk iMessages directly from the Messages app, italic and underline formatting options on the iPhone 6 Plus landscape keyboard, and the ability to remove shipping and billing addresses used with Apple Pay. iOS 8.3 can be downloaded by going to the iOS Settings app and choosing General, Software Update, or by connecting your iOS device to iTunes and using the Check for Update option found on the iTunes device summary screen.
Apple has opened up its iWork for iCloud beta, allowing any user to create a new Apple ID and use the service, regardless of whether they are an iOS or Mac user or not. Although the feature is only available on the beta iCloud site, at least for now, users visiting that site can now sign up for a new Apple ID right from within their browser — something that previously required an iOS device or Mac. New users get 1GB of free iCloud storage and access to the Pages, Numbers, and Keynote web apps, and can presumably expand that existing Apple ID to be used with iOS and OS X should they later connect it to an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Mac. With competitors like Google Docs and Office 365 already long established, it seems unlikely that Apple is trying to promote this as an alternative web-based document platform for general use — it’s more likely that they’re giving prospective Apple users a look at the iWork services to encourage more adoption of iOS devices and Macs.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has been in recent discussions with a top Chinese government official concerning security, Reuters reports. The meeting comes following a report that Apple users in China have been targeted in a “sophisticated and widespread” attack by hackers looking to access private user data stored in iCloud. The report was released by Chinese web monitoring group Greatfire.org, which has also claimed that the Chinese government is involved in the hack—a claim strongly refuted by the Chinese government. Cook and Vice Premier Ma Kai met Wednesday in Zhongnanhai to discuss “protection of users’ information” and “strengthening cooperation and in information and communication fields,” according to the official Xinhua news agency. Apple also appears to have rerouted user data on Tuesday to circumvent the hack, Greatfire told Reuters.
Apple was informed of an iCloud security vulnerability that could lead to compromised user data as early as March 2014, a new report indicates. E-mails obtained by The Daily Dot reveal that London-based software developer Ibrahim Balic informed Apple on March 26 that he had successfully bypassed a “brute-force” security prevention measure, effectively allowing him to try over 20,000 password combinations on any iCloud account. Balic also informed Apple of the vulnerability using the company’s online bug reporter. Another e-mail dated May 6 shows that Apple was aware of the problem, with a representative continuing to question Balic on the nature of his discovery. Apple came under fire earlier this month with a high-profile celebrity photo hack involving iCloud accounts, and while Balic notes that the nature of the attack bears a “stark resemblance” to the issue he reported, it remains unclear if they are the same vulnerability.
Apple has released a new security document detailing the use of app-specific passwords for third-party apps in iCloud. A feature of two-step verification, the passwords will be required to sign in to iCloud when using third-party apps starting on Oct. 1. The passwords will allow for secure sign-ins, and ensure that third-party apps aren’t collecting or storing your primary Apple ID password. App-specific passwords can be generated and managed from the My Apple ID page. When the primary Apple ID password is changed or reset, all of the app-specific passwords will be revoked automatically, and new app-specific passwords will be required. For more details, see the security document.
Following this week’s announcement of iOS 8, Apple has sent out notifications to existing paid iCloud storage customers notifying them of new, reduced prices for their existing storage plans, along with pro-rated refunds for the balance of the reduced plan price. Customers who have already purchased iCloud Storage under the old annual pricing model retain whatever storage capacity they purchased, at a price now reduced to the next-lowest tier available. For example, a customer who had previously purchased the 25GB storage plan for $40/year will have their price reduced to $11.99 annually, roughly equivalent to the new 20GB plan now available for $0.99/month. Customers will be able to retain these plans at the new annual subscription prices, offering a slight storage bonus over the new plans that are now available on a monthly basis.
Update: Several readers who were on the smaller 10GB/$20 plans have reported also having their storage increased as part of this transition. Presumably, since 20GB is now the smallest capacity available under the new iCloud Storage plans, these users get bumped up to the 20GB plan for $11.99/year, also receiving a pro-rated refund of the difference between plan prices.
Apple will soon issue more security alerts to users in an effort to boost privacy, CEO Tim Cook told The Wall Street Journal. The company will alert users when an account password change is attempted, when iCloud data is restored to a new device, or when a device logs into an account for the first time. New notifications will start in two weeks, and users will be able to make immediate changes — the account password can be changed, or Apple’s security team can be alerted to the issue.
Cook said Apple could have done more to prevent incidents like the recent celeb photo hack. The company could have better informed users about hackers, and played up the importance of better passwords. “When I step back from this terrible scenario that happened and say what more could we have done, I think about the awareness piece,” Cook said. “I think we have a responsibility to ratchet that up. That’s not really an engineering thing.” Apple also plans on “aggressively” pushing people to use its two-factor authentication in iOS 8.
In response to allegations that iCloud played a role in the recent release of many private celebrity photos, Apple has confirmed that “certain celebrity accounts were compromised by a very targeted attack on user names, passwords and security questions, a practice that has become all too common on the Internet.” Despite the account intrusions, Apple claims that none of its systems, including iCloud and Find my iPhone, were breached. The company also claims it has already investigated the photo theft for more than 40 hours. To protect against such attacks, Apple suggests that users select a strong password and enable two-step verification.
Apple is “actively investigating” a recent celebrity photo hack that may have involved its iCloud service, Re/Code reports. The hack has leaked a large number of private, revealing photos of various celebrities, and iCloud has come under fire. Actress Kirsten Dunst tweeted a sarcastic “Thank you iCloud,” with some choice emoji. “We take user privacy very seriously and are actively investigating this report,” Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris said.
It’s unclear, however, how culpable Apple really is at this point; some reports have suggested that the leak included iPhone images alongside videos and Android images that presumably wouldn’t have come from iCloud servers. As reported by TheNextWeb, it’s possible that a hacker used a brute force password attack — a vulnerability that Apple notably didn’t patch until Monday. While Apple does its own investigation, the FBI is conducting the official investigation of the hack, The Telegraph reports. Apple does offer two-step verification that could have thwarted the hacker, but it’s not a surprise to see many not using the feature. We’ll see what comes of the investigation, but it calls Apple’s account security into question — bad timing, considering the company will reportedly debut its own mobile payment system as soon as next week.