Apple's MobileMe lacks key security feature

Some users of Apple's MobileMe service are complaining about a lack of security when using the service at a public hotspot.

Users of Apple's MobileMe have already discovered that the US$99-per-year service is sometimes slow and unreliable, and they're now talking about another shortcoming that was intentional.

MobileMe allows users to synchronize e-mail, calendar and contact information among various devices over the Internet. Although the log-in process for MobileMe is encrypted, Apple does not encrypt data that users send from browsers through MobileMe. The lack of SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) or any other form of encryption means that if a MobileMe user is connected to the Internet via a Wi-Fi hotspot, someone else connected to the same hotspot could relatively easily see all the data that the MobileMe user sends.

"Seems like a pretty major omission for a service that's specifically aimed at roaming users," wrote a person called ShepUK on the Macrumors forum. He called the lack of SSL encryption a deal breaker for him.

Free Web mail offerings from Yahoo and Microsoft also don't encrypt data that users send, though Google's free Gmail does offer an SSL encryption option. However, MobileMe has more features for transferring data over the Web than do those services.

Because customers must pay to use MobileMe, some people think it ought to have this basic security feature. "MobileMe is suppose to be Microsoft Exchange for the rest of us. But Microsoft Exchange does things in a secure manner," wrote a commenter using the name James Katt in a blog post about the SSL issue. "As it is, if you run a business using your Mac, then you cannot use MobileMe because it transmits data insecurely."

Still, while security professionals say Apple should offer an SSL option, they don't suggest that this is a major problem. "I wouldn't say that it's a critical issue or something that's a reason not to use the service, but it's definitely something that should be addressed," said Noam Rathaus, CTO of Beyond Security, a company that offers products for discovering security issues in servers, computers and networks. He briefly examined the way MobileMe works and said it does appear that transmissions aren't encrypted.

Apple has not replied to a request for comment.

The setup could open the door to potentially serious situations in which an onlooker could learn passwords used by a MobileMe customer if the user requested a lost or forgotten password to be sent via e-mail.

If MobileMe users are concerned about the security of information, they may want to use another mail mechanism to send sensitive messages, said Wolfgang Kandek, chief technical officer for Qualys, a provider of vulnerability-management and policy-compliance products. VPN (virtual private network) connections could protect users, but some enterprises set up VPNs to protect access only to corporate servers and not to Internet sites. In that case, a VPN wouldn't protect a user of MobileMe, he said.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags ApplemobilemeencryptionSSL

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Nancy Gohring

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?