Apple is amping up its commitment to encryption.
The company is beginning the first major overhaul of the Mac filing system — the way it stores files on the hard drive — in more than 18 years. The move was quietly announced during a conference break out session after Apple’s blockbuster unveiling of its new operating system MacOS Sierra.
Amidst other new features, including the ability to place timestamps on files accurate to fractional seconds and a more efficient mechanism to clone files, the new Apple File System (APFS) updates file encryption.
The new system allows files to be encrypted with multiple keys, providing an extra layer of security against attackers or, to the FBI’s recent chagrin, law enforcement agencies.
The shift comes after Apple faced vocal criticism for its commitment to encrypted data after refusing to unlock an iPhone used by one of the shooters in the San Bernardino, Calif, terrorist attack.
Currently, on computers using OSX’s encryption, files are encrypted using the same key. The operating system unlocks the files on computers where a user has logged in. If an attacker compromises the key or attacks the computer when a user has logged in, the files are no longer encrypted.
On APFS, users will have the option to encrypt different segments of the file storage system with different keys. Access to one file wouldn’t mean access to all of them.
APFS will also encrypt the metadata contained in each file.
The new file system will released in 2017, months after Sierra’s release.