Apple’s iOS 13 software update launched with its new iPhone 11 and available as a free upgrade for iPhone 6s and later devices includes some tremendous and some would say long overdue privacy and security features that you need to start using immediately to protect your data and your privacy from fraud and misuse.
Wide Ranging Changes to All Aspects of the User Experience
This most recent update to the Apple mobile device update affecting its iPhone and iPad devices brings a broad array of changes that will be immediately noticeable to all users. Some of these changes are largely cosmetic like the introduction of a system-wide dark mode while others are significant improvement to long-standing apps like improved photo and video editing tools. Still others are subtle and may not be noticed by some users at all including the ability to download apps of any size over LTE networks or the mashup of the Find My iPhone and Find My Friends apps into a new Find My app.
However, MyProfyle is pleased to see some significant changes to privacy and data security in Apple. Apple has long prided itself on being at the forefront of privacy and security whether it was its strong anti-malware capabilities or its privacy policies, but in recent years, the abuses like Facebook Onavo Project and WhatsApp vulnerabilities both discussed in this Blog have revealed that Apple has not kept up with the latest security threats to its users. The latest iOS 13 updates are an attempt to rectify that.
Top Security and Privacy Features You Need to Use Now
- Sign-In with Apple is a new privacy feature that allows users to sign into third party apps and websites using their Apple ID to authenticate their login using their Apple device’s Touch ID or Face ID. The advantage here is these third-party developers will only see a randomly generated ID rather than your real info, effectively shielding your true credentials from those developers. Two-factor authentication is built-in since access requires both you and your device and Apple can even generate single-use randomized email addresses. This is a significant improvement given the increasingly large number of data breaches that involve encrypted password databases being compromised which has allowed hackers in many cases to use the password you provide to one website or app to be decrypted and used to access your accounts on other websites or apps if you use common credentials. Apple is requiring that all apps that offer Google, Facebook and Twitter sign-in options to also provide Sign in with Apple as an alternative.
- Block Sender is one of many new improvements to the Mail app which includes allowing busy email threads to be muted across all your devices. It is now easier than ever to move messages to junk or mark them as read or unread across all your devices. Main other new mail improvements exist but the ability to Block a sender and route all messages from that person to Trash is a welcome feature
- Silence Unknown Caller is a tremendous improvement that makes you wonder why we spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a useless Do-Not-Call list.
- Restricted Location Sharing is one of the most significant anti-spying features being rolled-out in iOS 13 and users will notice it immediately with pop-up messages telling them that a given app has been sharing their location, when, how often and where. MyProfyle has noted that several free apps such as weather and automotive apps use location-sharing to serve you advertisements based on your location and share other relevant information about you even when you are not using the app and have it turned off. This update allows you once and for all to disable or restrict this sharing so that the features you need still work like getting local gas prices or weather, but the spying is stopped or curtailed.
- Bluetooth and WiFi Tracking is restricted by new policies that prevent apps from accessing WiFi and Bluetooth without your consent to access networks and share your location. The first few times you see messages from Apple pop-up and ask you if you want to continue to allow these Apps to continue to use Bluetooth can frankly be shocking. You wonder what many of these Apps use Bluetooth for – they aren’t streaming media to your headphones – but now you will realize that they were always working in the background to share your location.
- Cancelling Subscriptions is not automatic when you delete an App so iOS13 provides you with warnings that allow you to manage or cancel your subscription before you delete an App. Smart!
- Personalization with Profile photos and Memoji Stickers may seem like more of a personalization feature than a privacy issue but Apple is giving its users increased control over how they are represented to the world with iOS 13. With Profile Photos and Memoji – cartoon self-portraits, similar to the popular Bitmoji on Snapchat – users can “push” the image of their choosing out to other iOS users when they send a text message or email, even strangers not in their Contacts list.
Possible Privacy Threats from New Features Exist Too
There are also some potential threats to privacy with the new iOS. In most cases what has happened is new benefits contain some new risks but users will have to evaluate whether activating these benefits poses a greater risk than the convenience of these new features. While all of these are convenient, they most a threat to privacy especially for users who share their iPad devices with family members or other users.
For example, the Health app includes new features for monitoring hearing health and tracking a woman’s menstrual cycle. Safari now displays frequency visited sites, bookmarks, iCloud taps, Reading Lists selections and links to Messages you have been sent. Personal Hotspot sharing with Family members is now automatic and multiple users with AirPods can connect to the same device and listen to the same audio stream. This is great for silently watching a movie together but may not be ideal for those wishing to avoid eavesdropping siblings!
On balance the updates Apple has made to iOS 13 are function and enjoyable. There are many improvements to photo and video editing and Apple Maps which are beyond the scope of this article but are reason enough on their own to update for many users. Of course, each new version of iOS or any operating system includes patches to known vulnerabilities and MyProfyle generally advices updating a few days after it is released – which allows for any major bugs to be revealed and repaired with subsequent patches. iOS 13 is a winner especially since it is a no-cost upgrade but it takes some time and tinkering to get the most out of it. It is worth that investment.