Software

iOS 11.4: Here's what business users need to know

The release of iOS 11.4 brings new features, bug fixes, and small improvements. Here are the ones that stand out for professionals.

Apple's iOS 11.4 has left beta and is now officially available for public installation on compatible iPhones and iPads.

Two of the three major updates to iOS in 11.4 are centered around the HomePod, Apple's Siri-powered Amazon Echo competitor, adding features such as easier pairing and AirPlay 2-enabled speaker support.

The biggest change that business users should be aware of is the addition of iCloud storage for iMessages. Users who choose to store iMessages in iCloud will free up device space and automatically sync iMessages across devices, but there is a trade-off: iCloud has been hacked before.

The more personal, or sensitive business, information you store in iCloud the more you stand to lose if your account is compromised.

SEE: The 10 most important iPhone apps of all time (Download.com)

Storing iMessages in iCloud: How to do it safely

iOS users who want to store their iMessages in iCloud can do so with very few steps: Just open the Settings app, tap on your name, then on iCloud, and make sure the Messages option is toggled on. iOS will then offload all your iMessages to your iCloud storage space and you should see some freed up storage pretty quickly.

If your iCloud account were to be hacked, however, the attacker could gain access to all your iMessage conversations as well as the attachments they contain.

There's no surefire way to prevent your iCloud account from being compromised: If an attacker finds a backdoor in Apple's security (which happens with some degree of regularity) they will gain access, like it or not.

SEE: Research: Defenses, response plans, and greatest concerns about cybersecurity in an IoT and mobile world (Tech Pro Research)

That doesn't mean you can't defend yourself. The simplest method is to enable two-factor authentication on your iCloud account. Two-factor authentication, like most other methods of cybersecurity, isn't foolproof but it's the best step you can take to avoid ending up like the dozens of celebrities who had their iCloud data stolen in 2014.

A good rule of thumb when it comes to personal cloud storage services like iCloud is to avoid storing anything truly confidential in it. For business users this can be a variety of things—proposals, internal use documents, and other records should only be stored in business-controlled cloud accounts.

Should businesses allow iCloud syncing for iMessages?

Businesses that use iOS should be wary of allowing users to sync iMessages to iCloud: It's convenient, but it's simply too great a risk for companies concerned with data security.

The reason why businesses should prevent iCloud users from syncing messages is a matter of Apple's repeated security failures over the past several years. As mentioned in an article on TechRepublic sister site ZDNet, Apple's reputation has taken a big hit in the past few years, and a lot of that is due to its sloppy coding and high-profile software bugs.

If Apple wants business users to trust it with sensitive data it has some work to do on the security front. Until then, protect yourself by being careful what information—including iMessages—are stored in iCloud.

You can read the full iOS 11.4 patch notes here.

The big takeaways for tech leaders:
  • iOS 11.4 has been released, and one of its major new features is the ability to sync iMessages to iCloud.
  • Given Apple's recent, and repeated, security failings, business users should avoid trusting sensitive information to iCloud: It's better to wait and see if Apple steps up its security game.

Also see

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About Brandon Vigliarolo

Brandon writes about apps and software for TechRepublic. He's an award-winning feature writer who previously worked as an IT professional and served as an MP in the US Army.

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