Apple working on stronger, passcode-based iCloud encryption

Alongside redoubled efforts to strengthen iOS security, Apple is trying to make iCloud encryption so tough that the company won’t be able hand over information to law enforcement, but has concerns that such strong encryption could be a detriment to users who forget their passcodes, The Wall Street Journal reports. Apple’s current iCloud backups are encrypted, but not tied to a user’s unique passcode, so authorities can access content users back up this way with relative ease. Over the years Apple has provided police with information tied to a variety of court cases, but after FBI demands that Apple build a way to crack a terrorist’s iPhone, the company is faced with the possibility that it could be asked to hack into its own security systems. Tim Cook has reportedly told colleagues that he continues to stand by Apple’s goals to encrypt everything stored on Apple devices and online services, including iCloud. So in response to FBI pressure, Apple wants to re-engineer the iCloud backups with encryption based on each user’s passcode, making the company unable to decrypt the data without the proper passcode. That would take the keys out of Apple’s hands when the government comes asking for information, but it would also leave users who forget their passcode without a viable option for retrieving their personal data, leaving Apple in something of a quandary over how far it’s willing to inconvenience users in order to make its products more secure. [via 9to5Mac]
Also, ahead of Apple’s March 22 meeting in court with the FBI over its refusal to unlock the San Bernardino terrorist’s iPhone, the company has submitted a scathing final brief saying the U.S. founding fathers “would be appalled” by the Department of Justice’s use of the All Writs Act, according to Reuters. The company points to the reluctance of Congress to aid the DOJ as an indicator that the government’s current course of action is unconstitutional and says allowing the AWA to be used in this manner would allow the government to compel private companies “to do virtually anything the Justice Department and FBI can dream up.” In a statement, the Justice Department said it looks forward to responding to Apple’s arguments in court. In a separate case, a judge in Brooklyn previously ruled that the government couldn’t use the All Writs Act to force Apple to break into an iPhone, but the DOJ is appealing that ruling.

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