Apple recently, and very quietly, made an announcement that went largely unnoticed by technology press agents and reporters looking for juicy headline materials. It turns out that many may have missed the most important headline of them all. Namely, the coming release of Apple’s new file system, APFS.
Two things make this new filesystem noteworthy. First, the fact that the new system is centered around the idea of file security and encryption. Second, unlike their current encryption efforts which were “bolted on” after release, this new approach sees encryption embedded in the very fabric of the OS. That, by default, makes it more robust and harder to tamper with.
This is especially noteworthy after Apple’s recent dustup with the FBI, in which Apple was requested by the FBI to help them break into a criminal’s phone. Apple refused, and the FBI was furious. This announcement sends a clear and unmistakable message to the FBI and to the rest of the world. Not only does Apple refuse to comply with such requests, but it is actively taking steps to make their products more secure for the people who use them, and that is a very heartening sign indeed.
Among other things, part of what will make the new encryption system more robust is the fact that files will be time-stamped down to the nanosecond, and this timestamp will be used in the encryption process. It’s also optimized for flash storage, and is robust enough to support up to 9 quintillion files in a single volume. If you’re not sure how big a number a quintillion is, then just know that you’ll probably never reach that number of files in your lifetime.
As of now, best estimates are that we’ll see the new encryption system by 2017, and from the look of the current state of the internet, that’s not a moment too soon.