Apple Announces New Range of iPhones as iOS 11 Beefs Up Security of Your Data

Apple Announces New Range of iPhones as iOS 11 Beefs Up Your Data Security

Rob McAllister

Rob McAllister

September 14, 2017

It’s that time of year again. Apple’s long awaited announcement of a high-end version of its flagship device came yesterday, at a conference in the Steve Jobs Theatre in Cupertino, CA. Although iPhone users have their gaze set firmly on the slick new iPhone X, it’s the new iOS 11 operating system that has caught the attention of law enforcement and hackers alike.


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What’s New?

Although the way you use your iPhone day to day won’t change, an important new security feature has been added. It relates to when you set your phone to ‘trust’ a computer on which you want to back up your device.

Previously, when setting this feature, the phone had to be unlocked. This could be done with a fingerprint scan. You then had to allow the pairing via a ‘trust this computer’ prompt on your iPhone. From here you could access all backed up data from your computer.

As part of the new iOS 11 upgrade, however, users are required to undergo a two-step verification process. This requires both a fingerprint scan to unlock the phone, and a passcode at the prompt stage.


Why Is This a Problem?

When accessing your phone, all hackers or law enforcement need is either your fingerprint or your passcode. At first glance, it may seem that your fingerprint would be the most secure way to lock your phone. However, it is far easier for both cops and thieves to get around this than you may think.

The police can easily use legal means to make you to unlock your phone with a fingerprint, if they need to. Your prints can also be copied, or ‘spoofed,’ by thieves and hackers using just modelling clay or printer toner! Granted, it would take a skilled thief to do this without your cooperation, but it can, and has, been done.

Getting access to passcodes is, by comparison, much harder both legally and logistically. It’s estimated it would take computer programmes decades to crack a strong alpha-numeric passcode.

Before this iOS update, law enforcement had a way around needing a passcode to access your data. By setting up a computer as a trusted device for a passcode-locked iPhone, they could trigger an automatic backup of your data using only the fingerprints that they already have on file – assuming you’ve done something naughty.

Now, without both your passcode and fingerprint, your data remains encrypted until you decide to unlock it.

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iPhone X Drops Fingerprint Scanner

With the unveiling of the sleek new iPhone X yesterday came the news that the fingerprint scanner was to be replaced with facial recognition software.

The feature, however, failed to perform in the launch demonstration. This left software chief Craig Federighi red-faced, as he was forced to revert to using the passcode to unlock his device.

Pairing and backing up an iPhone X will still require two-step verification. However, the new facial recognition feature has come under scrutiny for its own potential security flaws. Not least, the ease with which thieves or law enforcement could unlock your phone by simply holding it to your face. There are also worries that the phone could be accidentally unlocked when lying on a flat surface nearby.

Protect Yourself When Using Your iPhone

Apple has done a great deal in the past to help protect the privacy of its customers. However, you should bear in mind that these features only stop people from accessing your device and stored data. If you want to protect all your data with strong encryption, you’ll need a Virtual Private Network (VPN). To get you started, check out the five best VPNs for iPhone & iOS devices.

Image credit: Al Medwedsky /