Why the latest iCloud security breach is a good thing for data security

Like it or not, mobile users are always going to have to worry about data security - even if they're using the largest and most prominent mobile brand in the world. Apple is not immune to the many threats that face online users every day, and this has been proven time and time again.

The way The Blaze recently explained it, a flaw was discovered in Apple's iOS and OS X platforms, which are the software solutions often deployed by iPhone and iPad users. As a result of this flaw, a hacker was essentially given the ability to get in between the user and the initial "handshake" verification with the destination server. Suddenly, people's most private interactions with the entities they trust - their banks, their email accounts and their health care providers, just to name a few - were in jeopardy.

On the surface, this is obviously a bad thing. Millions of users are affected when these large-scale breaches come to light, and they stand to lose out in many ways, professional and financial at the very least. But there may in fact be a silver lining to all this attention being paid to the data breach issue: In the long run, we may come out stronger. Software and technology companies everywhere have been reminded, yet again, that data security should remain priority No. 1.

Let's discuss the data breach and its long-term impact in depth.

Understanding the problem

The iCloud data breach could potentially be a serious issue for many, many Apple device users. The Blaze recently explored just how severe the problem could be - Elizabeth Kreft, the publication's intel and tech editor, explained that a duplicated line of code had been in place since September 2012, causing the small flaw in security.

"This means, theoretically, that if you've been using the flawed iOS or OS X systems since then, a hacker on your shared network could have captured all your data that should have been SSL- or TSL-encrypted for the past 18 months," Kreft explained. "Think of all the banking, online dating, email writing and Internet purchases you've made in the last year and a half."

That's a scary thought indeed. What's even more alarming is that Apple has been slow to fix the problem. Kreft reported that the company is releasing a fix for the iOs 6 and 7 authentication logic, but the exact date is unknown - it's merely "very soon."

In the short run, this security weakness is clearly very problematic for mobile users. But it's worth looking into what long-term impact this issue might have, as the immediate effects continue to ripple through the tech community.

Analyzing the response

The good news is that Apple is aware of the problem and is working to fix it. The Wall Street Journal has been covering these efforts, pointing to the solid leadership of Apple CEO Tim Cook as he goes about trying to restore consumers' faith in the Apple brand.

The newspaper pointed to a few specific efforts that Cook is undertaking in response to the breach. He says that people's accounts have been breached because of issues with password protection - hackers are able to get into users' accounts by correctly answering security questions and retrieving passwords. Therefore, Cook plans to make it harder for intruders to "phish" for users' personal information.

"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."

Cook is obviously a major thought leader in the industry, and the positive effects of his words should trickle down readily to the rest of the tech world. As for the mobile market, we should soon see more innovation ahead to make form data on tablets and other devices more secure.

Examining the mobile realm

The next question, of course, is how the ongoing innovation in the mobile industry will affect users who fill out forms. There's a lot of hype right now surrounding the trouble with mobile data security, but there's also reason to believe that, long-term, the medium is one that's a natural fit for secure data collection and storage.

According to industry expert Mark Jadkowski, enhanced data security is actually a bonus with mobile forms, typically. Mark says mobile tends to work better than the alternatives:

While some will claim that there is nothing safer than printed materials, this is not always the case. When paper forms must be shipped to or from underdeveloped countries, for instance, such shipments may be lost in transit, stolen, damaged, or held up by corrupt customs authorities. Mobile survey forms communicated over the Internet eliminate these data security problems.

For users who are looking for secure electronic forms, mobile solutions may not look like the best way to go right now, but in the long run, they may turn out to be the way to go.

Cal Brown