If your iPhone were to be stolen or suffer an unfortunate accident, would you lose all your precious photos? Those using iCloud Photos are probably shaking their heads smugly, thinking that all those baby and vacation photos are backed up securely in iCloud. iCloud Photos does indeed store a copy of all your photos, but you shouldn’t assume that everything in it is completely protected. Although it’s extremely unlikely that Apple’s systems would fail so that you’d lose anything, the contents of your iCloud account aren’t as safe as would be ideal.
Recently, Wall Street Journal reporters Joanna Stern and Nicole Nguyen covered a troubling form of crime aimed at iPhone users in an article (paywalled) and accompanying video. Thieves hang out in bars, looking for users who tap in their passcodes instead of using Face ID or Touch ID. Once they’ve learned someone’s passcode with surreptitious shoulder surfing, they grab the iPhone and run. As soon as they’re clear, they use the passcode to change the user’s Apple ID password and enable or reset a recovery key, which prevents the user from employing Find My to locate and lock the iPhone. Worse, with the passcode, they can make purchases with Apple Pay, access all passwords in iCloud Keychain, and use other information on the iPhone to facilitate identity theft. It’s a disaster.
But it gets worse, as the reporters detail in a new Wall Street Journal article (paywalled) and video. By enabling a recovery key, the thief disables Apple’s normal account recovery process for resetting the Apple ID password. In other words, if this were to happen to you, along with all the financial losses and headaches, you would lose access to your iCloud account, possibly forever, and with it, all your photos in iCloud. With luck, Apple will block this attack soon.
For now, follow this commonsense advice to reduce the chances of being victimized:
As with so many other modern ills, good backups go a long way toward minimizing the pain of problems. They won’t prevent someone from stealing your iPhone or locking you out of your account, but if that were to happen, at least you won’t lose all your photos!
There are two possible backup scenarios. Using iCloud Photos and downloading originals to your Mac is easiest but requires that you pay Apple for more storage if you have more than a handful of photos. If you don’t use iCloud Photos, you can just back up your iPhone to your Mac or, better yet, import images into Photos on the Mac and then sync them back. It’s more work and fussier, but doesn’t cost anything.
Either way, once the photos are on your Mac, you should back up all your data using Time Machine, an Internet service like Backblaze, or a third-party app like Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper. If you’re concerned about the quality of your backups for preserving photos, contact us for advice.
(Featured image by iStock.com/metamorworks)
Social Media: With new reports of iPhone theft victims being locked out of their iCloud accounts, it’s all the more important that you copy your iPhone photos to a Mac and then back up that Mac.