As reported by The Wall Street Journal, Apple is working to further harden iCloud security so that even it won’t be able to access user information stored on its data servers. 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 the report, 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.
Currently, encrypted data kept on the cloud service is accessible by Apple using a key, which is used for restoring account information if, for example, a user forgets their password. Apple’s access also allows the company to provide relevant information it has to law enforcement agencies that approach it with proper, legal requests.
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.
iCloud backups contain user iMessages and texts, content purchase history, photos and videos, device settings, app data, voicemail password, and health data. Any steps Apple takes to close off access to these backups are likely to further antagonize law enforcement authorities, especially given the company’s current fight with the FBI over the latter’s demand for help to unlock the iPhone at the center of the San Bernadino shooter investigation.
A court hearing to address the iPhone backdoor issue is scheduled for next Tuesday, March 22, the day after Apple’s media event, where it is expected to introduce a new 4-inch “iPhone SE” and a new 9.7-inch iPad, as well as make additional announcements.
Apple Working to ‘Double Down’ on iCloud Encryption