Apple creating a cloud-based FileVault?

Today’s Apple rumor mill mentions the possibility that Mac OS 10.7 Lion will ship with a cloud-based FileVault, allowing encrypted file storage on Apple’s servers. The rumor comes about thanks to the release of a new Apple patent that has been seen on the Patently Apple website.

The aim of the cloud-based feature would be to protect users files when they are uploaded to the cloud; the article states that it would be similar to a real life safe deposit box.

The idea seems to be that a new icon will be placed on either the dock or the desktop and allow a user to drag and drop a file onto it. Doing so will upload the file to the Apple servers where it will be encrypted and available for you to use, once you login with your user name and password.

Patently Apple mentions that a user will be automatically logged out after a short period of time, to lessen the chance of unauthorized users being able to view your files.

At the moment Apple’s OS X users can already take advantage of file encryption thanks to the FileVault application built into the operating system, which can encrypt, protect and store users files locally very easily. 

It will be interesting to see if many users take to this kind of cloud-application from Apple, firstly because of the security risks if someone manages to get your login details. Secondly, what will happen if the cloud storage device fails, causing the loss of important files? Does this mean a local backup always be required?

Image Source: Patently Apple

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I think this new feature will be pretty useful because other users can also access your files, if they have the login details. This way you can send documents immediately to important clients or superiors.

SarahNewton said,
I think this new feature will be pretty useful because other users can also access your files, if they have the login details. This way you can send documents immediately to important clients or superiors.

You can already do this with Dropbox...I see nothing new.

jasonon said,
i wonder if windows 8 will incorporate some sort of cloud computing service *cough cough skydrive*

It's already been speculated / stated that they would indeed be adding some kind of cloud-based service. Whether that will be Skydrive or Windows Live Sync or something new, that's to be seen.

Besides this:

Patently Apple mentions that a user will be automatically logged out after a short period of time, to lessen the chance of unauthorized users being able to view your files.

Isn't this pretty much what iDisk is? I mean, you could use FileVault on files in your iDisk. If you are concerned about people accessing your files via your computer through your login why not lock your computer before leaving your desk or setup a password on a screensaver or something? This seems pretty underwhelming as a "new" OSX feature in Lion.

Shadrack said,
Besides this:

Isn't this pretty much what iDisk is? I mean, you could use FileVault on files in your iDisk. If you are concerned about people accessing your files via your computer through your login why not lock your computer before leaving your desk or setup a password on a screensaver or something? This seems pretty underwhelming as a "new" OSX feature in Lion.

Remember, to Apple making the menu bar semi-transparent, bigger drop-shadow around a window, adding a slider to the DVD app to show you where in the movie you are, adding fonts, including a new version of OpenGL, turning off alarms, new smileys, new mail stationary and more were just a few of the 300+ innovative features introduced in Leopard that Apple felt they needed to plaster on their web page and talk about when they introduced Leopard.

nohone said,

Remember, to Apple making the menu bar semi-transparent, bigger drop-shadow around a window, adding a slider to the DVD app to show you where in the movie you are, adding fonts, including a new version of OpenGL, turning off alarms, new smileys, new mail stationary and more were just a few of the 300+ innovative features introduced in Leopard that Apple felt they needed to plaster on their web page and talk about when they introduced Leopard.

Most definitely. Minor improvements and system tweaks are not the same as new features. Apple's marketing team exaggerates...that isn't surprising.

gark said,
But when Apple rolls this out, they will have retro-actively invented cloud storage.

right, but they'll call it Mist - or some other hipster/trendy synonym

I've got my bets on Apple licensing the name "iFolder" from whoever owns Novell. They did it with the iPhone, and it's really hard to get trendier than "cloud" while still being at least somewhat descriptive.

Would be nice if you can have a Safe Deposit Box locally too. I wouldn't mind having a single protected folder with few files in it instead applying FileVault to the entire Home folder (it causes a noticeable performance hit). I never really understood why Mac OS X doesn't have this...

FileVault sounds too scary for OSX - bet they'll rename it iCloud or iVault

CLOUD CLOUD CLOUD CLOUD CLOUD CLOUD everything's CLOUD

Jdawg683 said,
FileVault sounds too scary for OSX - bet they'll rename it iCloud or iVault

CLOUD CLOUD CLOUD CLOUD CLOUD CLOUD everything's CLOUD

Yeah, I was always more of a fan of Squall myself, even though most people think FF8 sucked. Phantasy Star was the better series anyway.

(Wait, what are we talking about?)

Jdawg683 said,
FileVault sounds too scary for OSX - bet they'll rename it iCloud or iVault

http://www.apple.com/macosx/security/
Scroll down about mid-way through the page and note the screenshot and marketing copy.

" FileVault lets you encrypt all the files in your home folder with just a few clicks and a password of your choosing."

FileVault has been the name of a feature in Mac OS X for years. I suspect that if this rumor was true it'd work in a similar fashion. Enabling FileVault (or iDisk, or Time Machine) create a disk image file (like an ISO) that is treated as if it were a physical hard drive by the operating system. You read/write/copy/erase files and they're written to the disk image and the file is then saved. Disk images have supported strong encryption for more than a decade, the current default is AES-256.

The 'remote' version on time machine works reasonably well, the iDisk implementation is one of Apple's worst products. Hopefully users will find that the trend of newer implementations being better than old ones will hold: anything that makes it easier for people to back up important data is a good thing.

Would be nice if you can have a Safe Deposit Box locally too.

Applications/Utilities/Disk Utility.
File -> New -> New Blank disk Image. Make it 100 TB, choose "Sparse Image" and select an encryption type. Once that's done you can move the sparse file somewhere safe. if you add it to your dock you'll be able to use it exactly like the pictures demonstrate. It'll automatically mount if it's not mounted, you can have it unlock by default with your keychain or require you to enter the password manually.

The description sounds a lot like just wrapping a nice name and interface around features already in the OS (disk images, rsync, etc) but that's what earns Apple their reputation: not doing it first, but doing it in a way that your mom can understand it.

evn. said,
Applications/Utilities/Disk Utility.
File -> New -> New Blank disk Image. Make it 100 TB, choose "Sparse Image" and select an encryption type. Once that's done you can move the sparse file somewhere safe. if you add it to your dock you'll be able to use it exactly like the pictures demonstrate. It'll automatically mount if it's not mounted, you can have it unlock by default with your keychain or require you to enter the password manually.

Yeah I was already fully aware of that option, in fact I've been using an image like that for many years now... To me a DMG is not as convenient as having a folder which encrypts on the fly, simply because I don't have to mount/unmount it every time I want to have access.

Thanks for the explanation as to where to find Disk Utility, btw. I would have been at a loss without it!

Edited by .Neo, Feb 23 2011, 1:44am :

If people are going to trust the microsoft "cloud" then why shouldn't they trust the apple "cloud"?

Personally I don't trust any "cloud" service no matter who it is.

Order_66 said,
If people are going to trust the microsoft "cloud" then why shouldn't they trust the apple "cloud"?

Personally I don't trust any "cloud" service no matter who it is.

That is the problem - all these questions at the end of the article were asked when SkyDrive was announced. Why not ask the same questions when Apple is rumored to be copying the same idea (and no, MS was not the first to do it either)? Or should we just say it is Apple, must be magical, and therefore has none of the problems that others have?

Colour me paranoid, but I'd be manually locally GPGing the files first before uploading them. Never trust cryptography you don't control.

CelticWhisper said,
Colour me paranoid, but I'd be manually locally GPGing the files first before uploading them. Never trust cryptography you don't control.

You mean PGP?