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Apple just rolled out iOS 16.2, a software update that includes a key recent feature called Advanced Data Protection for iCloud. That means you can finally allow end-to-end encryption for your iCloud backups so no one but you—not actually Apple—can access your iCloud data.

The point that iCloud backups haven’t presented the option of end-to-end encryption until now has long been a topic of discussion. iCloud backups of the Messages app were of special concern because Apple could even hand over specific types of data within the backups to law enforcement. In certain, while talks in Messages were end-to-end encrypted, backups of those discussions were not. That meant police could subpoena those backups and earn access to texts. A couple of years ago, stories suggested that Apple had settled a plan to encrypt backups after the FBI complained about it. But nowadays when the characteristics or security feature are here, everyone should turn it on. Here’s why.

Encryption is a mathematical procedure that confuses data in a way that makes it unreadable without a key. End-to-end encryption assures that only you control that key. This security lets for personal communication between a sender and a receiver—in this issue, you’re both—such that 3rd parties can’t access the data. Once you allow Advanced Data Protection, not even Apple will have the key to decrypt your data—and accordingly, it will have no way to help you regain access if you lose it. End-to-end encryption is standard in protected messaging apps like Signal, as well as in software that contains sensitive data, such as password managers.

Many people allow iCloud backups because their iPhone bothers them constantly to do so, and possibly they haven’t thought through the implications. Primary to today, storing a full backup of your device, including your personal photos and files, on a server—where someone other than you has access to it—has conveyed entering a data-privacy minefield. Someone gaining access to that account, through a data violation or by other means, would have access to anything stored there. And the issue hasn’t been limited to iCloud: Startlingly rare cloud storage companies, in fact, offer end-to-end encryption.

But nowadays, if you hold one or more Apple devices, so now you can make sure that your backups, photo libraries, and iCloud Drive file are end-to-end encrypted.

How to turn on Advanced Data Protection

Advanced-Data Protection is a rolling release as part of the iOS 16.2 over-the-air software update in the US today. Other parts of the earth will welcome Advanced Data Protection in early 2023. Follow these steps:

  1. Turn on two-factor authentication for your Apple ID if you haven’t done so already.
  1. Update all your Apple gadgets to iOS 16.2, iPadOS 16.2, macOS 13.1, tvOS 16.2, watchOS 9.2, or newer. If your devices are older and don’t support the new versions of Apple’s OS, you’ll have to remove them from your Apple ID in order to allow Advanced Data Protection. That means you won’t be capable to log into your Apple account on that older gadget, in which case, you should likely not help Advanced Data Protection until you upgrade to a more recent Apple device.
  1. On an iPhone or iPad, open Settings (or System Preferences on a Mac) > [Your name] > iCloud > Advanced Data Protection > Account Recovery. On this page, you’ll see an option for recovery methods. To use Advanced Data Protection, you must select at least one of these two options 
  • Designate a recovery contact, an authorized person from your contacts list who also holds an Apple device and whom you can smoothly reach out to in case you get locked out of your account. If you select this approach, you’ll send the recovery contact a statement with a link that they will need to tap or click to get. They’ll currently have the key to assist you to open your account, but they won’t be able to unlock it on their own.
  • Set up a recovery key, a 28-character key that you can use to access your account in case you are shut out. Apple has no method to retrieve this key for you, so it’s important that you save it somewhere safe. If you pick this method, you’ll require to confirm the key before you allow it, so write it down.
  1. Head back to Settings > [Your name] > iCloud > Advanced Data Protection, click Turn on Advanced Data Protection, and then follow the on-screen prompts. Here, you must ensure your recovery contact or enter your retrieval key one more time, followed by your device’s passcode. If you have any older gadgets that cannot be updated, you can remove them from the list at this moment.

What data gets protected

Until this update, Apple provided end-to-end encryption for some of the numerous sensitive data kept in iCloud backups by default, including passwords, health data, and expense information. If you don’t turn on Advanced Data Protection, here are the data types that are end-to-end encrypted by default, according to Apple’s list:

  • Passwords and Keychain
  • Health data
  • Home Data
  • Messages in iCloud 
  • Payment information
  • Apple Card transactions
  • Apple Maps 
  • QuickType Keyboard learned vocabulary
  • Safari 
  • Screen Time
  • Siri information
  • Wi-Fi passwords
  • W1 and H1 Bluetooth keys
  • Memoji

When you on the feature, nine more data types are end-to-end encrypted:

  • iCloud backup
  • iCloud Drive
  • Images, including images in a Shared Library, if everyone in the Shared Library has Advanced Data Protection enabled
  • Notes
  • Reminders
  • Safari Bookmarks
  • Siri Shortcuts
  • Voice Memos
  • Wallet passes

Some data stored in iCloud yet is not encrypted, notably iCloud Mail and some third-party information, because accomplishing so would break specific functions. The simulated categories are as follows:

  • iCloud Mail
  • Contacts
  • Calendars
  • Images stored in Shared Albums and any file transferred with “Anyone with a link”
  • Any document shared for iWork collaboration
  • Any third-party application data that doesn’t use its own end-to-end encryption 
  • Some metadata and usage information 

If you use any collaboration security feature for Files or Messages, end-to-end encryption is enabled only when you and all other parties have Advanced Data Protection allowed. So, if you are collaborating via a shared Message or Reminder item and want that data secured with end-to-end encryption, make sure your collaborators enable the feature, too.

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