Apple announces plans to encrypt iCloud backups

CUPERTINO, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 06: Apple CEO Tim Cook watches a demonstration of the new redesigned MacBook Air laptop during WWDC22 at Apple Park on June 06, 2022 in Cupertino, California. Apple CEO Tim Cook kicked off the annual WWDC22 developer conference. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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Apple announced on Wednesday that it plans to allow users to store more types of iCloud data on its servers, including details, photos and notes.

This feature, called Advanced Data Protection, will prevent Apple from seeing the contents of some of the sensitive user data stored on its servers, and will prevent Apple from providing confidential information to law enforcement.

A closed alternative will be introduced, according to Apple, and will be available in the United States before the end of the year.

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While Apple has previously encrypted a lot of data it stores on its servers, all the data stored on the device including text messages, contacts, and other important data is not encrypted after all. -end-to-end, and Apple previously had access to the data.

The move will please security activists, many of whom have previously pointed to unencrypted iCloud backups as the weak link in Apple’s privacy policy. It also means that user data will not be exposed if Apple’s servers are ever breached.

It could upset security officials, who have used Apple’s policy of not encrypting background information as a way to find tools in investigations even though Apple’s iMessage and devices are encrypted.

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Apple is famous for fighting the FBI’s attempt to force it into court to open a locked iPhone used by a terrorist in San Bernardino. At the time, Apple said unencrypted iCloud backups on its servers were an option for similar data access.

Law enforcement officials around the world generally oppose the cover-up because it allows suspects to “go dark,” and prevents law enforcement from obtaining potential evidence that they could access under lower security levels.

In 2018, Apple CEO Tim Cook said in an interview that one factor behind Apple’s decision to end-to-end iCloud encryption is that users expect Apple to help recover their data. If users forget their password, and they have Advanced Data Protection on, Apple can’t recover the account because it doesn’t have the right encryption key.

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Apple also announced two other security features on Wednesday. Users will soon be able to use a physical key as a secondary security factor to enter their Apple ID. Another update allows users to counter major security threats to ensure that text messages are not intercepted.

Last year, in an apparent attempt to appease law enforcement, Apple announced a system to detect illegal content such as child pornography using a complex system that would still allowing Apple to hide user photos on its servers. Privacy advocates opposed the system, which they said would essentially allow Apple to scan people’s hard drives.

Development of the system has been halted, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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