From its then-revolutionary touchscreen interface to the somewhat ill-fated Siri voice control, Apple’s iPhone has always set the standard for mobile devices since its first version hit the stores in 2007. But perhaps its most important feature, security, is often overlooked. No more. Here are the nine most notable security features in iPhone history.
- Passcode Entry: The passcode seems like no big deal now, but it was a game-changer when it came out – and made a lot of sense, since the iPhone is essentially a handheld computer that can store boatloads of sensitive personal data. Now users can swap the four-digit passcode for a longer alphanumeric one or drop it altogether.
- Selective Data Wipe: Because the iPhone quickly became a popular corporate device, the 2.1 iOS update included a selective data wipe option that erased user-specified sensitive data after the password was entered incorrectly ten times. Later updates gave the ability to completely wipe the phone remotely even if the password hadn’t been entered incorrectly even once.
- Sandbox: Early iPhone apps granted hackers control of all aspects of the device. That begat Apple Sandbox, a fine-grained series of restrictions that defines what apps can do and what permissions they have from the user. Ideally this means that even if one app is exploited by a hacker, the amount of access they can get to the rest of the phone is very limited.
- Exchange Encryption: The iPhone 3GS was targeted at the enterprise marketplace and was the first iPhone to encrypt messages sent through users Microsoft Exchange service. The rollout was a bit of a snafu and many security experts thought it was all a bit silly, since the encryption was easily circumvented by relatively simple hacking techniques that could jailbreak the phone and access the unencrypted data.
- Parental Controls: In a nod to parents, parental controls and restrictions were rolled out in iOS 2.0 and 3.0 that could block specified functions and apps on a child’s device, thereby allowing parents to create limits to their kids’ ability to surf the Web, download apps and watch or listen to explicit music and movies.
- Privacy Restrictions: The iOS Restrictions option in Settings allows users to control the permissions granted to each app. This gives users the ability to limit the amount of data they would otherwise automatically share with outside entities – smart for both privacy and security.
- SSL/VPN Access: Apple stepped up its enterprise game with iOS4 by bringing SSL and VPN connectivity to the iPhone. This let users download apps that could give them secure remote access to their company servers while adding an extra layer of data encryption.
- Find My iPhone: Viruses for mobile devices are on the rise, but nothing threatens data security on smartphones more than when users lose them. The ‘Find My iPhone’ app, which came out in 2010, lets users locate their devices on a map, set up access passwords remotely and, if the device can’t be recovered, to remotely wipe data.
- Unsecured Call Warning: Because hackers have gotten better at intercepting calls, iOS5 includes a feature that warns users when their calls are being made on unencrypted networks and the option to then end those calls immediately.