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Apple takes new security and privacy measures amidst surge in cyber-attacks

Thursday 8 December 2022 11:58 CET | News

Apple has announced a suite of security and privacy improvements to help people protect their data from hackers.

 

The tech giant will soon allow users to choose to secure more of the data backed up to their iCloud using end-to-end encryption, which means no one but the user will be able to access that information.

Maintaining digital privacy

Apple says the changes will help users protect their digital lives from hackers in the exceptional case that an advanced state actor was able to breach the company servers. But privacy advocates say these changes may have a more immediate effect on the types of user data law enforcement and government agencies can get from Apple. These changes ‘acknowledge the massive public backlash against expanded spying on our devices’, particularly in the aftermath of the supreme court’s reversal of federal abortion protections, they said.

This type of protection is valuable in protecting against not cyber criminals, but people who are abusing government power to force the company to hand over data. Apple has long been in the position where it’s had to be the long arm of the police for years. Their law enforcement manual shows dozens of ways that they can help with investigations and now for people who opt into the protection [feature], there will be a safeguard going forward.

That might be a cause of concern for government agencies looking to get a hold of user data to aid in their investigations. Apple declined to comment on whether the company has discussed the changes with law enforcement or government agencies.

Apple has announced a suite of security and privacy improvements to help people protect their data from hackers.

Large information holders are prime targets

Companies such as Apple have become an increasingly appealing entity for hackers and law enforcement alike due to the vast amounts of information they hold about people. Recent years have brought a spike in global cyber-attacks and data breaches. In the first quarter of 2022, there were 404 publicly reported data breaches, up 14% from the same quarter in the previous year, according to a report from the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC). There was a 68% total increase in data breaches between 2020 and 2021.

The feature doesn’t cover all data

The end-to-end encryption of user information stored on iCloud, which Apple is calling ‘advanced data protection for iCloud’, will first be rolled out to a small subset of test users before launching widely in the US before the end of 2022 and globally in 2023. The new offering will mean information such as messages that are backed up to iCloud, notes, and photos would be fully encrypted.

The change will not cover all data, however – contacts, calendar information, and email will not be encrypted – and users will have to voluntarily opt into the feature. The encryption key, or the code used to gain access to that secure data, will be stored on the device. That means that if a user who opts into this protection loses access to their account, they will be responsible for using their key to regain that access – Apple will no longer store the encryption keys in iCloud.

Customers take responsibility for the security key

The company says that it made these features opt-in because the system requires users to be responsible for the encryption keys and other means to regain and recover access to that information. “If you lose access to your account, only you can recover this data, using your device passcode or password, recovery contact, or recovery key,” according to Apple’s website.

In addition to iCloud data protection, Apple plans to roll out a physical security key system for people signing into their iCloud account on any new device. It acts as a hardware-based two-factor authentication system. For those who opt to use this additional layer of security, they will be required to plug a physical security key into the charging port on the phones to verify their identity when they sign into their iCloud account on a new device.


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Keywords: Apple, digital identity, cybersecurity, data privacy, encryption
Categories: Fraud & Financial Crime
Companies: Apple
Countries: World
This article is part of category

Fraud & Financial Crime

Apple

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