Everyone loves to get new shiny things. Whether it’s a new pair of shoes or the latest high-tech gadget, we all revert back to our childhood selves when we rip open the packaging and get to admire and play with our new purchase. However, that excitement can sometimes make us overlook certain things in the heat of the moment, such as popping down to the local bar—in the rain—to show off your new suede loafers, only to realize that you really should have waterproofed them first, or not taking the time to properly secure your new phone and associated accounts before you have it stolen.
With Apple’s recent announcement for the iPhone 6S, as well as a host of other updates to its popular gadgets, there will be many people eager to get their hands on one of the new devices. Last year’s iCloud hacking controversy, as well as more recent stories such as the discovery of the KeyRaider malware (IOS.Keyraider), may still be lingering in the minds of many users. However, the thrill of getting a new iPhone can make people forget to take the necessary steps to properly secure their devices. By following some simple tips and best practices, you can make sure your new device, and your data, remain secure.
Apple’s latest version of its mobile operating system iOS 9 will come preinstalled on its latest mobile devices. For those of you with older models (iPhone 4S and iPad 2 and newer), you will have the option of upgrading to iOS 9 from September 16.
Along with a host of new features, iOS 9 also comes with several security improvements that users would be highly recommended to take advantage of, such as:
- By default, iOS 9 will now require a six instead of four-digit passcode.
- Two-factor authentication has now been extended to iTunes and iCloud, meaning that, if enabled, users will be required to input a six-digit verification code (sent to a trusted device) along with their email address and password when signing in from a new browser or device.
- VPN extension support has been increased, now allowing the implementation of the client side of a custom VPN tunneling protocol.
Use a strong, unique Apple ID password
Your Apple ID is a very important password, as it gives you access to a host of Apple services and features, so you should choose a strong and unique one that you have not used for any other website. For details and tips on choosing a strong Apple ID, as well as advice on Touch ID and two-factor authentication (briefly discussed later), read our previous blog.
Touch ID fingerprint recognition and passcodes
Apple has incorporated a fingerprint reader in the latest iPhone models (5S and up) which allows users to use their fingerprints for authentication when unlocking their device and making purchases through iTunes, the App Store, and Apple Pay. Users are strongly advised to take advantage of this extra layer of security.
If Touch ID isn’t available on your model, be sure to set a passcode. Most people choose to use the Simple Passcode option, which is a basic four-digit numerical code (or six digits in iOS 9). Using this option means that there are only 10,000 possible combinations (or 1 million if using iOS 9’s default six-digit passcode). By turning off the Simple Passcode option, you can choose a more complex passcode that includes letters and symbols as well as numbers. It’s also a good idea to choose to erase your device automatically after ten failed passcode attempts. For details on how to do all this, visit the relevant Apple support page.
Two-factor authentication (2FA), sometimes referred to as two-step verification, is an additional layer of security that users are advised to enable. With 2FA, even if an attacker gets hold of your user name and password they still won’t be able to access your data because they won’t have the verification code that’s sent to your trusted device. For details on how to set up 2FA for your Apple ID, visit Apple’s two-step verification FAQ page.
Find My iPhone
The Find My iPhone service allows you to track your iPhone should it be lost, stolen, or misplaced, and can be accessed through either the Find My iPhone app on another device or on the web. This service also gives you the option of remotely wiping your device, meaning that if your phone does happen to fall into the hands of a thief, you can at least make sure your data doesn’t.
Disable access to Siri from the lock screen
Siri is iOS’s intelligent personal assistant but as well as being helpful Siri can also be a security risk. There have been several instances in the past where Siri has been used to bypass the iPhone’s lock screen. Disabling Siri from being used from the lock screen will protect your device from being susceptible to these types of hacks.
Know what your phone is doing with your data
You should be aware of what gets uploaded to the cloud and what data installed apps have access to. If you’re not ok with any of these settings, you can modify them. Apple lets you decide what does and does not get uploaded to the cloud from your device and you can even turn iCloud off completely if you don’t feel comfortable using it. To view and manage which apps have access to your data, visit the Privacy section within iOS Settings.
Virtual private networks
If possible, you should consider using a virtual private network (VPN) if accessing sensitive or private data online while using public Wi-Fi.
You should also turn off Wi-Fi when not in use and be careful about which public hotspots you connect to. Only connect to trusted hotspots and if you really need to connect to free Wi-Fi when you’re out and about make sure to verify the network details with a member of staff, otherwise you could become the victim of a man-in-the-middle attack.
AutoFill is a feature present in the Safari internet browser that saves or automatically fills in user names, passwords, payment card details, and other information into websites. If your device gets stolen and the thief manages to get access to it, they will also have access to all the credentials you have saved in AutoFill. If you have this feature enabled, you should consider turning it off.
Symantec advises users against jailbreaking their devices as it can seriously impact security and is against the usage policies of the product. Jailbreaking your device can open your device up to all kinds of threats, such as malicious apps from third-party app stores. Many of the iOS malware in circulation (such as KeyRaider) can only be installed on jailbroken devices. By not jailbreaking your device, you will protect yourself against many of these threats.
Cybercriminals often take advantage of out-of-date software. By keeping your apps and operating system up to date you will strengthen the security of your device. You can turn on iOS’s Automatic Downloads feature to update apps in the background and without the need for any user interaction (just be sure to choose Wi-Fi only updates if you’re on a limited data plan from your carrier).
The security tips outlined in this blog are not exclusive to iPhones and are applicable to other iDevices also.
These simple tips, some of which can be seen in our handy video, can be applied in a matter of minutes and will help you maximize the security of your device and the data it holds. After that, feel free to revert to your childhood self and play with your new gadget to your heart’s content.
By John-Paul Power, Symantec