Published by Felix,

Secure iOS data

With the release of iOS 8, Tim Cook started to market Apple's software as one of the most secure operating systems available at the moment. The new iOS version comes with great security enhancement that made FBI Director, James Comey say that he is 'very concerned' about the privacy steps the Silicon Valley technology giants are taking lately. This comes as a response to Apple no longer unlocking iOS devices to Police and US governments.

In Apple's privacy page, Tim Cook made a strong point that they value privacy more than anything in the world, unlike other competitors (hint: Google) that are spying on your activity to sell ads and your information.

We live in the days when we all have to trust that companies like Apple are doing their best to protect our data. Our smartphones are the best tracking devices a hacker could ever dreamed of. They have a microphone and a camera that can be turned on at any time. Your iPhone stores your passwords or bank details and they even have a fingerprint reader.

Apple claims to have the most secure operating system in the world, but is this the truth? Frankly speaking, no. iOS 8 is far from being perfect in terms of security. Sure, it is a big improvement from last year's iOS 7, but it's not 100% secure.

After the iCloud celebrity leaks, there has been a lot of debate about iOS security flaws and how secure iOS devices actually are. In this article we will show you how to secure your iOS 8 device from hackers and from being spied. We will take you through the four most effective ways to secure your Apple data.

1. Pair-lock your iPhone or iPad

If you value security as much as you should, the very first thing to do to protect your data is to pair-lock your iDevice. You might be asking, what is pair-locking and what does it do.

Pairing is a trusted connection between your iPhone and a computer. For example, when you connect your iPhone with an USB cable, you are asked to grant full access and once accepted, pairing takes place and a trust key is kept for future connections. So basically a connection is being created between your iPhone and your computer so that applications like iTunes can communicate with your device. The bad news is that forensic applications can use the same connection key to remotely communicate with your iPhone.

Once paired your iPhone with a computer, that computer will have full access to all the personal information stored on your device. This means the computer you've given privilege to, will have access to all photos, notes, videos, messages and with the right knowledge, hackers can even break passwords from third party applications. Your iPhone can be accessed even when it's locked with a PIN code.

By pair-locking your iPhone you are basically blocking any forensic application that tries to communicate with your iDevice.

A private key is being created when paired your iPhone. This key is stored both on your iPhone and on the computer you have paired with.

You can find a pairing record of your device very easily, like this:

  • On Mac, open the Terminal application and paste the following: open /var/db/lockdown .
  • If you are using a Windows machine, go to ProgramData/Apple/lockdown.

Note: Pair-locking your iPhone requires a Mac. That's because you have to use the free Apple Configurator application from the App Store. Pair-locking will make your iPhone less convenient and you should only do it if you can live with the fact that your iPhone will not be able to easily connect to other devices. You can gain security but you lose accessibility.

Here are the steps you need to take to pair-lock your iPhone.

  1. Download the Apple Configurator from the App store on your Mac and open it.
  2. Click on 'Prepare'.
  3. Apple Configurator prepare button

  4. Choose any name you would like and toggle on 'Supervision'.
  5. Uncheck the box 'Allow devices to connect to other Macs'.
  6. Create a new profile by clicking on the plus sign at the bottom of the Apple Configurator.
  7. Create profile in Apple configurator

  8. You can use any name you would like for this profile and then click on 'Restrictions' and on 'Configure'.
  9. Restrict your iPhone

  10. Now look for 'Allow pairing with non-Configurator hosts' and uncheck the box to disable pairing and then click 'save'.
  11. Enable pair-locking for iPhone or iPad

  12. Select your newly created profile and click on 'Prepare'.
  13. sync pair locking profile

  14. Fill in the organization information. The name field is the only one required. You can input anything you would like on phone, email and address.
  15. Connect your iPhone or iPad and click 'done'.
  16. You will get a warning message asking if you are sure you want to apply these settings to all connected USB devices. Click Apply and your device will only be accessible from the computer you have paired with.
  17. Apple configurator apply settings message

    Jonathan Zdziarski's, iOS forensic and digital security expert, wrote a very detailed step by step guide about pair locking your iPhone with Apple's Configurator application, and if you plan to pair lock your iDevice, we encourage you to read it.

2. Enable Two-Step authentication on iCloud

Have you heard about the celebrity nude leaks? It was all over the news around the world and to Apple's embarrassment, at that time, iCloud was missing one of the most important security features, which is two-factor authentication.

Needless to say that all these leaks could have been prevented if two step authentication would have been available and used for these compromised accounts. Attackers were allowed to brute force passwords without any limit and without leaving any trace.

Since then, Apple has implemented two important security features. The first one is that you are sent an email each time somebody logs into your iCloud account and the second one is the two factor authentication.

Two factor authentication works like this. When you try to login to your iCloud account, you are sent an SMS with a unique token. To complete the login process, you are required to enter both your password and the PIN received on your phone.

This is how you can enable two factor authentication for iCloud

  1. Go to your Apple ID and click on 'Manage your Apple ID'. Sign in with your username and password and then click on 'Password and Security'.

    Enable two factor authentication on iCloud

    To continue you will be asked to enter your personal security questions. If you don't remember them, you can use your backup email to recover your security info.
  2. At the bottom of the page you should see a paragraph about two step verification. Click on 'Get started' to move to the next step.
  3. You will be given a few information about how two-step verification works. Read everything and click 'continue'. You will then be asked to provide your phone number. This number will be used to send you the authentication token as SMS to verify that everything is fine and you are the owner of the account.
  4. Right after entering your phone number, you will receive an SMS with a 4 digit code. Enter the code on Apple's website. We recommend you to enter another phone number as a backup, it could be any of your family members.
  5. On the next step Apple will generate a Recovery Key, just in case you will lose your phone number. If you will have problems accessing your iCloud account, you will need this key, so keep it somewhere safe.
  6. Next read the terms and conditions and click on 'Enable two-step Verification'.
  7. And this is all. Now each time you will try to login to iCloud.com you will be asked to enter the verification code sent by SMS. It will be almost impossible for a hacker to access your account.

3. Use a passcode lock and the fingerprint reader

If you have an iPhone 5s, 6 or 6 plus you should use both a passcode and also the fingerprint reader. To enable your passcode lock, go to your iPhone's settings > General > Passcode Lock and tap on turn on passcode. Make sure you are using a strong passcode but don't forget it. If anything goes wrong with your fingerprint reader, you will need your passcode to access your iPhone.

4. Enable 'Find My iPhone'

Another important thing to do to protect your iPhone is to enable the 'Find my iPhone' feature. If your iPhone gets lost or stolen, you will be able to locate it on a map and erase all the data remotely.

These are the four most important security things you can do to increase the level of security of your iPhone and iPad. What do you think about the iOS 8 security?

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