AT&T has confirmed that the e-mail addresses of over 100,000 iPad 3G owners using its 3G network have been exposed. According to the carrier, it first learned of the issue on June 7 and resolved it on June 8.
Admittedly, AT&T’s security breach isn’t all that groundbreaking. If only e-mail addresses were stolen, it’s not the end of the world, since that wouldn’t be enough to use to steal more private information.
But that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the story. The iPad is just like any other computer, complete with the potential to access sensitive information. Realizing that, it’s incumbent upon iPad owners to engage in practices and use software that will make it easier for them to keep their private data secure.
Unfortunately, no product is safe from the crosshairs of malicious hackers. Try as consumers might to use products that will keep them secure, all it takes is one mistake or a network flaw beyond their control to wreak havoc on their personal lives. Let’s take a look at some things that iPad owners can do to keep their data private and secure.
1. Keep syncing
It might sound rather simplistic, but users should keep syncing their iPads with their computers as often as possible. The reason why is twofold. For one, the desktop computer acts as a removable storage device for the data on the tablet. Secondly, Windows machines or Mac OS X computers have better security controls than the iPad. If data is extremely important and consumers want to keep it away from prying eyes, having it in a more secure environment is always preferable.
2. MobileMe data service
The MobileMe service, which costs $99 per year, is arguably one of the best ways to ensure that an iPad’s contents will be secure in the event of theft. The MobileMe software, which syncs a user’s many Apple devices through the cloud, includes a “Find My iPad” option. When used, it automatically locates the device if misplaced or stolen. Once the iPad is found, the owner can lock it down so that whoever has it cannot access anything on it. In essence, the feature is a remote-disable tool. It’s a must-have for any iPad owner who’s worried about losing data.
3. Use security apps
The iPad runs iPhone OS. In other words, all the security tools that are available in Apple’s App Store that are designed for the iPhone will also work with Apple’s tablet. In some cases, the security tools aren’t all that useful, so exercising some vigilance before downloading certain applications is a good idea. But there are other apps that monitor network connections, keep passwords safe and much more. Although it’s easy to only browse iPad apps, some iPhone security apps will come in quite handy.
4. Work on trusted WiFi networks
Any iPad owner should be positive that the WiFi network he or she is on is trusted and safe. In far too many cases, WiFi connections on unprotected networks just aren’t as safe as they should be. And although it’s more difficult for folks to access information on an iPad than on, say, a Windows PC, sending sensitive information over that network can be dangerous, to say the least. Once again, the iPad is little more than a newly designed computer. Owners must always keep that in mind.
Keeping Data Secure Is Worth a Little Inconvenience
5. Stay off 3G wherever possible
Although AT&T’s 3G network has enjoyed relative security thus far, iPad owners should keep their tablets off the network as much as possible. When connecting over 3G, users are at the mercy of the network. They don’t necessarily know that it’s secure at all times, and they need to rely on the quality of AT&T’s service. But when surfing the Web on a WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access)-protected router in their homes, they have more control over security settings and what can be done to keep data secure. Little changes like that can go a long way in keeping iPad data safe and secure.
6. Remember Windows rules apply
iPads may not be running Windows, but some of the lessons learned in the PC ecosystem still apply in the iPad world. For instance, surfing to unknown, untrusted sites is never a good idea. Users should also refrain from opening attachments sent by people they don’t know. Unfortunately, these simple rules just aren’t followed by many iPad owners because they believe they’re safe. As AT&T’s network snafu has shown, there is no one who is absolutely safe from danger. Maintaining vigilance when using the iPad is the most important component of keeping it secure.
7. Physical security matters too
Physical security doesn’t always get the kind of play that network security does, but it’s arguably more important. If users really want to keep their sensitive information private, they need to be more careful with the iPad. They shouldn’t leave it on the table at a Starbucks when they pick up their drink at the counter. They also shouldn’t leave it lying around in plain view in the office for anyone to pick up. Those who want to steal sensitive information would rather have the device in hand than connect to it from other parts of the world.
8. Trust is a dangerous thing
Trust can wreak havoc on a person’s life when it comes to computer security. There’s little debating that there are few, if any, Websites that should be absolutely trusted. Not even e-mails from friends can be trusted, especially if they include unexpected attachments. In too many cases, Web users believe that simply because they have been to a site each and every day for the past three years, they will remain safe on that site. That’s a faulty belief. With some simple phishing scams or spoofing, all kinds of trouble can erupt. Don’t trust anything-even when using the iPad.
9. Passwords mean everything
Passwords are extremely important. With strong passwords, users can have a little more peace of mind if an iPad is stolen and is in the hands of a malicious hacker. Too often, folks use the same passwords for all their different online identities. The password someone uses to log in to Gmail is the same password he uses for online banking. The password he inputs to tweet with friends is the same as the code he uses when he needs to pay down his credit card balance. That’s not a good thing. As soon as attackers have one password, they will try it everywhere else. At the same time, the difficulty of breaking a password must always be kept in mind. iPad owners can’t use “1234” for a password. They should be using alphanumeric passwords that have capital letters and symbols. It might sound like a pain to type in such passwords every time, but owners will be happy they did so if the iPad is stolen.
10. Lock it down
The iPad comes with password protection. And anyone who wants to keep data safe should lock it down with a strong password. In the iPad’s settings menu, owners can opt to turn on the device’s passcode lock. Once this has been done, every time the screen is turned on, users will be required to input a password to access the iPad’s home page. Again, it’s a pain for those who don’t want to have to input a passcode each time. But when it comes to security and the safety of private data, it’s arguably one of the best things a user can do.