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How Secure Is iCloud?

How Secure Is iCloud? Is Apple Cloud Storage Safe in 2024?

Apple has taken steps to increase the security of iCloud, its cloud storage service. However, it still has some limitations and security risks. Read on as we answer the question: How secure is iCloud?

Jason StagnittoValentina BravoJasna Mishevska

Written by Jason Stagnitto (Writer)

Reviewed by Valentina Bravo (Editor)

Facts checked by Jasna Mishevska (Lead Fact-Checking Editor)

Last Updated: 2024-07-04T15:16:31+00:00

All our content is written fully by humans; we do not publish AI writing. Learn more here.

Key Takeaways: How Secure is iCloud?
  • iCloud has two security options: standard data protection and advanced data protection.
  • Enabling end-to-end encryption is the best way to protect data stored in your iCloud account.
  • Apple can access your encryption keys unless you use advanced data protection.

Facts & Expert Analysis

  • Too secure for the FBI: Most people can use iCloud without any real security or privacy concerns. The FBI found this out firsthand during its public dispute with Apple in 2016 over access to a user’s iPhone and iCloud backup data.1
  • Backup somewhere else: iCloud is a cloud storage service first. We don’t recommend using it for backup purposes, even though that is a feature. Also, if you keep your iPhone backup on iCloud, it’s susceptible to compromise if someone gains access to your account.
  • As strong as your password: As with most things online, the best method to protect your iCloud account is to choose a hard-to-guess password and enable added security layers like two-factor authentication. It may be a slight inconvenience, but much better than the alternative.

iCloud is Apple’s default cloud storage service that is built into every Apple device. It works well and is easy to use. However, iCloud is not without its issues, and it has suffered from some highly publicized data leaks. We explore this cloud storage option and answer the question, “How secure is iCloud?”

Chances are you’ve used iCloud in some capacity to store data across your Apple devices, including photos, backups or messages. iCloud works well with Apple as it integrates with the larger ecosystem. However, it’s essential to know the platform’s security limitations, and in some cases, you should consider alternative cloud storage solutions.

  • 05/09/2024 Facts checked

    We rewrote this guide to provide a more detailed and up-to-date overview of how secure iCloud is.

Cloudwards Expert Opinion: How Secure is iCloud?

iCloud is very secure, thanks to end-to-end encryption — which means scrambling data before it reaches the cloud so even the server host doesn’t have the keys necessary to read it. iCloud gives users this option through a setting called Advanced Data Protection. If you’re going to use iCloud to store your data, we highly recommend enabling it.

Advanced data protection means that even if the FBI confiscates servers from Apple, they won’t be able to read your private files (a thing that actually happened). The only risk is that Apple won’t be able to recover your account if you lose the password, so make sure you keep those credentials somewhere safe.

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iCloud Tools & Software Overview

When you enable advanced data protection, iCloud uses end-to-end encryption for many of its features, like iCloud Drive and iCloud Backup. These data transfers are protected by at least AES 128-bit encryption and use transport layer security (TLS). We have more information on this option in the section below.

How Secure Is iCloud Mail?

iCloud Mail securely encrypts your data while in transit and on its servers. However, it’s not end to end, meaning the encryption happens server-side or after it leaves your device. 

icloud mail
No matter what data protection method you choose, data stored
using iCloud Mail is not end-to-end encrypted.

How Safe Is iCloud Backup?

Using iCloud as a space for your backups will protect your data in transit and at rest, providing end-to-end encryption for its services and features. Enabling advanced data protection increases iCloud’s security and removes Apple’s ability to access the encryption keys for your data.

icloud backup
Files saved via iCloud Backup will stay on iCloud’s servers until you update or remove them.

How Secure Is iCloud Storage for Photos and Files?

iCloud keeps your photos and files safe while they’re on its servers or when you transfer them from your device. With advanced data protection, only trusted devices can access your photos and files, adding another layer of security.

iCloud Security Features Explained

iCloud has several security features — some are standard, and others must be enabled to fully utilize them. A few security features take place in the background, like encryption keys. Most of the encryption happens on your device, as iCloud creates encryption keys before uploading or transferring data. 

Standard Data Protection

Standard data protection is the default encryption stance that Apple uses. It provides encryption for iCloud services, with the main caveat being that Apple controls the encryption keys used to protect your data. Not all iCloud data has end-to-end encryption, but a few areas do, like your Health data and Keychain passwords.

icloud encryption
When your iCloud data is protected by end-to-end encryption,
Apple can’t access your encryption keys.
Advanced Data Protection

Advanced data protection is an optional feature you can enable through iCloud’s settings on your Apple device. It is Apple’s highest level of cloud security. When it’s enabled, 23 data categories will have end-to-end encryption, and only you have access to the encryption keys.

No matter what encryption type you choose, iCloud Mail, Contacts and Calendars will not be encrypted end to end. This is due to their interconnection with external email systems or standardized processes that don’t support a higher level of encryption.

icloud adp
With advanced data protection enabled, most of your
iCloud data is protected by end-to-end encryption.
Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication is an optional setting connected to your Apple ID. As your Apple ID is the gateway to your account and all of Apple’s interconnected services, you can only enable two-factor authentication when logging in.

icloud 2fa
Two-factor authentication is an optional setting
you can use to protect your Apple ID.
Encryption Key Storage

Encryption key access comes down to what type of encryption a given iCloud feature uses. For data with standard data protection, Apple has access to the encryption key. It is unlikely that Apple will access your account without your knowledge, but it could happen.

When enabling advanced data protection, the encryption key remains on your trusted device and isn’t sent to Apple’s data centers. Make sure you don’t lose your password, or you may lose access to your iCloud data.

What Does iCloud Encrypt?

At a high security level, iCloud encrypts everything. However, the encryption method depends on the service and whether you have enabled advanced data protection.

Standard Data Protection

Standard data protection encrypts data while at rest or in transit for many iCloud features and interconnections, although Apple controls the decryption keys. Despite this, a few iCloud features under standard data protection do have end-to-end encryption:

  • Data stored with iCloud Passwords or Keychain
  • Saved payment information
  • Messages stored in iCloud
  • Apple Card data
  • Health data
Advanced Data Protection

When you turn on advanced data protection, every data category except for three — iCloud Mail, Contacts and Calendars — have end-to-end encryption, with the added benefit that only you have the encryption keys. These keys remain on your trusted device and are not sent to Apple: 

  • iCloud Backup
  • iCloud Drive
  • Photos
  • Notes

iCloud Security Limitations & Risks

iCloud is not the perfect cloud solution, as it does have some security risks and limitations. Some are built into the service, and others are related to user actions.

Limited Encryption

Despite the advanced data protection option, not everything has end-to-end encryption. The three features that lack it are iCloud Mail, Calendars and Contacts. That means that data from these three areas could be compromised.

Password Strength

Human error is the leading cause of data leaks, and weak passwords or easily guessed ID and password combinations are the most common reasons. The best way to protect yourself is to use a strong password and enable two-factor authentication.

Compromised Device

Loss or theft of your device is another potential security issue — especially if you have a weak password, haven’t enabled passcodes or biometrics, or are already logged into your device. Physical security is just as important as digital encryption methods.


Falling victim to cybercrimes, like phishing schemes, or inadvertently installing ransomware on your device could put your personal data at risk. 

Past iCloud Security & Privacy Incidents

iCloud is not a perfect service, and there have been a couple of notable incidents involving unauthorized access to personal iCloud accounts. Perhaps the most infamous was the 2014 celebrity photo leak that saw hundreds of private photos leaked online 3. Hackers were able to use brute force attacks to guess their login credentials and steal the images.

Another high-profile incident involved Britney Spears 2, her conservatorship and her iCloud account. Using her Apple ID and password, a security firm paid to track Britney mirrored her iCloud onto another Apple device, letting them see and hear everything she did. Apple claimed that it was not a security flaw, but rather a targeted effort against Britney Spears.

How to Stay Secure When Using Apple Products

Even with iCloud’s security features, there are a few steps you can take to enhance your cloud data security. 

Use Advanced Data Protection

Enable advanced data protection on your iCloud account. Use a password manager or keep your password in a safe place so you don’t lose it. 

Enable Two-Factor Authentication

Protect your Apple ID by enabling two-factor authentication. This safeguards your login credentials by adding another step to the login process.

Use Strong Login Credentials

Don’t use weak Apple IDs or passwords. These are easy to break and can put your account at risk.

Consider a VPN

Using a VPN is a good way to protect your online activities, especially from man-in-the-middle attacks. It creates a secure connection between your device and the internet, and it masks your IP address. If you need a great VPN, check out our ExpressVPN review.

iCloud Alternatives 

If you’re looking for cloud storage alternatives to iCloud that focus on security, is an excellent option. It has zero-knowledge encryption that protects your entire account. The free plan has 5GB, making it easy to try the service out. Read more in our review.

pCloud is another great alternative as it has many cloud features, excellent security and privacy. A paid option called pCloud Encryption lets you access a zero-knowledge folder. We cover these elements and more in our pCloud review.

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Final Thoughts

iCloud has a few strong security measures, and your data becomes even more secure when you use advanced data protection. When enabled, it gives you end-to-end encryption for most of your data. Setting up two-factor authentication further protects your account.

If you’re looking for a provider that has an equally strong security features but has a more powerful collaboration and file-syncing tools, Dropbox might be a valuable option. Check out if the tool is better for you in our Dropbox vs iCloud piece.

For more related articles, check out our guide on how to backup text messages on iPhone.

Do you use iCloud? If so, does it meet your cloud needs? If not, what’s your preferred cloud alternative? Let us know in the comments section below. Thanks for reading our article. 

FAQ: How Secure Is iCloud?

  • iCloud is just as safe from hackers as any other cloud-based service. Vulnerabilities with iCloud include not using two-factor authentication and having a weak or easily guessed password.

  • No cloud service is 100% secure; however, iCloud has excellent security measures and protocols in place to protect your data.

  • Some of the disadvantages of using iCloud include locking yourself into the Apple ecosystem, having limited settings and configurations, and letting Apple access your encryption keys when not using advanced data protection.


  1. CNBC – Apple vs FBI: All you need to know
  2. The Guardian – Controlling Britney Spears: film offers new details on singer’s daily life under conservatorship
  3. NBC – Almost 600 Accounts Breached in ‘Celebgate’ Nude Photo Hack, FBI Says
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