Here’s how to enable Apple’s encrypted iCloud backups on your iPhone

Apple has just released software updates for iPhone, iPad and Mac that will help keep your information stored on the company’s servers even more private.

For the first time ever, you can encrypt Apple Photos, Notes, and iCloud backups—including iMessage conversations—that are stored in the cloud. That’s thanks to an optional end-to-end encryption setting called Advanced Data Protection.

Apple encryption encrypts your data in code that you need a key to decrypt, and now for backups the key only exists on your device—not in Apple’s data centers.

When you sign in, most of what you upload to iCloud is only accessible to you. And if Apple’s iCloud were hacked, most of your data would be protected, Apple said in a statement Dec. 7.

Apple can’t even access the data once it’s stored on the company’s servers. And law enforcement with a warrant couldn’t access it either, which has caused friction between Apple and the FBI.

Since Apple no longer has the keys to recover your data, you will need to set up an alternate recovery method such as a recovery contact or recovery key in case you lose access to your account. In other words, once you set up Advanced Data Protection, you are responsible for restoring your data in case you lose your device. In the event of a cloud disaster, you no longer need to go to the Genius bar to restore a backup.

Here’s how to set up end-to-end encryption for your iPhone’s iCloud backups.

How to set up end-to-end encryption for iPhone

Before you begin, make sure your iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Mac, and HomePods are all updated to the latest software. On an iPhone that needs to be updated to iOS 16.2 first, you can do this by opening Settings and then tapping General > Software Updates. Your phone will download the update and will require a reboot before it’s done.

  • After everything is updated, go to Settings > iCloud > Advanced Privacy.
  • Tap “Account Recovery” or “Advanced Privacy” to continue.
  • A notification will appear informing you that you are responsible for your data recovery.
  • Tap on “Set up account recovery”.
  • This will prompt you to add a recovery contact (or generate a recovery key, but more on that later.) Apple suggests choosing someone you trust to help you regain access to your account. Remember: Apple doesn’t have access to let you back in.
  • Next, you’ll be prompted to send a message to that recovery contact to let them know they’ve been chosen. The person you asked must approve the request.
  • The other option, if you don’t want to trust someone else with all your iCloud data, is to set up a recovery key. This is a 28-digit code that you must keep in a safe place so that you can restore your backups.
  • Next you will be asked to confirm your recovery key by entering it again. Once you have done this, your recovery key will be activated.
  • Once you’ve enabled Advanced Data Protection, you’ll need to enter your iPhone passcode to enable it.

That’s it! Remember, if you haven’t kept your recovery key in a safe place or set up your recovery contact, your data is as good as gone.

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