Currently in use

No encryption

Encryption with a single key

Data encryption is a safeguard against unwanted data access. No keys are needed to access unencrypted data. Although adoption of encryption is growing, some consumer devices still store data unencrypted.

Security experts say encryption helps protect against cyberattacks and privacy invasion.

Apple’s latest devices encrypt data by default, using a unique digital key that can be used only by its owner. This means that even under court order, Apple cannot gain access to data stored on devices.

The U.S. government argues this protects criminals from lawful searches and hurts counterterrorism efforts.

Who can access:

Who can access:

Apple

Apple

User

FBI

User

FBI

No keys are necessary to access unencrypted data. If the FBI has a court order, the data can be unlocked.

Because only the user has the key, the FBI and Apple are locked out. Even with a court order, the data isn’t accessible.

Techniques being considered

Encryption using

‘key escrow’

Encryption using ‘split keys’

or ‘secret sharing’

This technique essentially creates a lock with multiple keys. One of those keys is stored apart from the user — possibly with a government agency — in case the data needs to be accessed in the future.

Privacy advocates worry that this increases the incentive for hackers to steal the key held “in escrow.”

In these approaches, data can be accessed only by combining multiple keys. This distributes the power to access data among key holders, allowing only the user to access the data independently.

Experts note that creating such a system that is secure would be a technical challenge.

Who can access:

Who can access:

User

FBI

User

FBI

Apple

Apple

In this scenario, the user and the FBI each have a key. Either can access data, while Apple remains locked out.

FBI + Apple

This scenario requires two keys to access data. In this case, the FBI and Apple can access it only if they work together.

Currently in use

No encryption

Data encryption is a safeguard against unwanted data access. No keys are needed to access unencrypted data. Although adoption of encryption is growing, some consumer devices still store data unencrypted.

Security experts say encryption helps protect against cyber attacks and privacy invasion.

Who can access:

Apple

User

FBI

No keys are necessary to access unencrypted data. If the FBI has a court order, the data can be unlocked.

Encryption with a single key

Apple’s latest devices encrypt data by default, using a unique digital key that can be used only by its owner. This means that even under court order, Apple cannot gain access to data stored on devices.

The U.S. government argues this protects criminals from lawful searches and hurts counterterrorism efforts.

Who can access:

Apple

User

FBI

Because only the user has the key, the FBI and Apple are locked out. Even with a court order, the data isn’t accessible.

Techniques being

considered

Encryption using

‘key escrow’

This technique essentially creates a lock with multiple keys. One of those keys is stored apart from the user — possibly with a government agency — in case the data needs to be accessed in the future.

Privacy advocates worry that this increases the incentive for hackers to steal the key held “in escrow.”

Who can access:

User

FBI

Apple

In this scenario, the user and the FBI each have a key. Either can access data, while Apple remains locked out.

Encryption using ‘split keys’

or ‘secret sharing’

In these approaches, data can be accessed only by combining multiple keys. This distributes the power to access data among key holders, allowing only the user to access the data independently.

Experts note that creating such a system that is secure would be a technical challenge.

Who can access:

User

FBI

Apple

FBI + Apple

This scenario requires two keys to access data. In this case, the FBI and Apple can access it only if they work together.

SOURCE: Staff reports.