Apple to double down on iCloud encryption


iCloud Backup

Apple is working to strengthen iCloud encryption amid its battle with the FBI over an iPhone backdoor. As things stand, the Cupertino company has access to the data backed up to iCloud, and can hand it over in cases like those over the iPhone 5c used by the San Bernardino shooter — but now it wants to change that.

According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, which cites “people familiar with the matter,” Apple wants to make iCloud encryption so strong that not even it will be able to decode it — just like the encryption used to secure data stored locally on an iOS device.

“But Apple executives are wrestling with how to strengthen iCloud encryption without inconveniencing users,” the report adds. “Apple prides itself on creating intuitive, easy-to-use software, and some in the company worry about adding complexity.”

So long as Apple has a “key,” there’s always a chance it can be compromised, and that bad actors can gain access to your data, or the company can be compelled to turn it over to law enforcement agencies. Removing that key, or blocking access without a password, prevents that.

The downside to stronger encryption is that if a user forgets their password, they could lose all the data they have backed up to iCloud, and Apple wouldn’t be able to rescue it for them. This is why Apple is unable to access the data on the iPhone used by Syed Farook without the passcode.

Its encryption ensures that only the user of that iPhone can gain access to it. If the passcode is entered incorrectly too many times, then the device could wipe itself, leaving the FBI with nothing. The only way in is through a backdoor that circumvents these security measures.

And as we know, Apple doesn’t want to create that for obvious reasons.

As a result of these concerns, “the timing of any move to strengthen encryption is uncertain,” adds The Journal. And any move Apple makes to make encryption even stronger is only going to “further antagonize” law enforcement agencies that are already against Apple’s stance.

iCloud backups tend to include a copy of almost all the important data you have stored on your iOS device, including settings and preferences, passwords for things like Wi-Fi networks, your photos and videos, contacts lists, iMessages, and Health data.

[via The Wall Street Journal]

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