Apple plans to expand iCloud data encryption | CNN Business



CNN Business

Apple said on Wednesday it plans to extend end-to-end encryption of iCloud data to backups, photos, notes, chat history and other services, in a move that could further protect user data but also heighten tensions with law enforcement around the world.

Among the few new security tools is a feature called Advanced Data Protection that will allow users to keep certain data more secure from hackers, governments, and spies, even if Apple data is compromised. Additionally, law enforcement won’t be able to access that data even with a court order. With end-to-end encryption, even the platform cannot access the data, only the sender and receiver.

As a result, Apple will not be able to comply with requests to share this data stored in the cloud with officials as part of the investigation. Apple has previously clashed with law enforcement over attempts to access data on devices, including the FBI’s attempt to break into the iPhone of one of the perpetrators of the 2015 attack in San Bernardino, California.

In recent years, Apple has increasingly made privacy a mainstay of its offering to users with a raft of new tools, including a feature designed to protect journalists and human rights workers from spyware. The company worded the latest move as part of an effort to combat “increasingly sophisticated and sophisticated” threats to user data from bad actors, as well as from a sudden rise in the number of data breaches.

Privacy groups have urged Apple for years to increase encryption for iCloud backups. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, said some of the steps it took more than a decade ago in designing iCloud and the way it encrypts its data were “necessary precursors to building this moment.”

In a blog post, Apple (AAPL) said iCloud already protects 14 categories of sensitive data with end-to-end encryption by default, including iCloud Keychain passwords and health data, and is adding nine new categories. Apple (AAPL) said the new listing is not included, however, encrypting iCloud Mail, Contacts, and Calendar due to interoperability challenges.

Matthew Green, a cryptographer and assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Information Security, believes that Apple’s increased efforts will set the standard for others to increase encryption.

“Why is this such a big deal? Green said in a The series of tweets Wednesday. “Even as an optional feature, this move will have ramifications across the industry as competitors catch up.”

In a statement on Wednesday, the FBI said it “remains deeply concerned about the threat posed by end-to-end encryption and user-access-only encryption.”

“This impedes our ability to protect the American people from criminal acts that range from cyberattacks and violence against children to drug trafficking, organized crime and terrorism,” the FBI said in the statement. “End-to-end encryption and user access only impairs law enforcement’s ability to combat these threats and bring justice to the American public.”

— CNN’s Sean Lingass contributed to this report


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