Apple Privacy Snafu

2017-09-26

Apple recently posted a kind of privacy manifesto trying to distinguish themselves from other companies that might take privacy less serious.

So, imagine my surprise when I took my Macbook Pro in for service and was asked to give them my login username and password. NO YOU CAN NOT HAVE MY LOGIN NAME AND PASSWORD!

The genius at the Genius Bar was going to type it into some form so the repair staff can log into my computer. This to me seems akin to asking for my bank PIN number. You're told again and again NEVER TELL YOUR PIN NUMBER EVEN TO A BANK REPRESENTATIVE. Sure the bank itself may or may not be trustworthy but you have to trust every person in between not to read that password.

There's all kinds of stuff on my computer. My privacy keys for various servers. My bank, investment, and insurance info. Even my gmail is already logged in as in open the browser, go to gmail.com and my email will come up letting any user that has access start going through all my accounts and asking for password resets.

No company that claims to be taking privacy seriously should have their employees asking for usernames and passwords.

I told the Genius person, No, he could not have my account info. He then suggested I make a test account and give them that password. Again, NO EFFING WAY!.

First off, my entire hard disc is encrypted. It used to be that when you'd boot the machine it would ask for a password to unlock the drive. Only then would it really boot the computer and ask you to login to your account.

Apple changed that sometime in the last 1 or 2 OS upgrades to somthing much much less secure. Now, if I understand correctly, the key to unlock the drive is stored on the computer itself encrypted and all users of the computer have their own encrypted copy of the key. This means any user can unlock the drive. In other words, if you have a test account enabled your machine will allow the test user to unlock the drive. Once the drive is unlocked they can scan the entire machine sector by sector to read the data out. Before, they couldn't use the machine at all until the drive was unlocked.

Maybe I'm missing something but I don't see how giving Apple service my password is not insecure in the extreme.

To top that off it's not clear why they need the password in the first place. Macs easily boot from USB drives so they can plug in a USB drive if they want to see the computer work. If they want boot off an internal drive they can swap the internal drive with their own service drive. No reason for me to unlock my data for them.

In the end I told the guy I'd reformat the disk before bringing it in for service. It's hard to believe a company that claims to take privacy seriously didn't offer that as the first choice. In fact they didn't even suggest it. I had to suggest it.

Seriously, Apple. Having employees ask for a user's login credentials AND typing those credentials into some database seems incompatible with your privacy stance. Here's hoping you'll fix this.

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