So, Wait, Is Apple Responsible or Not for the Celebrity Nude Photo Scandal?

Apple Says No (Of Course), But Its Actions Suggest Otherwise

By Published on .

Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Apple CEO Tim Cook. Credit: Noah Berger/Bloomberg
Most Popular

Right now at apple.com/live there's a real-time countdown clock ticking down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until 10 a.m. PT on Sept. 9, when Apple plans to launch its Next Big Thing (some sort of wearable tech is the prevailing theory). "Live video from our special event will be right here," reads the text under clock.

You might almost get the sense that Apple is desperate to teleport to the future to escape the present -- specifically, this awful week for the company when everybody kept talking about the "iCloud hack" in the notorious nude celebrity photo scandal. The iCloud brand has been tarnished, despite Apple's insistence, via a statement posted on its website on Tuesday, that "None of the cases we have investigated has resulted from any breach in any of Apple's systems including iCloud or Find my iPhone."

The company maintains that "After more than 40 hours of investigation, we have discovered 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." All too common -- in other words, Lay off, this is not just about iCloud. Nobody is safe!

(For insight into how, exactly, hackers might have pulled off The Fappening, see Andy Greenberg's fascinating post at Wired's "Threat Level" blog titled "The Police Tool That Pervs Use to Steal Nude Pics From Apple's iCloud.")

Still, Apple CEO Tim Cook expressed some regret in an interview with the Wall Street Journal yesterday: "When I step back from this terrible scenario that happened and say what more could we have done, I think about the awareness piece," he told the paper. "I think we have a responsibility to ratchet that up. That's not really an engineering thing."

Fine, except that has Apple announced that it will be adding user alerts that inform users of suspicious activity that could signal hacking.

You can call that an "awareness piece," but let's be honest: A security alert is a feature (that takes, you know, engineering to bring into being); no security alert is a missing feature.

It's useful to keep in mind that Apple, which is better than just about any brand at ratcheting up awareness, is also really good at ratcheting down awareness. Steve Jobs famously created a reality-distortion field around himself -- and by extension, his company -- that, historically, has allowed Apple to get kid-gloves treatment from much of the press when it's screwed up.

Will the big reveal on Sept. 9 be enough to trigger a round of collective amnesia about Apple's security stumble? Stay tuned.

Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" media columnist for Advertising Age. Follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.