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iOS security risks: After the XcodeGhost exploit is Apple's iOS really safer than Android? Plus: What security apps do you need for iPad & iPhone

Karen Haslam | Sept. 24, 2015
In this article we look at some of the security threats that have hit Apple's iOS devices, including XcodeGhost, WireLurker, Masque Attack, the Olag Pliss ransom case and the SSL flaw.

At the time we even tried doing so in iTunes, but, as you can see, from this screen shot the iOS 6.1.6 update is not available for these devices.

If you don't want to update to iOS 7.0.6 but don't want to leave your device open to snooping, how can you avoid the SSL bug without updating to iOS 7?

1. Don't connect to public Wi-Fi networks.

2. On the Mac it is possible to avoid it by using an alternative browses like Chrome and Firefox, but unfortunately on an iPad or iPhone alternative browsers still use the same underlying web kit and therefore are not safe.

Does this mean that Apple's iOS isn't secure?

It's certainly not going to help the company convince people that they don't need to be protecting their devices. Many users coming from a desktop environment are already confused about security services for the iPad and iPhone, asking whether they need to install security software on their iPad or iPhone.

Generally these devices are safe because many security features are enabled by default and key features, like device encryption, are not configurable, so users cannot disable them by mistake. Other security measures include low-level hardware and firmware features that protect against malware and viruses.

Apple also approves every third-party application that appears on the iPhone and iPad. As Apple explains: "Unlike other mobile platforms, iOS does not allow users to install potentially malicious unsigned apps from websites, or run untrusted code. At runtime, code signature checks of all executable memory pages are made as they are loaded to ensure that an app has not been modified since it was installed or last updated."

Another level of protection comes from the device passcode - which means that an attacker with access to your device cannot get access to your data.

What anti-virus program do I need for an iPad or iPhone?

Despite the security threats mentioned above, you don't need anti-virus software for the iPad and iPhone - not that there is any anti-virus software available for the device. iOS is designed and built to only accept and install software that has been approved by Apple and run through the App Store. As such Apple has pretty much guaranteed that you won't encounter any malicious software on your iOS device. Similarly security companies complain that Apple will not approve any security focused software for the iPad or iPhone, presumably Apple doesn't want to give the impression that such software is necessary.

Having said that there are a variety of security-themed apps on the App Store. Security specialist Symantec has a number of apps such as Symantec Mobile Encryption and Symantec Secure Email. These are typically designed to integrate the iPad with an enterprise environment, allowing iOS devices to communicate securely with enterprise servers.

 

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