How to enable end-to-end encryption for iCloud backups

How to enable end-to-end encryption for iCloud backups

With the release of iOS 16.2 and macOS 13.1, Apple introduces advanced protection for iCloud that uses end-to-end encryption to ensure Apple’s highest level of cloud data security yet. Here’s everything you need to know about activation on your devices.


The new security feature ensures that users will be able to further protect their important iCloud data, including iCloud backups, photos, notes and more.

Using end-to-end encryption means that the vast majority of your most sensitive iCloud data can only be decrypted on your trusted Apple devices where you’re signed in with an Apple ID account, ensuring that data remains secure even in the event of a data breach in the cloud. In other words, no one—not even Apple—has access to your data except you.

By default, iCloud already protects 14 categories of sensitive data with end-to-end encryption, including passwords in iCloud Keychain and Health. For users who enable Advanced Data Protection, the total number of categories of data protected by end-to-end encryption increases to 23, including iCloud Backup, Notes, and Photos.

Advanced Data Protection provides end-to-end encryption for the following additional iCloud categories:

  • Device backups and message backups
  • iCloud Drive
  • Comment
  • Photos
  • Reminder
  • Voice notes
  • Safari bookmarks
  • Siri Shortcuts
  • Wallet passes

The only major data categories on iCloud that are not included are iCloud Mail, Contacts, and Calendar because of the need to work with the global email, contact, and calendar systems.

Importantly, Advanced Data Protection for iCloud is an optional feature, so you need to enable it yourself using the steps below. Please note that if you lose access to your account, you can only recover your data using your password or device password, recovery contact or recovery key. (You will be prompted to set up at least one recovery contact or recovery key before enabling Advanced Data Protection.)

It’s also worth noting that when Advanced Data Protection is enabled, access to your data via iCloud.com is disabled by default, although you’ll have the option to turn on data access on iCloud.com, which allows a web browser and Apple to have a temporary access to data-specific encryption keys.

Before enabling Advanced Data Protection, you’ll need to update all your devices to the latest software versions first, otherwise you’ll need to remove those devices from your account because they don’t support end-to-end encryption. Advanced Data Protection will be available for iPhone, iPad, and Mac starting with iOS 16.2, iPadOS 16.2, and macOS 13.1, all expected to be released in December 2022.

How to Enable Account Recovery on iPhone, iPad, and Mac

You will need to set up an account recovery before turning on Advanced Data Protection. This ensures that you can recover your data if you forget your password.

  1. OPEN Settings on your iPhone or iPad (or System Settings on a Mac), then select your Apple ID banner at the top of the menu.
  2. Choose iCloud.
  3. Choose Advanced data protection.
  4. Choose Account recovery and follow the on-screen instructions to set it up.

iCloud

During account recovery setup, you’ll be able to select a recovery contact—a trusted person, such as a family member or friend who also owns an Apple device. If you ever forget your password, they will receive recovery codes.

You’ll also have the option to set a 28-character recovery key, which you’ll need to print out and keep in a safe place or store in a password manager.

How to Enable Advanced Data Protection on iPhone, iPad and Mac

Once your account recovery is set up, you can enable Advanced Data Protection for iCloud backups.

  1. OPEN Settings on your iPhone or iPad (System Preferences on Mac), then select your Apple ID banner at the top of the menu.
  2. Choose iCloud.
  3. Choose Advanced data protection.
  4. Turn on the switch for advanced data protection.

iCloud

And it is done. Your iCloud backups are now protected with end-to-end encryption.

You can turn off Advanced Data Protection at any time. Once you do so, your device will securely upload the required encryption keys to Apple’s servers and your account will return to its standard level of protection.

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