In most cases, iCloud shouldn't really change your security assessment of iOS. But one case could apply: if your employees are European or deal with personal data covered by the European Union's privacy rules, which require data on E.U. citizens to be kept in an E.U. country. (Yes, I know the local laws on privacy and security are increasingly incompatible with the distributed nature of cloud computing, but that's a political issue that looks to be nowhere near resolved.) Apple's iCloud data centers are in the United States, and iCloud also apparently uses Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure for data storage (their servers could be anywhere) -- any of which may make iCloud usage illegal in some cases.
Even if E.U. rules don't apply to you, iCloud may expose an ability to trade information that IT organizations may have been unaware of previously -- or, more likely, turned a blind eye to because it involved manual processes most users weren't likely to use. In the case of file sharing via iTunes, users probably weren't even aware of them. Plus, iCloud's publicity puts IT in the uncomfortable position of now knowing that the data is likely syncing somewhere, so plausible deniability evaporates.
Possible approaches for Apple to take
Based on Apple's existing technologies, it's easy to see three approaches related to iCloud policy management Apple might take in iOS 5 to address the concerns that some IT people have, to extend what is available today. (Note: I have no inside information as to what Apple is actually working on, if anything.)
- Add a policy to its security APIs that disables iCloud on managed devices, so IT can decide which users, if any, may have iCloud syncing enabled via a mobile device management (MDM) tool. Apple likely would not want to disable fully a highly touted new feature, but per-app iCloud control -- similar to its per-app location information controls -- might pass muster.
- Better support for multiple Apple IDs on a device, so a company's apps and associated data are not synced to a user's private equipment via his or her personal Apple ID and iCloud. That's implicit in how iOS today manages apps and content based on the Apple ID or iTunes account; for example, if you install an app by signing in from someone else's ID, those apps can't be updated until you sign back in with that same ID (at which point your apps can't be updated). But Apple could allow multiple active Apple IDs -- such as a personal one, a business one, and a family one -- and then manage assets and iCloud separately for each account.
- Propagate security policies to synced devices; any policies enforced on the device that IT knows about are also enforced on those IT doesn't know about as soon as they sync via iCloud. Mac OS X Lion's new support for configuration policies for both iOS and Mac OS X Lion could be the vehicle for such policies, provisioned by Mac OS X Lion Server or through an MDM tool, though that would require major changes to MDM tools.
The third approach could be both tricky and invasive, so I'm hoping Apple looks at the first two.
I personally think the second option makes the most sense. Because so many people use the same Apple ID for their whole household, Apple's consumer users likely need to keep parents' and kids' media and data from commingling. A better multiple-ID mechanism to help these users could also help businesses.