Why Your New iPhone’s Encryption Won’t Protect You

The intricate array of galleries, conversations, and location data stored within your smartphone indicate that it is not a toy. 

That's why it was nothing but a relief when the White House ruled it would not push tech companies to put “backdoors” to allow government access to decrypted private data. 

Hopefully, the White House’s decision indicates that we are getting closer to an age where the knowledge that the NSA supervises the digital activity of the average American will be an almost comical memory of the past. But the ruling may also mean digitally-savvy criminals may be getting closer to full immunity from the cops…

Either way, Apple is currently on the FBI’s dark side, for despite the recent rulings, the U.S. Justice Department requested the company help access a seized iPhone, something Apple refused to do. Apple laid out its decision in a brief filed this Monday.

"Forcing Apple to extract data in this case, absent clear legal authority to do so, could threaten the trust between Apple and its customers and substantially tarnish the Apple brand," Apple's lawyers wrote.

Additionally, the company claimed that any of its devices running iOS 8 or higher would prove impossible to access without a passcode, even by Apple itself.

Despite the iPhone’s sporting of the highest-security smartphone title, it still presents cops with significant cracks to exploit. Here are a few:

1. iCloud

 Although the latest iPhone encrypts storage data by default, it sends much of that information to a user’s iCloud. Unless the user has disabled automatic data uploads, police can subpoena Apple for its cloud data with a simple call and warrant.

2. Fingerprints

Any cop with common sense can press a suspect’s finger to an iPhone TouchID fingerprint-reader to unlock it. Fortunately, you can invoke the Fifth Amendment for protection against self-incrimination if you use a password, to avoid giving it up.  

3. Laptop Exposure

Cops may have more success finding unencrypted backups of the phone on a user’s laptop. iOS forensics expert and security consultant Jonathan Zdziarski points out that officials can retrieve a “pairing record,” the key that’s stored on your computer that tells a phone it’s a trusted PC. With that stolen pairing record, cops can sync your phone with their computer and offload your sensitive data. 

4. Siri

By default, iPhones have Siri enabled from the lock screen, and Siri will promptly answer questions for the user’s most recent call logs and even reveal their entire calendars.

The recent decision to safeguard digital privacy by White House lawmakers and Apple’s interest to protect user information are what maintain your iPhone's encrypted data protected. But it is still carelessness and human error what will grant those seeking your information access to it, so keep the above points in mind. 

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