Yesterday’s keynote for the Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco was hotly anticipated, as Apple events always are. This time was no exception, and brought an announcement of the release of a new version of both iOS and OS X. Both new releases offer significant changes, particularly iOS 7, which received a major overhaul both visually and in terms of new features.
From a security perspective, there were a few features that particularly caught my eye, which I’m looking forward to seeing in the new OS versions.
- Activation Lock (iOS 7)
Theft of iDevices has been quite a significant problem for quite a while, and Apple had been urged to take action to combat this trend. What they delivered was Activation Lock: If a thief tries to turn off “Find My iPhone” or to wipe the device, the phone will be inoperable until the proper iCloud password has been entered.This also gives users another potent motivator to eschew jailbreaking their devices, as doing so will bypass that protection. This could also potentially put a real damper on iPhone resales, as this could effectively lock a device to a single user.
- Autoupdate (iOS 7)
Something that is most helpful for malware writers, regardless of OS, is outdated software. They can use it both for the opportunity to exploit vulnerabilities long past the point that they’ve been patched, and they can use fake update notices to fool people into running malicious software. By making updates happen silently, Apple is taking more ammunition out of malware-writers hands.
- “Do Not Track” in Safari (iOS 7)
This is one of two iOS-related features on this list that didn’t really get much description during yesterday’s announcement. From a security and privacy perspective, “Do Not Track” is pretty important even though it’s still very contentious and occasionally ignored by some websites.
- Per App VPN controls (iOS 7)
Using VPN is a great way to help maintain your privacy online. And having more granular controls can help make adopting VPN more feasible for a greater number of people. Whenever you can increase the proportion of your network traffic that’s encrypted, that’s going to be a boon to your level of security. This is the second feature that was only briefly mentioned in yesterday’s announcement, but this is the feature I’m most looking forward to playing with in the new OS.
- iCloud Keychain (iOS 7 and OS X 10.9)
It’s no secret that we’re big fans of password managers for improving password hygiene, especially when they allow you to simplify logins across devices. Apple apparently agrees, as they’ve taken a significant step into this arena with iCloud Keychain. It will help you generate secure passwords, which can then be synced between devices with the help of iCloud. But it’s not just about passwords – it can help you with a variety of sensitive information. It can remember website logins and WiFi network information, plus it can both remember and automatically fill in forms with your credit card information.This will obviously have some effect on the market for existing password manager apps, but it’s unlikely that it will “kill” the existing apps, as some are suggesting. Increasing awareness of the benefits and utility of password managers may simply introduce this technology to a broader market.
It will be interesting to see how all the new features will shake out, as people begin to download the beta versions of the new operating systems. Things don’t necessarily all work quite as planned, with any new piece of software, and features sometimes get dropped between beta and final release. But we find it heartening when major security features are included in software releases, since improving security for any of us helps improve security for all of us, if it makes malware more difficult or less profitable.