Apple offers hacking targets new options to secure data, chats

The Apple logo is seen through a security fence erected around the Apple Fifth Avenue store as votes continue to be counted following the 2020 U.S. presidential election, in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., November 5, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

OAKLAND, Calif., Dec 7 (Reuters) - Apple Inc (AAPL.O) plans to allow users to more tightly lock down photos and notes stored on its iCloud service and require a physical security key when logging in from a new device, it said on Wednesday.

The forthcoming options, along with another security measure for Apple's iMessage chat program, are particularly aimed at celebrities, journalists, activists, politicians and other high-profile individuals heavily targeted by hackers, the company said.

The iPhone maker said that though it was not aware of breaches to iCloud servers or iMessage exchanges, hacking attempts are increasing.

U.S. users will be able to activate the free Advanced Data Protection for iCloud storage by the end of the year. When turned on, Apple cannot help users recover photos, notes, voice memos and about 20 other types of data if they forget their password. It will expand globally next year.

The option to require plugging a security fob into a new device to access an Apple account is expected to roll out next year. Rival Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O) Google already supports such hardware keys, which are certified by industry body FIDO and cost about $25.

On iMessage, conversations between users who enable the new Contact Key Verification next year would receive automated alerts about unrecognized devices potentially snooping on the exchange. Users can manually verify their communication is secure by matching up security codes, too. Secure chat services such as Signal offer comparable features.

Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Sandra Maler

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Thomson Reuters

San Francisco Bay Area-based tech reporter covering Google and the rest of Alphabet Inc. Joined Reuters in 2017 after four years at the Los Angeles Times focused on the local tech industry.