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When it comes to defending against MITM attacks while using public Wifi, is the security offered by iCloud Private Relay comparable to using a VPN?

Edit:

My motivation for asking the question comes from the PDF overview published by Apple. In it they say:

“It’s built directly into the networking framework of iOS, iPadOS, and macOS, and protects traffic most susceptible to tracking: web browsing and any connections that are unencrypted. As a result, Private Relay protects all web browsing in Safari and unencrypted activity in apps, adding both privacy and security benefits.”

https://www.apple.com/privacy/docs/iCloud_Private_Relay_Overview_Dec2021.PDF

Obviously that protects Safari from MITM attacks. But my question is more specifically does Apple’s description imply that all traffic, including system network connections and app network connectIons, is protected against MITM attacks on public Wi-Fi?

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    iCloud Private Relay is a VPN.
    – ThoriumBR
    Jan 11 at 22:56

1 Answer 1

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iCloud Private Relay is a VPN. It uses an encrypted tunnel to send requests from your device to Apple servers, and from those servers to the endpoint server that in turn sends the request to the internet.

If you are interested in protecting your Safari traffic against a public wifi operator, or people using the same wifi, the level of protection of a VPN and iCloud Public Relay are the same. Both encrypt the traffic before it leaves the device, and the endpoint access the internet in your behalf.

The main difference between the two is that a VPN works system-wide: all traffic from all apps are routed to the VPN unless explicitly excluded, while iCloud Private Relay currently only works inside Safari.

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  • Does it only apply to Safari or is there some level of protection for the other apps / system components?
    – John
    Jan 12 at 22:32
  • It's not system wide. It only protects you while using Safari. All other apps will use your default connection.
    – ThoriumBR
    Jan 13 at 1:47
  • Please see my edit.
    – John
    Jan 13 at 15:44
  • It only protects DNS, HTTP and HTTPS connections, does not encrypt anything else.
    – ThoriumBR
    Jan 13 at 17:07

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