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Apple announces plans to encrypt iCloud backups

  • Apple announces plans that it intends to encrypt additional iCloud data, including full backups, photographs, and notes, on its servers.
  • Apple won’t be able to access some of the most private customer data kept on its servers thanks to the Advanced Data Protection feature.
  • Security supporters will applaud the move, but law enforcement may object because Apple won’t be able to turn over the contents of an encrypted backup to them.

Apple stated on Wednesday that it would soon permit customers to encrypt additional types of iCloud data, such as full backups, images, and notes, on its servers.

The Advanced Data Protection feature will make it hard for Apple to reveal the contents of some of the most private customer data kept on its servers or provide law enforcement access to an encrypted backup.

According to Apple, opt-in encrypted backups will be offered in the United States before the year’s end.

Even though Apple now encrypts a large portion of the data it saves on servers, prior device backups that contained text messages, contacts, and other crucial information were not end-to-end encrypted, and Apple had access to the backups’ contents.

The action will gratify privacy advocates who have long criticised Apple’s privacy practises for including unencrypted iCloud backups as a security vulnerability. Additionally, if Apple’s servers were ever compromised, the content of user data would not be made available.

Although Apple’s iMessage and devices are encrypted, it might annoy law enforcement, which has used Apple’s policy of not encrypting backups as a tool to get information in investigations.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the FBI attacked Apple’s new feature on Wednesday, claiming that it will “hinder” the agency’s capacity to “defend the American people from criminal conduct.”

The FBI famously attempted to force Apple to unlock an encrypted iPhone used by a terrorist in San Bernardino, California, but Apple resisted. Apple claimed at the time that retrieving the identical data from an iCloud backup stored on its servers was an option.

Encryption is usually opposed by law enforcement officials around the world because it permits suspects to “go black” and prevents law enforcement from accessing potential evidence that they could previously obtain under lesser levels of protection.

Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, stated in an interview in 2018 that users’ expectations of Apple’s ability to assist with data recovery play a role in the company’s decision-making about end-to-end encrypted iCloud backups. If customers turn on Advanced Data Protection and then forget their passwords, Apple won’t be able to recover the account since it lacks the encryption key.

On Wednesday, Apple also unveiled two additional security measures. Soon, users will be able to protect their Apple ID logins with a real key. Another upgrade enables users who are exposed to serious security risks to verify that their SMS messages are not being intercepted.

Apple unveiled last year a system to scan for unlawful content, such as child sex abuse materials, using a convoluted approach that would still permit Apple to encrypt user images on its servers, apparently in an effort to placate law enforcement. Privacy activists rejected the idea, claiming that it would essentially give Apple access to peoples’ hard drives.

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