This week brought a large number of updates from Apple. If you noticed that it seemed to take longer to update your iPhone or iPad to the latest– iOS 10.3– than previous updates, you’re not alone. At the heart of all the cosmetic changes and app updates in iOS 10 this week, came a big one. APFS. That’s Apple’s new file system, now standard on iPhone, iPad, and Watch; and coming soon to macOS.
One the surface, as you use your iPhone and iPad, you’re not likely to notice any difference at all. APFS is what holds all the devices files together and Apple just pulled off one of the great engineering feats of all time by upgrading a few hundred million devices to a new file system. Folks, that’s no mean feat.
APFS isn’t a surprise. It was announced last year and has been available to app developers for many months. Everything will look and feel the same and APFS replace Apple’s antique HFS which was introduced when the Mac was a fledgling, struggling device back in 1985. Hard disk drives are a dying breed for Apple’s customers, quickly being replaced by SSDs which have different characteristics, so APFS brings some much needed capacity and capabilities.
Think 20th century vs. 21st century. Also, think Apple against the rest of the world– especially criminals and governments– which does not seem to appreciate privacy and security the way you and I do. Here’s an example. On the Mac, you can use FileVault to encrypt the entire disk drive. Secure, right? Unless someone gets in, then everything is open and available, and FileVault is an all or nothing security option.
APFS can do full disk encryption, too, but it can also encrypt specific files, so expect to see that option built into the Mac in the future. With both single or multi-key support. Frankly, that’s a lot more security than we get now with HFS.
Even better APFS is on the iPhone and iPad now (tvOS, too, but not Watch or macOS– yet) so future updates and upgrades can add even more security layers. And just in time, too.
Countries around the world are pressuring encryption stalwarts like Apple and various messaging app developers to provide backdoors so authorities can access various forms of communication. Meanwhile, Apple has moved quickly to make its devices even more secure.
I want to think that sane minds in government will understand that the encryption genie is out of the bottle, and there’s just no way that toothpaste gets pushed back into the tube (there was a mid-week sale on mixed metaphors at Publix) and personal encryption is here to stay; like it or not.
After all, even if government authorities had access to every popular messaging systems and backdoors to every Mac or Windows PC, or even iPhones and iPads, that terrorists and criminals could easily roll their own encryption and fund or create their own messaging apps which could not be accessed by anyone.
Apple’s APFS file system is just one more step toward giving people– in Apple’s case, nearly a billion customers could be on APFS by this time next year– more security which leads to better privacy.
Not bad for free, right?