Apple Promotes iCloud's Advanced End-to-End Encryption Feature as Data Breaches Increase

Apple today shared a study conducted by MIT professor Dr. Stuart Madnick that found 2.6 billion personal records were compromised by data breaches in the past two years. The study was commissioned by Apple, but the cover page says that the "conclusions and opinions expressed are exclusively those of the author."

Apple advanced security Advanced Data Protection screen Feature Purple
Apple provided an overview of the study in its press release:

The report illustrates that the historic threats to user data that saw the number of data breaches nearly triple between 2013 and 2022, compromising 2.6 billion records over the course of two years, are only getting worse in 2023. In the U.S. alone, there were nearly 20 percent more breaches in just the first nine months of 2023 than in any prior year. The target for cybercriminals was very clear, with a 2023 survey finding that over 80 percent of breaches involved data stored in the cloud. This is after attacks targeting cloud infrastructure nearly doubled from 2021 to 2022.

Additional details can be found in the study: "The Continued Threat to Personal Data: Key Factors Behind the 2023 Increase."

Apple says the study's findings emphasize the need for end-to-end encryption, which iCloud already provides for 14 data categories by default. For users looking for additional protection, Apple offers an optional feature called Advanced Data Protection, which increases the number of iCloud data categories covered by end-to-end encryption to 23, including iCloud Backup, Notes, Photos, Voice Memos, and more.

"Bad actors continue to pour enormous amounts of time and resources into finding more creative and effective ways to steal consumer data, and we won't rest in our efforts to stop them," said Apple's software engineering chief Craig Federighi.

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Top Rated Comments

JonathonMH98 Avatar
8 months ago
If they really want to promote it they should allow it to be used on older devices.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
eicca Avatar
8 months ago
On the one hand, I’m inclined to trust Apple to have the best user data protections anyone could need.

On the other, I believe they’re so arrogant they would never disclose if a data breach actually happened.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
cloudyo Avatar
8 months ago
ADP protects against breaches at Apple. It doesn’t protect against breaches of user devices. Thats a key point that might get lost.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ChrisA Avatar
8 months ago

So are there any drawbacks to enabling ADP?
Yes. If you forget the password the data is gone forever. There is no way to click "I forgot my password" and set a new one. If you are incapacitated your family will never be able to access the data. You would need to come up with some secure method of storing the key locally.

However, if you let Apple have the password, you can recover it if you somehow prove to Apple who you are. Apple's standard of proof is rather low but it is a compromise to usability.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
chriscl Avatar
8 months ago
If only you could use it on devices it supports, and not others - if you have an older device; in my case, a perfectly functional six-year old MacBook - I cannot enable ADP at all, because this one device is not „compatible“.

Forced obsolescence is still a thing, if you‘re Apple.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
xraydoc Avatar
8 months ago

So are there any drawbacks to enabling ADP?
I locked everything up with a few YubiKeys (the USB-C + NFC version).

I have one on my work key ring and keep two at home in different locations.

The only real drawback is that I've got to insert the YubiKey into the USB port of the computers at work if I need to access iCloud from one of the desktop PCs. Sometimes I need to upload larger documents or folders from my work PC to my iCloud drive, so when I log in to iCloud from my desktop PC, I have to insert my YubiKey. But I'm totally fine with this arrangement.

Otherwise, I've had no issues at all after turning on ADP. It's otherwise invisible when using my Macs and iDevices.

I did have to make sure that all the devices connected to my iCloud account were modern and up to date (so things like older AppleTVs), but that wasn't too much of an issue to be honest, and was a good excuse to upgrade the bedroom TV.

I was expecting to have to have to insert or tap my YubiKey to my new iPhone 15 Pro when I upgraded from my previous phone, but I didn't have to. Authorizing from the old phone was apparently enough.

But I'm satisfied that if somehow my iCloud password leaks that no one will be able to get in around the 2FA and YubiKey.

My data is far more likely to be leaked from some business that I use rather than anything I store on iCloud.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)