Up until recently, Apple products have been widely regarded as being safe from viruses, spam and other unwanted online intrusion. iPhone users, however, have reported an increase in unwanted invitations turning up in their calendars, and unwanted photo-sharing alerts.
What Kind of Spam Invitations?
Some have reported receiving clearly ‘spammy’ offers relating to fake Black Friday deals and discounts on famous designer labels which don’t actually come from the brands themselves. It has been reported that many of the ‘offers’ appear to come from sources in China, and are most likely to relate to fake / copy goods.
Those who have their calendar for business use can it invite others to meetings and events. Now spammers have exploited this feature and the invitations are being sent as part mass mailouts and appear as calendar notifications.
Can’t Be Deleted.
Unfortunately, iPhone users have been finding out that not only do the notifications appear whether they are accepted or rejected, but they can’t be deleted. The messages also notify the spammer when they have been received. This confirms to the spammer that they have found a valid target and therefore opens the floodgates for more spam messages to follow.
The iPhone calendar uses the iCloud to back things up to. This means that when the invitations are received, the calendar is automatically backed up to the iCloud, including the new invitations. The photo sharing aspect of iPhones is also automatically backed up to the cloud, hence the use of the photo-sharing alerts by the spammers.
One Solution – Turn the iCloud Off
Technical commentators have pointed out that one simple solution to the spamming problem for iPhone users could be to turn the iCloud off, however this would defeat the object of having it and could create more problems. If users don’t actually use iCloud for your calendar it is a viable option. It can be done by opening the Settings app on the iPhone and System Preferences on the Mac. It’s then a case of going to the iCloud settings and disabling calendars to stop the iCloud syncing and event invitations.
What Else Can You Do?
Technical experts and commentators have offered several possible courses of action that iPhone users can take to avoid the spam. These include:
- Making another calendar just for the spam events or moving the notifications to arrive in email form, which can be deleted without the sender knowing.
- Declining the calendar invite when it arrives which should make it disappear from the calendar. If it doesn’t, disable the “Show Declined Events” in the calendar app settings. Unfortunately, with this idea the spammer will still receive a notification.
- Choose to receive calendar invites as emails. This means that the emails can then be caught in the spam box. This can be done by going to iCloud.com on your laptop and opening the Calendar web app. Click on the gear icon and then open Preferences. In the Advanced tab choose to receive calendar invites as emails. The drawback with this method is that you won’t be able to receive any push notification for new calendar events, whether they are genuine or not.
- Another way is to change the calendar entry, i.e. to edit the email account changing the email address to something like firstname.lastname@example.org then unsubscribe the calendar entry; it will then appear to come from a dummy email address and not alert the spammer.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
This is an example of spammers finding yet another way around things and causing more disruption and annoyance to businesses. The very thing that is designed to help you back-up and sync important items (the iCloud) has been turned into a vulnerability by the spammers.
If you have been directly affected by the spamming it is now a case of going online and following one of the fixes / get-arounds. Some technical commentators have pointed out that Apple could help users by adding a feature such as an ignore button to the notifications.