OS X Mavericks forces iOS calendar, contact syncing into iCloud
The relationship between your computer and your iDevices is about to get a lot less personal.
The OS X Mavericks update gets rid of SyncServices, a proprietary framework in earlier versions of OS X that let you locally sync calendars and contacts from your iOS device to your Mac. So, if you upgrade to Mavericks, you’ll now have to use either iCloud or some other network solution to sync your devices with your computer–local syncing by connecting a device to a computer with a cable no longer exists.
Not surprisingly, there’s a growing outcry about this in Apple’s support forums. And there should be: it’s astonishing that in this climate of electronic spying and cloud insecurity, Apple would, without a word, disable local syncing and force users of Mavericks and iTunes 11 into cloud-based sync. It’s a move that literally wrests control of your contact and calendar data away from you and your devices and forces it into the cloud, for no discernible reason and with absolutely zero warning.
Hilariously, Apple notes in its support article about SyncServices that “Mavericks supports sharing your information using several network-based and cloud-based solutions.” Sharing, indeed: iCloud has significant security vulnerabilities: researcher Vladimir Katalov demonstrated just this month that, as Chester Wisniewski writes, “by simply acquiring the Apple ID and password of another user, whether they have enabled two-factor authentication or not, he can download their iPhone/iPad/iPod backups and documents from iCloud and see their pictures, music, emails, contacts, documents, presentations, spreadsheets or anything else without the victim being alerted.”
That’s because, to summarize Katalov’s research, Apple doesn’t use two-factor authentication to protect iCloud backups and documents, stores them on third-party servers, stores the encryption keys along with the encrypted files, and of course, can disclose the entire decrypted contents to law enforcement, should they come knocking.
Basically, iCloud is appallingly insecure, and Apple has just dramatically increased the volume of information that’s about to start flowing through it–names, email addresses, home addresses, and phone numbers in droves, not to mention your doctor’s visits.
And while, in theory, warrants or probable cause are required before the U.S. government and law enforcement can snoop through that data, commenters on the Apple support thread are noting that users users outside the United States may have virtually no protections for personal data that leaves their control. And, as one points out, “I legally have to maintain control over all data from my business contacts, or might get sued over EU privacy law violations either by my clients or by competitors.”
Fortunately (this is sarcasm here), if you care about maintaining local control of your contact and calendar information, the workaround is simple! All you have to do is upgrade to OS X Mavericks Server for $19.99 and then set up a local CardDAV and CalDAV server to enable local network sync between your devices. It couldn’t be simpler! Of course, you don’t have to do it with Mavericks, there are plenty of helpful tutorials for setting up a local sync server with something like Debian, and heck, there are even a few free tools out there to make it easier. That’s a relief, right?
The alternative to those alternatives, according to Apple, is simply to revert to a previous version of OS X. Discussions on Apple’s forums about why the change may have occurred and any security implications are, according to moderators, outside the Terms of Service of the support forums and therefore prohibited.
These are the lengths that paying customers have to go to in order to keep their own data under local control when all they want to do is keep calendar and contact information synced across multiple devices? By the way, don’t post in the support forums if you’re outraged like you should be. Send direct feedback here.
Now there is one positive note. On Windows, SyncServices is what powers local syncing through iTunes. Interestingly, it appears that local syncing is still possible on a PC, using iTunes 11. So, maybe Apple just wants you to … get a PC!
Hat tip: The Verge