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How Secure is my iPad, Anyway?

by on June 21st, 2011

Regardless whether you use your iPad for personal or business, information security is a valid concern and should always be top-of-mind. Given the plethora of high profile security breaches across a number of popular online service providers (Sony, Bioware, and even Lockheed Martin), it’s probably high time to revisit this touchy subject and mak sure you (or at least your iPad) is won’t fall victim to any vulnerabilities. Don’t worry. Apple’s made it pretty easy for us every-day folk.

Use Unlock Codes

Unlock codes are simply a good deterrent from any physical penetration of your system and it really isn’t that cumbersome to punch in every time you flip open your iPad. Laziness and convenience isn’t an excuse to not use one!

Choose a Strong Unlock Code

As (now banned) iOS developer Daniel Amitay published recently, ’1234′ is still the most popular iPhone unlock code. (At least it’s not ’0000′, right? That’s number 2.) Strong iOS security really starts with a strong unlock code that would be hard to crack in under 10 attempts. This would greatly deter potential iPad thieves from accessing your data

Or Better Yet

Did you know that you can use an alphanumeric unlock code of any length instead? Simply go under Settings -> General -> Passcode Lock and turn Simple Passcode to Off. You’ll be asked to enter your old 4-digit code and then your new alphanumeric code of any length. From my experiences, and a number of other whitepapers out there on secure passwords, passphrases that are structured as sentences tend to be significantly more secure and easy to remember than randomly generated passwords. So keep that in mind when you choose your new code.

And Let’s Not Forget

Under the same passcode settings, you can (and should) force a data wipe if 10 failed passcode attempts are made. This will ensure that even if your iPad has been stolen (like mine did), the precious data wouldn’t fall into someone else’s hands.

What Else Can I Do?

Well, without debating the merits or flaws of jailbreaking your iPad (since you’re effectively using a security vulnerability to gain access to the system), it’s something you may want to consider. The jailbreaking community can oftentimes get a fix out faster than Apple can. (Take, for example, the location tracking issue from earlier this year. The jailbreak community was able to patch this one up in days, when it took weeks for Apple to do the same thing.) Then again, though, you are exposing the iPad to apps and patches that may be malicious too. Do so at your own risk.

But what about my other passwords? Won’t somebody think of my passwords?

Now that we’ve taken care of on-device security, let’s think about your online behaviour and security there. With the hacks that online services have been subject to, it’s probably worthwhile to make sure you’re not using the same password across all your online profiles. The quickest way to do this is subscribe to one of the many online password management services like 1Password or LastPass. They both have great support across iOS devices and is probably the best place to start. Of course, simply typing 1Password or LastPass into the app store will return a lot of different password vaults and services too. However, it’s always in  your best interest to do your due diligence and choose one that’s got a good history fo security.

And Lastly…

For the highly security conscious, there are many one-time services that allow you to create a one-time password or a one-time payment ‘card’ that you can use for your online transactions. Paypal offers one-time credit card numbers that can be used like a regular Visa card number, and is definitely worth a look. Unfortunately, their iOS app doesn’t appear to support this function, but maybe one day they may. Alternatively, Google is offering 2-factor authentication where they send an SMS to your phone with a secondary passcode when you attempt a log-in. While this may be a bit cumbersome, 2-factor authentication has been shown to be more secure if implemented correctly.

Hopefully, this has given you a quick glimpse into different ways that your iPad can be more secure in the age of LulzSec and Anonymous. However, it’s also important to be vigilant online with your activities and just be wary of phishing attempts and other exploits. Ultimately, people are almost the ultimate vulnerability in the entire system.

What do you do to stay safe online and on your iPad? Leave your tips below.

And as always, surf safely.

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Posted under: Troubleshooting, Tutorials