It’s not just you: iCloud is down again, other Apple web services affected

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Update 2 9:45PM ET: Users this evening again reported issues centered around iCloud. The outage affected all store services, according to Apple’s status page. It appears to have been resolved, however, with the exception of Game Center.

Update: After about an hour of downtime and still with no admission from Apple of anything ever having gone wrong, iCloud services seem to be coming back online now.

Despite being listed as fully functional on Apple’s status page, it seems iCloud is once again down for many users. Reports across Twitter and in our own experience here at 9to5Mac have verified that iCloud and the App Store (and possibly other Apple services) are currently down.

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Small number of users report Find My iPhone showing unknown devices, could be related to sold Macs

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A bug appearing for a small number users on iCloud.com may allow them to temporarily track and make changes to Macs belonging to other users, according to reports appearing on Twitter. Users have noted that Macs with names they don’t recognize recently started appearing in the device list on the Find My iPhone web service, allowing them to remotely lock or erase the computers in some cases, or just play a sound in others.

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iOS 8 How-to: Set up and Use Find My iPhone, iPad and iPod touch

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Find My iPhone was first released in June 2010 initially for the iPhone. Now, Find My iPhone allows you to track the location of your device, be it an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, in case it gets lost or stolen. This is a great benefit because when you locate your device using Find My iPhone, the device makes noise until it is found and will show you were it is located using Apple Maps. Recently, the police used Find My iPhone to track and save a woman’s life. However, Find My iPhone did require the device to be turned on and connected to the internet in order for it to work completely. New with iOS 8, you have the option to automatically send the location of the device to Apple when the battery is critically low. In this how-to I will discuss how to set up Find My iPhone, and how to use Find My iPhone.

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NY district attorney says Apple’s encryption policy “an issue of public safety” for law enforcement

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Bloomberg reports that a Manhattan District Attorney is challenging recent moves by Apple, Google and other tech companies by suggesting government pass laws that prevent mobile devices from being “sealed off from law enforcement.” In an interview this week, the government official called it “an issue of public safety.” Read more

Did Apple drop Google Maps for good? Apple Maps now rolling out on iCloud.com

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Apple appears to have finally dropped Google Maps from iCloud.com, replacing it with its own in-house maps almost two years after removing Google Maps from iOS and most of its other products. Apple started slowly rolling out the feature to its iCloud beta site for select users earlier this year before pulling it, but it now seems to have replaced Google for all users of iCloud.com’s Find My iPhone feature (pictured above). Read more

Apple now allows users to see whether a device has Activation Lock enabled from the web

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Apple has unveiled a new tool for users to help determine whether an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch is configured to use Activation Lock. The page works much like the tools used by carriers such as AT&T to determine whether a potential trade-in device was protected with the feature. You enter the IMEI or serial number of the device, fill in a CAPTCHA, and press “Continue” to get your results (via iDownloadblog).

If the device is protected, you’ll find instructions for disabling the security measure before selling it. You’ll also find help for removing a used device from another user’s account, in the event that you were sold a phone and the original owner had not disabled it (of course, all of those options involve contacting the previous owner and having them do it, for security purposes).

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iOS 8 How-to: Set up and use Family Sharing

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Before Family Sharing, there was Home Sharing, which allowed you to share apps and media with your family by having an Apple ID that contained the purchases to be used on up to five computers and an unlimited number of iOS devices. For your family to make purchases with that Apple ID, they either know the password to that Apple ID (which also means they can access your passwords, credit card information, documents), or they have to go to the account holder every time they want to purchase an app or music.

Now with iOS 8 there is Family Sharing and it does not require sharing an Apple ID. Instead your family of five (six including yourself) each have their own Apple ID with the same credit card and can download apps and iTunes. Your family does have to have their Apple ID based in the same country. Also, parents can approve their kids’ purchases right from their device. Besides managing the App Store and iTunes purchases, Family Sharing can help you track where your children are using Find My Friends and can help find their lost devices using Find my iPhone.

Family Sharing also allows you to easily create a shared family calendar and shared family reminder list that anyone in the family can view and edit. It also creates a shared family photo album. In this how to, I will discuss how to set up Family Sharing and how to use it.

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Apple denies iCloud/Find my iPhone breach, says ‘very targeted attack’ hit certain celebrities

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Apple has responded to this week’s hackings of celebrity iCloud accounts, which resulted in postings of private photographs. Here’s Apple’s statement in full:

CUPERTINO, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–We wanted to provide an update to our investigation into the theft of photos of certain celebrities. When we learned of the theft, we were outraged and immediately mobilized Apple’s engineers to discover the source. Our customers’ privacy and security are of utmost importance to us. 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. None of the cases we have investigated has resulted from any breach in any of Apple’s systems including iCloud® or Find my iPhone. We are continuing to work with law enforcement to help identify the criminals involved.

To protect against this type of attack, we advise all users to always use a strong password and enable two-step verification. Both of these are addressed on our website at http://support.apple.com/kb/ht4232.

Apple says that it conducted an investigation for more than 40 hours, and denies that iCloud or Find my iPhone was actually breached. Apple is presenting this as a very targeted username, password, and security questions hack on “certain celebrity accounts.” Apple recommends that users utilize the 2-step verification service for Apple IDs/iCloud. The company also says it is continuing to work with law enforcement on finding the hackers involved.

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Apple denies iCloud breach was responsible for device lockout attack, advises users to change passwords

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Last night we reported that several Mac and iOS users were finding their devices remotely locked by hackers who had gained access to the users’ Find My iPhone accounts and demanded a ransom to return the devices to a working state.

Today Apple issued a statement on the problem, noting that—as suspected—the iCloud service itself was not actually breached, but individual user accounts may have been compromised through password reuse or social engineering:

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Australian Mac and iOS users find devices remotely locked, held for ransom (and how to keep yours safe)

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The Sydney Morning Herald reports that several Australian Mac, iPhone, and iPad users are finding that their devices have been locked remotely through Apple’s Find My iPhone service by someone using the name “Oleg Pliss.” The hacker (or hackers) then demand payments of around $50 to $100 to an anonymous PayPal account in order to restore the devices to their owners.

An active thread on Apple’s support forum was started yesterday as users started to discover that they had been targeted by the attack. According to that discussion, users are finding all of their devices locked at once rather than a single device per user. Based on that report and the fact that Find My iPhone is being used to hold the devices hostage, it seems likely that the perpetrator has gained access to these users’ iCloud accounts—possibly through password reuse by those users—rather than some device-specific malware or hack.

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Nearly a fifth of all grand larcenies in NYC involved Apple products

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Thefts of Apple products made up 18 percent of all grand larcenies in New York City last year, reports the WSJ, citing NYPD figures. Of the 47,000 grand larcenies occuring in the city last year, 8,465 involved Apple products.

Many of the thefts happen on public transportation, where most people are buried in their devices and aren’t paying attention to their surroundings, said Joseph Giacalone, a retired New York Police Department detective. “It’s easy pickings,” he said …  Read more