Apple has further increased the security of its devices, much to the dismay of both local and national law enforcement. We usually consider security as a precaution meant to keep out cybercriminals. However, Apple is now taking defensive action against surveillance teams on the right side of the law.
Last year, Apple and its competitors took some heat during the Snowden revelations, because the public viewed the company as cooperating with secret government surveillance programs. Apple is currently taking steps to distinguish itself as a business concerned with its users' rights to privacy.
Although police are not so thrilled with the change, civil liberties enthusiasts are overjoyed as a result of Apple's transition toward more robust privacy restrictions.
"This is a great move," said Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union. "Particularly after the Snowden disclosures, Apple seems to understand that consumers want companies to put their privacy first."
Apple has achieved this new level of security by transforming the data encryption process in the updated iOS 8. A user's information is now automatically encrypted when a passcode is selected for the device. The company will then no longer have the ability to access the encrypted data. Only the owner of the device will have this information.
This new encryption system allows Apple to preserve its customers' privacy while still complying with federal law. Even if the business is presented with a legitimate police warrant, it has no way of accessing a user's personal data. Indeed, the problem with private information disclosure was a problem in the past because Apple held some private customer data within its larger database, making it vulnerable to police inquiry.
Now the company simply does not have the power to comply with problematic court orders, removing responsibility completely. Or, as CEO Tim Cook put it, "We don't have a key. The door is closed."
This is a coup for those who like their privacy, but it could be problematic for those who lock themselves out of their devices. Apple will no longer be able to help with passcode retrieval, because it won't have that information available. If consumers store their backed up data on the iCloud, though, then they will have recourse in the event that they forget an important password and need to reset their device.
However, Apple still does have the legal responsibility to give law enforcement officials data they hold on the cloud service. This information can include documents, files, photographs and contacts. Many users' devices upload data directly to the iCloud as a way of providing a secure digital backup to the physical software. The security of the cloud itself hinges on the quality of password protection enabled by the user.
If you do feel comfortable storing data on the cloud, just be sure to create a long, complex password that will be difficult for hackers to guess. You should also choose a different password for each of your login portals, so that if identity thieves discover one, they won't have access to all your accounts. If you're having trouble keeping track of them all try a password manager, which will safely encrypt your information and give you peace of mind.