Bad news. Your Apple device isn't as secure as you think it is. For years, Apple users have held the common belief that their iPhones, iPads and Macs were as invincible to viruses and hacks as Superman. But even Superman has his Kryptonite, and for Apple users that impenetrable shell is crumbling.
Stolen Apple IDs are currently hot ticket items for hackers interested in targeting Apple devices. With your Apple ID, crooks can gain access to several connected services, including the Apple Store, Apple Music, iCloud, iMessage and even Find my iPhone. And once your Apple ID has been stolen, these thieves can even change your login credentials to lock you out of your account.
But there's another way your own account can be used against you by clever cybercriminals, and it's much more discreet. It's called "Family Sharing," and it's a setting you may have established a long time ago and completely forgotten about it.
What is Family Sharing?
Family Sharing is meant to make it easier for families (up to six people) to track and share all of their account purchases. Songs, albums, movies, TV shows, books and even apps can all be shared between multiple devices - and they're all tied to a single payment method.
Obviously, this feature is great for families and groups that share devices with one another and have similar interests. Just imagine: A single purchase of that movie everyone wants to watch over the weekend or that eBook you've all been anxious to start reading.
Family Sharing gone wrong
Where things get scary is when someone hacks into your Family Sharing service. If it happens, you may not even notice until unexplained charges begin showing up, or credits you've saved disappear from iTunes.
Once a crook has invited himself (or herself) into the mix, they can begin downloading apps and content that will be charged to the payment method on file, which is typically the organizer's credit card.
Reclaiming your account
If this happens to you, there are a few options. For those who use the Family Sharing service quite regularly, you'll need to delete the intruder and reset your login credentials. To delete the unwanted visitor, the group organizer will need to follow these steps:
On your mobile device, head to Settings >> iCloud >> Family. There, you should see a list of everyone who's connected to your Family Sharing account beneath the "Family Purchases" header. Tap the name of the individual you'd like to delete, then tap Remove.
Turning Family Sharing off
For anyone who's not using the Family Sharing service all that much, it's best if you just turn it off altogether.
To do this, the group organizer will need to access Settings >> iCloud >> Family (on their mobile device), and click "Stop Family Sharing."
You should also reset your login credentials to prevent the hacker from accessing your account further.
Stop this hack before it happens
To avoid the unwanted surprise of someone hacking your account, there are some quick steps you can take to protect yourself.
First, set up two-factor authentication to add an extra layer of security to your login credentials. With two-factor authentication activated, a crook would need access to your mobile device in order to log in to your account. It's like the DMV or bank asking for two forms of ID. Click here to learn how to set up two-factor authentication.
Next, use unique passwords. We can't stress this enough. Many people use weak, easily remembered passwords for multiple websites and services. This is a terrible mistake. It makes your accounts easier to hack, and could potentially give hackers access to more of your private information. Click here to find out how to create hack-proof passwords.