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Risk

6/24/2010
06:24 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
Commentary
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iPhone iOS 4 Security

Apple iPhone hit the streets today. I happened to be one of the lucky few who had his delivered by FedEx on Wednesday. So I had some time to kick around with it a bit, and took a look at its (lack) of new security features.

Apple iPhone hit the streets today. I happened to be one of the lucky few who had his delivered by FedEx on Wednesday. So I had some time to kick around with it a bit, and took a look at its (lack) of new security features.Fortunately, I managed to avoid the morning iPhone line madness that colleague Eric Zeman endured, bribes for a place in line and all. Luckily, I haven't suffered any problems with the glitch antenna that some report, either. And while the screen is bright and brilliant, FaceTime is nifty, and I like how this phone feels and fits in the hand more than the previous design - I'm still curious how to keep the data it holds secure.

And I'm not talking about the 65 security flaws Apple patched for the new iOS 4 operating system. Some of those were nasty, including the ability for attackers to grab control of infected devices. These types and numbers of security patches are just the state of application development today, and until development is treated more like an engineering discipline us users of gadgets and IT tools are just going to have to endure.

I'm more interested in how securely an iPhone (security flaws aside, all platforms have them) can slide into the enterprise or be used by someone who has data they need protected. With iOS 4, Apple takes a step in the right direction, but not quite enough.

The iPhone has always had the ability to secure the device by a screen passcode. But not the ability to natively secure specific files. Now, with iOS 4 users can encrypt data with a passcode to specifically protect e-mails and attachments stored on the phone. Apple boasts, in its marketing literature, that one can set "a long, complex passcode to make iPhone even more secure." If someone gets a hold of your phone, a single long passcode isn't going to get the job done if they really want at your data. In addition, with SSL VPN support, iPhone users can also access enterprise applications through an encrypted tunnel.

Good moves, no doubt. But many have commented on how easily iPhone encryption can be bypassed. I'd like to see Apple be more transparent about how the encryption is implemented. No doubt, we will get reports from security researchers in the weeks ahead. And I hope to see that the encryption scheme has improved.

I'd also like to see the ability to encrypt entire applications and other types of data on the phone. Encrypting e-mail and attachments is nice - but there's plenty of other applications that I may want to encrypt, too. And Apple currently provides no way to get that granular.

Apple has also made the API for its encryption available to developers. That's another great step. And I hope to see applications take advantage of the new security capabilities soon - but I don't want to have to rely on each application to provide its own type of security mechanisms. It's important Apple provide a number of these security enhancements as global capabilities.

The iPhone has been around for a few years now, it's way past time Apple step up its security game a bit more than it has so far.

for my security and technology observations throughout the day, find me on Twitter.

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