comes the Data Protection Daythe European day in which digital privacy is celebrated: established in 2007 by the Council of Europe for 28 January, it is an opportunity to better study the resources we have available for let us spy a little less.
And there is a need, because according to research by DLA Piper, from 25 May 2018 (date of entry into force of the new European GDPR regulation), Italy is second in Europe for the number of violations with 83 interventions by the Guarantor. Furthermore, in 2021 in Europe fines were imposed for almost 1.1 billion, an increase of close to 600% in one year, and 356 reports of data breaches per day.
Privacy, 10 easy countermeasures to defend ourselves better
by Emanuele Capone
Hardware dedicated to confidentiality
For Apple users, some of the resources needed to maintain privacy and security are new with the latest operating system updates, and others are long-standing practices that are perhaps worth learning more about. iPhones and iPads, and more recently Macs as well, have long had a secret weapon. A secret hidden in plain sight: the processors made by Apple contain, alongside the canonical CPU for the calculation part and GPU for the graphics part, also a third block called Neural Engine and an area called Secure Enclave.
Within these two zones, Apple has organized 3 kinds of functions fundamentals: the hardware-level secure management of passwords and other confidential information, for example for a person’s biometrics; encryption for intercept-proof communications; the management of machine learning activity (artificial intelligence, basically) directly on the device.
Apple was the first company to invest in this type of business: the Neural Engine, which in the A11 chip of the iPhone 8 and X of 2017 had two cores and computing power equal to 0.5 Tops, today has become very powerful with 17 trillion operations per second and does things that the ARM architecture used by Android devices for long time could not do. That is, he is able to perform the huge amount of calculations required for AI tasks locally. This means that it does not have to resort to the cloud and therefore does not have to move data from the phone.
When it comes to privacy and privacy protection of the user at Apple, we have learned over the years, it is done at all levels and with an all-round approach. Tim Cook himself reiterated that the company considers privacy a fundamental human right and that it is therefore thought of as a requirement for all activities, from hardware development to software creation. However, privacy and confidentiality are not products but processes, which also require expertise on the part of the user in order to be used consciously and to the fullest.
For this reason Apple, which has a highly developed presence in the area thanks to its stores (in Italy there are 17, in the world almost 1000) has designed a series of free half hour meetings with experts who explain to customers the tricks to secure information and live more peacefully in the era of online tracking and what writer Saskia Sassen called “predatory platform capitalism”, that is, that of giants such as Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft. Here’s what Apple says in meetings.
The tricks to manage privacy
Let’s start with 3 apps and a service that are used daily by Apple users. Safarithe company’s browser, has been updated in such a way as to avoid the so-called cross-site, i.e. the espionage practice of some sites that search and read the cookies, the packets of information left by other sites. This allows (for example) a e-commerce site to find out if a user is also registered with the competition and to modify their offers. Or to a travel site if you have searched for a train or flight previously, perhaps changing the prices.
Walleti.e. the Apple wallet which in the USA is also becoming a container for subscriptions, personal identity documents (driving license and identity card and soon also passports), plays an important role in making payments not only secure but also untraceable: Apple does not communicate the credit card number to the merchant and does not know what the user is buying.
L’app Photowhich is the heart of all the multimedia part of phones, is increasingly using artificial intelligence not only for editing photos but also for identify texts, writings, objects, places, people. However, thanks to the Neural Engine, everything is done on the device and Apple does not receive any information.
In the end Sirithe service that must understand what users are asking for and respond in kind: it is the only digital assistant that performs all the activities on the device and if allowed to do so remotely, it still anonymizes the entries to negate the possibility of them being linked to anyone.
Apple: With iOS 16.3 comes encryption for iCloud backups and NFC keys for authentication
by Andrea Nepori
However, the core of security and privacy (two often overlapping industries) for i Apple devices it is linked to some technological and software solutions chosen by the Cupertino company.
The first is Passkey, the standard technology that is replacing passwords and that Apple has long used to securely manage access to third-party sites and services. Apple keeps all these access keys in one app, the Keychain, which synchronizes in an encrypted manner and which is in turn stored with two levels of encrypted protection, so that third-party access to the information is impossible even in the event of theft or loss. Is situated in Settings to the voice Passwordalong with a series of Security Tips automatically generated on the phone that inform you when, for example, a password has appeared in a data leak or if it is used on multiple services (practice in any case not recommended).
The second is privacy with MailApple’s e-mail app, which with iOS 16 has integrated specific privacy settings that allow you to hide your address to enter sites, but also to prevent content sent by merchants and newsletters reveal our location showing them when we opened the email, what we read and for how long. However, protection on Apple devices comes from the use of the Mail app, while third-party software does not have this function.
The services of location they have all been collected by Apple in one section of Settings and allow you to manage with greater precision what you want to show about your position. This means: on the one hand blocking location sharing with a third-party app or limiting it only to when you are using it (for example, a traffic app or for finding open restaurants) and on the other also modify those of Apple’s system, to turn on or off those necessary for locating the telephone if lost, for activating the home automation services, for adjusting the time zone or for a faster search for WiFi networks. Once many of these features were disabled for limit phone consumption but today, with the GPS constantly on, this is no longer the case: the limitations are not for tracking, but for data sharing.
In the same part of Privacy and Security of the SettingsApple has also put a section dedicated to Tracking. With this feature, which is simply a button to activate if you want, but which is deactivated by default, Apple lets the user decide whether third-party apps can ask to be tracked for advertising purposes or not. Put simply: Apple doesn’t give apps permission to even ask for permission themselves to track users but, if you want, by selecting the Request activity tracking option, it allows third-party apps to request tracking. In this case the user can choose, from time to time, who to authorize and who not. On the other hand, if you never want to be disturbed, just don’t activate this option.
Apple has also created a kind of red button to press in case of emergency privacy and security. If you believe you are being intercepted or otherwise tracked beyond normal, with iOS 16 in the Privacy and Security section of Settings there is the option Isolation mode, which is basically a quick exit from all types of sharing: it is an extreme and optional protection to be used only if you think you are “under cyber attack”. It’ll never happen to us, but it’s like traveling on a plane with a parachute: in case of trouble, it’s an extra emergency exit. The Safety Check function is also available, which allows both an emergency initialization of the device and stopping all sharing, the accesses of unwanted apps and devices. Here too, in extreme cases, a single point from which to block all risks.
Finally, always in the section Privacy and Security, Apple has made the App Privacy Report feature available. It must be activated but then it monitors all the activities of the apps and sites and allows you to see which ones have access to the data and sensors, which ones do activity on the network, and also which sites. It’s a report based on 7 days and allows you to understand if there are unauthorized interactions perhaps due to a computer attack.