APPLE is launching a brand new feature that helps to keep your most private photos and texts safe.
The clever iPhone hack begins rolling out this year – and could save you from a privacy nightmare.
It's called Advanced Data Protection and helps to protect your iCloud back-ups.
If you're a long-time iPhone user, you're likely backing up some content in iCloud automatically.
Often that means your texts sent over iMessage, the images in your Photos app, and your emails.
All of this is extremely private media and information that you wouldn't want getting into the wrong hands.
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How does iCloud work right now?
Apple's normal iCloud system is called Standard Data Protection.
It works using something called encryption, which makes your data unreadable – unless you have the right "key".
This is to prevent anyone from snooping on your data.
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Apple stores this info in its data centres, but also holds the encryption "keys" that can unlock lots of your info.
This could be backups, photos, documents, notes and more.
The idea is that it's sometimes useful for this to be the case.
"The encryption keys from your trusted devices are secured in Apple data centers," Apple explains.
"So Apple can decrypt your data on your behalf whenever you need it, such as when you sign in on a new device, restore from a backup, or recover your data after you’ve forgotten your password.
"As long as you can successfully sign in with your Apple ID, you can access your backups, photos, documents, notes, and more."
There are also 14 data categories – including Health and iCloud Keychain passwords – that are totally encrypted, and Apple can't access them.
Sadly someone else – even a trustworthy company – having your encryption keys also adds privacy risk.
Apple regularly denies requests by law enforcement to unlock iPhones.
But it can – and in many cases does – provide police with iCloud backups.
Advanced Data Protection
That's where Advanced Data Protection comes in.
The idea with Advanced Data Protection is that the number of data categories Apple can't access rises.
So once it's turned on, Apple is unable to access 23 different categories of data.
It means it's much harder for highly advanced hackers to spy on what's inside your iCloud.
But it also stops governments from being able to request info on what you're doing in the majority of cases.
Here's the full list of fully end-to-end encrypted data types under Advanced Data Protection:
- Cloud Backup (including device and Messages backup)
- iCloud Drive
- Siri Shortcuts
- Voice Memos
- Wallet passes
- Passwords and Keychain
- Health data
- Home data
- Messages in iCloud
- Payment information
- Apple Card transactions
- QuickType Keyboard learned vocabulary
- Screen Time
- Siri information
- Wi-Fi passwords
- W1 and H1 Bluetooth keys
The only three categories that don't get full protection are iCloud Mail, Contacts and Calendars.
For everything else, Apple doesn't hold encryption keys.
So if a police force asked for your photos, Apple wouldn't be able to comply.
And if a hacker managed to break into Apple's systems, they wouldn't be able to snoop on your messages.
How to use Advanced Data Protection on iPhone
Apple is rolling out Advanced Data Protection in the upcoming iOS 16.2 update.
It'll be available in the US before the end of the year, and then globally in early 2023.
The obvious problem with advanced Data Protection is that Apple will struggle to help you recover your account.
So you need to set up extra safeguards before you turn it on, otherwise you risk being locked out of your account.
That means setting up Account Recovery.
You'll need to goto Settings > iCloud > Advanced Data Protection.
Then tap up Account Recovery to make sure your account is restorable.
This could mean adding a recovery contact who can help you unlock your account.
Or it could mean generating a 28-character recovery key that you need to write down – helping you eventually unlock your account.
Once you've got Account Recovery enabled, you can then turn on Advanced Data Protection.
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This should significantly improve your privacy, especially if you have lots of info saved to iCloud.
Just don't fall out with your recovery contact, or lose track of that 28-character key.
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