New Apple Products Present Greater Security Challenge

by Jeff Wiener on September 16, 2014

For years Apple has offered email, messaging, and calendar services, but as the company’s must recent product event demonstrated last week, the Cupertino Company is morphing into something it wasn’t before: a serious data company. Mobile products aside, Apple unveiled a number of new services that have immediately vaulted the firm into another stratosphere when it comes to handling user data, as with the introduction of Apple’s mobile payment solution and the its health and fitness monitoring technology the “company positioned itself as a caretaker of valuable personal information, like credit card numbers and heart rates,” an article from the New York Times explains.

But with great power, the popular superhero adage goes, comes great responsibility, and unfortunately for Apple the timing of its transition to a big data firm couldn’t come at a worse time, as the company is still trying to manage the fallout from the celebrity photo hacking scandal earlier this month. While no breach was found in Apple’s iCloud service, the fact remains that the scandal has left many questioning Apple’s ability to handle sensitive information.

And lets be honest here, with mobile payment and health technology included in its new product lineup Apple is no longer only in charge of those ill-conceived nude selfies some of us apparently like to take, but our financial and biological data are now at stake as well, meaning Apple no longer has room for error, particularly as it will now face the competing pressure of hackers trying to steal the information, and regulators trying to preserve it.

The two items in question that came out of Apple’s two-hour rollout event last week were the company’s new Apple Watch, which sports industry standard health and fitness tracking technologies, and its new Apple Pay, a near-field communicaiton mobile payment service that will, in my estimation, finally give the mobile payment industry the kick-start its been waiting for.

In regards to the latter, the saving grace for the Cupertino Company may be its differentiated marketing and sales strategy, which unlike Google or Amazon still relies on hardware rather than targeted advertising based on information collection. That means, as company CEO Tim Cook explained in an interview, that no data is actually collected on the Apple device, “It simply acts as a conduit between the merchant and bank.”

“We’re not looking at it through the lens that most people do of wanting to know what you’re buying, where you buy it at, how much you’re spending and all these kinds of things,” Cook said. “We could care less.” Apple’s apathy towards what users actually do with its products means that no extraneous data is stored on the device, which in turn means there’s less for hackers to steal.

But that doesn’t mean Apple’s mobile products are secure, as the myth of Apple’s impregnability has been thoroughly disabused. The area where Apple and its users are still likely most vulnerable is related to third-party apps, particularly ones that covertly collect your mobile data for advertising. While Apple wants to stress user privacy with its developers, many believe the safeguards simply aren’t in place to protect users’ health and financial information, at least not adequately, and if such information was comprised, Apple might find itself in a position it hasn’t experienced in decades: out of fashion.

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