In this day and age, protecting user data is paramount, mainly because cloud storage servers help keep it off our devices. End-to-end encryption and its security benefits have often been part of such privacy-related conversations.
On December 7, 2022, Apple announced that it was bringing this measure to its archived iCloud backups before the end of the year.
This decision has spread wings, attracted the attention of government bodies, namely the FBI, and here we see why they are not happy with this change.
Apple encrypting iCloud backups
For those unaware, iCloud Backup is a solution, part of Apple’s iCloud service, that enables an easier device setup process whenever you switch to a new iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, or any other Apple device. It does this by creating a copy of your device on a cloud server and downloading it when needed.
To date, Apple has mentioned how data stored locally is encrypted and accessible only by users. But if you were using iCloud to protect yourself from data loss, the information can be accessed at any time by Apple to help retrieve it; This left it open to access by hackers and government bodies.
Encryption of iCloud backups changes this equation as the data can now only be accessed by the user provided they have the required credentials.
Apple announced the feature as Enhanced Data Protection for iCloud, expanding its encryption services from being in effect on 14 data categories to 23 now – including iCloud backups, Notes, Photos and more. It also said that iCloud Mail, Contacts and Calendars are excluded from this protection because of their integration into global systems.
Why the FBI Isn’t Happy With Apple Encrypting iCloud
Some agencies or government bodies have often shown a negative opinion about user data being made inaccessible. And in a statement to The Washington Post, the FBI said the impact of end-to-end encryption is one it finds deeply concerning.
“It hinders our ability to protect the American people from cyberattacks and criminal acts ranging from violence against children to drug trafficking, organized crime and terrorism. In this age of cyber security and ‘security by design’ Demand, FBI and law enforcement partners require ‘lawful access by design’.”
Should the FBI Be Worried?
While the FBI has its reasons for concern, we think that protecting iCloud backups behind end-to-end encryption is a positive step. This server-side security will ensure that you, as a user, cannot be guaranteed with only your strong passcode.
There are many steps you can and should take to protect your personal data. Ideally, this would use a proper password and multi-factor authentication. But the harsh reality is that user data is vulnerable, and the weakest link in any security chain can lead to breaches and attacks.
In 2021, the US alone will see 290 million victims of data breaches, according to a research study published by Dr. Stuart Madnick of MIT Sloan School of Management and Apple. While leaks can include a wide variety of details, each element is an element of risk to the uninformed user.
iCloud backup encryption is a positive step
The encryption of iCloud backups will ensure that your data is secure even when it is stored away from your prying eyes and away from your hardware, adding an essential element of security that will help prevent leaks involving personal information.
But remember, this only applies from a server’s perspective, and having a strong and memorable password is key to keeping yourself safe from attacks.