Apple announced a new privacy-focused set of features called iCloud+ at WWDC 2021. The features will be rolled out for free to existing iCloud subscribers in Q3 2021. home security cameras.
What is iCloud+?
iCloud+ is the new name for a premium iCloud subscription. Apple isn̵
With the announcement of iCloud+, Apple has introduced three new standout features: Private Relay, Hide My Email, and unlimited HomeKit Secure Video recording.
Anyone who currently pays for iCloud storage will be automatically switched to an iCloud+ plan at no additional cost. iCloud storage quotas have not changed with the announcement of iCloud+. The free iCloud tier is still limited to 5 GB of storage and does not include iCloud+ benefits.
Private Relay: Apple’s version of a VPN
iCloud+’s standout feature is called Private Relay, and it’s Apple’s version of a VPN (although Apple won’t use that terminology to describe it). The feature attempts to protect your identity online by encrypting all traffic that leaves a device, effectively hiding your online activities from Internet service providers, governments, and snoops. It’s one of the many privacy-related features in iOS 15.
Like a VPN, all traffic is encrypted. This means that if someone were to intercept traffic, say by using a man-in-the-middle attack on a public wireless network, they would still have to decrypt the data to see what you’re doing. It is not yet clear what level of encryption Apple is going for with Private Relay.
What sets Private Relay apart from other similar VPN services is its “two-hop” approach. Once internet traffic is encrypted, it is sent through two separate relays.
According to Apple:
“The first assigns the user an anonymous IP address assigned to their region, but not their actual location. The second decrypts the web address they want to visit and forwards them to their destination. This segregation of information protects the user’s privacy, as no entity can identify both who a user is and which sites they visit.”
With Private Relay in place, Apple claims that even they can’t see what you’re doing online. iPhone in certain countries, such as China and Belarus, will not be able to access Private Relay at all.
The two-hop approach is new because it relies on a first party (Apple) and a third party (a trusted partner) to anonymize your browsing activity. Apple knows who you are since you’ve used the service, but not where you’re going because the destination is encrypted. With the second hop, the trusted partner knows where you are going but has no idea who you are because your IP address is anonymized.
Speaking to Fast Company, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering clarified: “We hope users believe in Apple as a trusted intermediary, but we didn’t even want you to trust us. [because] we don’t have this ability to source your IP and the destination you’re going to at the same time – unlike VPNs.”
Apple will still have to comply with requests from authorities to provide judicial information about users, although it is not yet clear what information Apple will be able to provide to its Private Relay users.
With a VPN, factors such as where you are and the level of encryption you want can make a significant difference to performance. Apple claims that Private Relay works without compromising performance, but this is a claim that will be thoroughly tested when the service finally launches.
Hide my email: Improved spam protection
Another feature introduced with iCloud+ is Hide My Email, a feature that allows you to create and delete email aliases instead of providing your real address.
The feature mirrors Sign in with Apple in an effort to both anonymize users and provide enhanced spam protection. If you don’t trust a service not to send you unsolicited emails, you can easily create a new one in Safari, Mail, or iCloud settings.
The address works like any other and all email is forwarded to your inbox. If you find that particular address has been targeted by spammers, you can easily remove it under iCloud settings.
Unlimited HomeKit Secure Video Recording
The last standout feature of iCloud+ is unlimited recording space for Homekit-connected security cameras. Apple’s previous plan required users to pay for a 200GB iCloud plan to record video from a single camera, which counted toward your total iCloud storage.
In the future, Apple will allow you to “connect more cameras than ever before” using the Home app. None of the images count towards total iCloud storage, whether you’re on a 50GB or 200GB plan.
HomeKit Secure Video recordings are encrypted end-to-end, with no limit on the number of devices that can be connected.
Included in your iCloud subscription
The best part about the iCloud+ announcement is that if you already subscribe to an iCloud storage plan, you’ll get the free upgrade when the service launches in late 2021.
If you’ve been tempted by smart home security but been put off by Apple’s earlier limits, now might be a good time to invest in some HomeKit-enabled cameras.
Apple announced more than iCloud+ at WWDC 2021. Find out what else is coming to iOS, macOS, and more.
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