Apple’s Huge Security Breach and Lack of Proper Crisis Communications
Apple is in the process of fixing what The Globe and Mail has called a “gaping hole” within their security software, “which gave spies and hackers the ability to grab e-mail, financial information and other sensitive data.”
What a nightmare.
We know (or at least we should know) that we’re always at risk of security breaches and hack-attacks when it comes to the online world. But not many would have imagined their actual devices to be a security risk. As a result, this episode has served as a wake-up call for many and has proved just how vulnerable we all are in this digital age.
Apple has reportedly pushed out an update to iOS devices (which apparently should update automatically) and is still working on a fix for OS X (yes, we’ve been made vulnerable on all of our beloved Apple devices). Apparently this bug has existed for the past 5 months and was just discovered. This has lead to many speculating that it was put there on purpose either by Apple themselves, a rogue engineer or a spy.
This is a major potential crisis for Apple
Although the innovative and highly loved brand tends to get away with a lot due to the extreme levels of love their evangelists have for the organization, an incident of this magnitude can do the worst thing imaginable: breach the trust of their very loyal customers. This is a serious risk. If people stop trusting Apple on account of their lack of attention to detail that results in severe security vulnerabilities for each customer, this can result in some very serious repercussions on Apple’s reputation and bottom line.
It’s interesting to me that, in this day and age of transparent, two-way and real-time communications, Apple has so far gotten away with providing the following as their crisis communications:
A quote to Reuters that said:
“We are aware of this issue and already have a software fix that will be released very soon.”
And posting this piece of non-information to their corporate website:
As I said above, Apple tends to get away with these sorts of things, but if they’re not careful, a situation such as this can quickly escalate and result in loss of trust by customers. A serious crisis that would even hurt the beloved Apple brand.
If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it make a noise?
If Apple has a problem and no one knows about it, is there an issue? Yes.
If Apple has an issue and no one, except Melissa, knows about it, is there a crisis? Not Yet.
If Apple fails to heed the caution in Melissa's concluding paragraph, will it someday face a crisis — and be unprepared? Yes.
Another sterling example of the value of reputation and how its capital could be squandered.
I'm certainly not the only one who knows about this situation, Ronald. In fact it was brought to my attention because it's all over the Internet's most trusted news sites and blogs. However, just because the majority of people perhaps are unaware of a severe situation like this doesn't make it any less risky or serious for the general public or for Apple.
Apple's consistent practice on issues seems to be based on a belief that talking about negative things or using negative words only makes the situation worse. So they talk only about the positive, the plus, like …. Disneyland, or PR. And for a while it has, and maybe still is, working. As Melissa notes, that continued silence on matters of importance to loyal customers eventually brings on its own secondary issue as customers start to wonder if the next thing Apple says is to be fully trusted. Techtel, my company, tracked opinion of many tech companies over decades and saw opinion drop after being hammered by a series of negative events. It's not a linear effect and Apple customers could get to the last straw at any time.
FYI, many Apple evangelists aren't evangelists any more. Shoddy hardware that requires total replacement when one small feature goes bad on iPhones and MacBooks (I've had to have Apple replace the motherboards on 4 of the 6 MacBooks we've purchased in the past few years, software that seems to lose features with each update, and prices that don't reflect reality, ($100 for every 16GB of memory?) has turned many an evangelist into former customers.