Apple’s iOS7 security features

Last updated: 21 March 2014

Recent news surrounding Apple’s iOS7 has been focused on the ‘Frequent Locations’ feature of the system which enables Wi-Fi location tracking. The media buzz surrounding the feature is unsurprising given the furore around privacy in recent weeks and months.

However, this tracking feature is hardly hidden by Apple. As The Register’s Bill Ray has correctly highlighted in his recent software blog: you can find this information in Apple’s iOS documentation which states: “If Location Services is on, your device will periodically send the geo-tagged locations of nearby Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers in an anonymous and encrypted form to Apple, to augment Apple’s crowd-sourced database of Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower locations.” Unfortunately, this location-tracking fiasco, known to some as Apple’s ‘Locationgate’, is largely drawing attention away from the iOS7 security features that should be the focus of consumers, businesses and banks.

The key features that we should instead be turning our attention to are iOS7’s ‘Activation Lock’, ‘iCloud Keychain’, ‘Game Center’, ‘Safari’s Private Browsing’ , ‘Per App Virtual Private Network (VPN)’, and ‘Default data protection.’ For those unfamiliar with these features, they were well explained in Vinod Yalburgi’s IBT article earlier this summer.

But which feature has most caught our eye?

Given our background in secure authentication, it has to be the iCloud Keychain feature, which can ‘remember your account names, passwords and credit card numbers for you.’ With this feature, your required details will be entered ‘automatically whenever you need to sign in to a site or shop online’, all with ‘256‑bit AES encryption’ to ensure a ‘highly secure’ login. Furthermore, iCloud Keychain works in conjunction with a ‘Password Generator’ which supplies you with (and remembers) a ‘hard-to-guess password’ every time you create an account.

So what must be aware of here?

First of all, we must consider how there is indeed a need for this type of feature in our latest operating systems. Some studies have shown over two thirds of us on the Internet re-use the same password across multiple sites and accounts, which can greatly increase your vulnerability to phishing attacks. However, the most crucial factor we must bear in mind here is whether this Keychain feature is infallible and whether it will be able to withstand the test of modern hackers who seek to bypass secure systems whenever possible.

Time will tell, and we’ll be watching closely.

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