Tim Cook about privacy

26 03 2015

An open letter from Tim Cook, CEO at Apple Inc. since August 24, 2011, regarding Apple products, services and beliefs …

At Apple, your trust means everything to us. That’s why we respect your privacy and protect it with strong encryption, plus strict policies that govern how all data is handled.

Security and privacy are fundamental to the design of all our hardware, software, and services, including iCloud and new services like Apple Pay.

And we continue to make improvements. Two-step verification, which we encourage all our customers to use, in addition to protecting your Apple ID account information, now also protects all of the data you store and keep up to date with iCloud.
We believe in telling you up front exactly what’s going to happen to your personal information and asking for your permission before you share it with us. And if you change your mind later, we make it easy to stop sharing with us. Every Apple product is designed around those principles. When we do ask to use your data, it’s to provide you with a better user experience.

We’re publishing this website to explain how we handle your personal information, what we do and don’t collect, and why. We’re going to make sure you get updates here about privacy at Apple at least once a year and whenever there are significant changes to our policies.

A few years ago, users of Internet services began to realize that when an online service is free, you’re not the customer. You’re the product.

But at Apple, we believe a great customer experience shouldn’t come at the expense of your privacy. Our business model is very straightforward: We sell great products.

We don’t build a profile based on your email content or web browsing habits to sell to advertisers. We don’t “monetize” the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud. And we don’t read your email or your messages to get information to market to you.

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Our software and services are designed to make our devices better. Plain and simple.

One very small part of our business does serve advertisers, and that’s iAd. We built an advertising network because some app developers depend on that business model, and we want to support them as well as a free iTunes Radio service. iAd sticks to the same privacy policy that applies to every other Apple product. It doesn’t get data from Health and HomeKit, Maps, Siri, iMessage, your call history, or any iCloud service like Contacts or Mail, and you can always just opt out altogether.

Finally, I want to be absolutely clear that we have never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will.

Our commitment to protecting your privacy comes from a deep respect for our customers. We know that your trust doesn’t come easy. That’s why we have and always will work as hard as we can to earn and keep it.

Tim
September 2014

Thanks for a remarkable statement.

Summary …

I cannot validate any of Tim’s statements. It needs technicians to look at the details. But what I know is that there is no evidence to not trust in Tim’s announcement.

Related links …

Tim Cook, the job after Jobs

2-Step Verification

Apple and the NSA

Thanks for dropping by.





Activation Lock Status

10 02 2015

In November 2014 Apple added a new tool to further increase the security of iOS devices. It’s called ACTIVATION LOCK STATUS.

Activation Lock is turned on by default since the launch of iOS 7 and with iOS 8 it comes together with a new feature called Send Last Location (Settings – iCloud – Find My iPhone – Send Last Location) which transmits the last known location of an iOS device before the internet connection is cut off or the battery is empty.

Apple’s Craig Federighi (CEO Software Development) …

We think this is going to be a really powerful theft deterrent.

Apple on it’s website …

Losing your iPhone feels lousy. Thankfully, Find My iPhone can help you get it back. But if it looks like that’s not going to happen, new security features in iOS 7 make it harder for anyone who’s not you to use or sell your device. Now turning off Find My iPhone or erasing your device requires your Apple ID and password. Find My iPhone can also continue to display a custom message, even after your device is erased. And your Apple ID and password are required before anyone can reactivate it. Which means your iPhone is still your iPhone. No matter where it is.

Many users, once they find out that their iOS device has been stolen, completely erase it from iCloud or another iOS device with Find My iPhone installed. Erasing of a device is followed by Activation. This feature forces users to enter the Apple ID and password associated with that device to regain access.

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The new web-based tool allows you to check whether a device is currently locked for activation or not. To use the tool, users are asked to enter an iOS device’s IMEI or Serial Number, which is then cross-checked with Apple’s internal database to ensure that Activation Lock is not currently turned on for that device.

Summary …

Activation Lock Status is a further sophisticated step to secure your Apple device.

Related links …

Security made by Apple

2-Step Verification

Security made by Apple

Activation Lock Status

Apple about Activation Lock

Thanks for surfing by.





About Privacy

18 01 2015

If you are an Apple fan and can’t take a joke just skip this post and accept my sincere apology.

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In reality you can be sure that Apple takes care of your privacy.

About  Pay …

If you are not familiar with Apple’s payment system, here is what the company publishes on

This is what Apple publishes on its website …

Your wallet.
Without the wallet.
Paying in stores or within apps has never been easier. Gone are the days of searching for your wallet. The wasted moments finding the right card. Now payments happen with a single touch.

Apple Pay will change how you pay with breakthrough contactless payment technology and unique security features built right into the devices you have with you every day. So you can use your iPhone, Apple Watch, or iPad to pay in a simple, secure, and private way.

Related links …

Security Made by Apple

Tim Cook about Privacy

Apple Pay with iPhone 6

Thanks for being sympathetic.





iOS 8 Security

5 01 2015

When government comes knocking …

Here is what The Washington Post published on September 18, 2014, shortly after Apple’s Keynote on September 9, the day Tim Cook introduced the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus and the updated operating system iOS 8 for mobile devices.

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Apple said Wednesday night that it is making it impossible for the company to turn over data from most iPhones or iPads to police — even when they have a search warrant — taking a hard new line as tech companies attempt to blunt allegations that they have too readily participated in government efforts to collect user information.

The key is the encryption that Apple mobile devices automatically put in place when a user selects a passcode, making it difficult for anyone who lacks that passcode to access the information within, including photos, e-mails and recordings. Apple once maintained the ability to unlock some content on devices for legally binding police requests but will no longer do so for iOS 8, it said in the new privacy policy.

Please read the full article here …

About iOS 8 Security

Beside 2-Step Verification also available for iCloud in many countries this is a further step to more security for Apple’s customers. It should be mentioned that the so-called fragmentation is kept low for Apple’s devices.

See this concept map which shows the iOS versions in relation to all iPhone models on which they can be installed. The map includes what’s published about iOS 8 on Apple’s website after the WWDC event on June 2, 2014 in San Francisco.

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Just look at the iOS version and count the number of outgoing arrows.

It starts with compatibility to 2 models. Since iOS 6 the installation on the actual model and 3 predecessors is supported. With iOS 7 and 8 Apple’s mobile OS is ready to install on 5 models.

It needs enormous efforts to bring hardware and software engineers together to look into the future and design hardware components usable also for future versions of an OS.

Competitors show us that the alternative way is to build devices regardless what happens with newer versions of the OS.

According to a scary graphic for Android users published by Business Insider in Aug 2014 there are 18,796 unique devices running the Android OS. That fragmentation is tough on developers. It’s too difficult to make sure that an app runs well on each device. It’s one of the reasons why Android has severe disadvantages for customers using their device over years. The issue gets thornier if you look at the OS versions Android devices are running today. Many of them are still running Gingerbread (2.3), a version launched 4 years ago!
In contrast to Android about 91% of iOS devices are running the latest version (7.x) and it’s most likely that a significant percentage of devices will be updated to iOS 8 on the first day of its launch.

It’s a vicious circle to always buy a new (subsidized) device to get the latest OS version. Fragmentation is what developers and customers don’t like because it hampers a unique user experience and needs additional efforts. This might be one of the reasons why iOS is still the preferred platform for developing powerful apps.

Apple wants a perfect user experience for most of it’s loyal customers and developers are supported by the iOS feature ‘Size Classes’ with which Apple said Goodbye to an increasing complexity of code needed to support sizes like 3.5″ (iPhone 4), 4.0″ (iPhone 5), 4.7″ and 5.5″ (iPhone 6), 7.9″ (iPad Mini), and 9.7″ (iPad). Google with its Android OS is still faced with a lot of different form factors and it seems to be an impossible task for developers to ensure a perfect user interface and user experience on all devices.

Summary …

Security isn’t what Apple is just talking about like many other companies.
Today security is strongly related to updated applications and operating systems.

Apple reported that nearly half of the users installed the latest version of the mobile operating system less than a week after its introduction on Sept 17, 2014. The company said 46 percent are using iOS 8 as of Monday, with slightly more (49 percent) using the previous generation of software.

This is an adoption process happening nearly with the speed of light if you compare it with the competitors.

Related links …

Security made by Apple

2-Step Verification

Android Fragmentation

Interested in creating mind maps and concept maps?
See an app review of the app Inspiration here

Inspiration

Thanks for flying with iNotes4You.





About Encryption

29 12 2014

Would you like to be able to use QR-Codes in order to let people quickly get some sensitive information, but also want to be able to restrict the number of people with access to the data? And what about iWork documents containing personal data? Is there a way to securely manage them?

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If you use an app like Qrafter by Kerem Erkan you may have the idea to use password-protected QR-Codes for sending sensitive data e.g. via mail or a messaging app like iMessage.

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The idea seems to be fascinating but let’s face the facts with an answer of the developer Kerem I got via E-Mail:

The encryption is 48-bit, meaning it is weak for any sensitive information. More secure encryption methods take too much data and QR Codes do not have such capacity. You should not use QR Code encryption for anything sensitive.

For the sake of security, it’s hard to beat the old-school, in-person hand off. It’s not the most sexy of options in the digital age, but surely there’s something titillating about a top-secret document hand off. Bring your briefcase and make it like a spy movie. Or don’t.

Don’t send your sensitive documents over email. It may seem private, but even if you’re using an email account that uploads attachments over a more secure HTTPS connection, like GMail, you have no control over your recipient’s server, and they may download your attachment from an unencrypted HTTP connection. Now say they did that from a public Wi-Fi network. Things just got very un-secure.

Some basics …

If you want your data to be NSA-resistant all files must be encrypted on your device before being transferred to the cloud. Your password should never be stored on your device or, if it’s stored there should never leave it. So no unauthorized user, not even employees of your provider, could ever access your data. Client-side encryption is the keyword.

Since encryption occurs before files leave your device it effectively wraps a protective wall around your data in the cloud. Employees then have very limited access to your data. They can only see how many files you have stored and how much storage space they occupy. The files themselves, as well as all metadata (folder names, file names, comments, preview images, etc.), are encrypted. The following chart illustrates three typical encryption schemes. The scheme in the middle is what is used by most cloud storage providers.

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What matters most when encrypting data is not the particular encryption algorithm (e.g. AES), but how it is used. Basically, there are three encryption schemes:

  • 1 None
    No encryption is used. Your data is sent to the storage in plain view, visible to anyone who has access to your network connection as well as to the storage provider. This is a little bit like sending someone a postcard: everyone involved in handling the postcard can read it.
  • 2 Encrypted connection (e.g. SSL)
    In this scheme, a secure channel is established between your computer and the storage provider before data is uploaded. That way, no one can eavesdrop on the transfer. However, the provider sees all your data. Often storage providers implement additional measures like creating corporate policies that disallow their employees to view your data. Another additional measure is using encrypted disks to store your data, so someone breaking into the data center and stealing the hard drives won’t be able to read it. However, it is still visible to the provider and its employees. This approach has the advantage that the provider can process your data for you, such as for creating a search index. Also, it is technically easy to make the data available in the web browser or through an API. The problem with this approach is that your privacy is limited. The storage provider can, for example, be forced to provide your data to a government agency. What’s more, employees will be able to read your data even if prohibited by company policies. It is also much more likely that bugs or other errors could result in data leaks. This is the most widespread approach implemented by cloud storage providers.
  • 3 Client-side encryption
    This approach is inherently more secure than the others. Apart from Box and Wuala, there are only a few other cloud storage providers following this scheme, mostly backup services. All data is encrypted locally on your device before it is uploaded. No one not explicitly authorized by you can see your data. Since not even the storage provider can see your data, they cannot be forced to hand it over to government agencies. The employees are also not able to read your data. As a side effect, it is impossible to recover your password in case you forget it. You can test your cloud storage provider’s security by checking whether they offer password recovery or password reset. If yes, then it does not employ client-side encryption. With client-side encryption, security is embedded deeply in the design of the storage.

    One of the main challenges with client-side encryption is key management. If you only want to back up, a single master key is enough. However, if you want to be able to share data selectively, your cloud storage must feature a sophisticated key management scheme.

With this in mind here is a more secure method to store sensitive data permanently or to exchange information with others.

Use a secure cloud storage, e.g. WUALA or BOX or an encryption software like BOXCRYPTOR and send the information as an encrypted file, a simple text message, a PDF file, or an iWork document.

Say you and your tech-savvy recipient set up a shared folder. Anything you put in that folder would travel encrypted from your folder to the provider’s servers to your recipient’s folder. That’s it.

Boxcryptor …

You use a cloud storage with standard, that means no, additional sevcurity?
Don’t worry. There is a solution for all well-known clouds including all other clouds which support the WebDAV protocol. It’s an application developed by the German company Secomba GmbH.

This video explains how Boxcryptor works.


(2:36 min)

Boxcryptor creates a virtual drive on your device that allows you to encrypt your files locally before uploading them to your cloud or clouds of choice. It encrypts individual files – and does not create containers.

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Any file dropped into an encrypted folder within the Boxcryptor drive will get automatically encrypted before it is synced to the cloud. To protect your files, Boxcryptor uses the AES-256 and RSA encryption algorithms.

Boxcryptor is free for one device and one cloud provider. You cannot use two iOS devices to manage encrypted files as long as both devices are linked to Boxcryptor. If you want to share encrypted files with others you can do that without a subscription.

A workaround …

You cannot turn off iCloud for individual iWork documents. So, creating a new document with sensitive data is a risk because the content automatically finds its way into iCloud.
Even if you turn off iCloud for documents but still use iCloud for backing up your device, your documents will be stored in iCloud and Apple has the key to decrypt them.

Here is a workaround which lets you manage encrypted iWork documents using Boxcryptor.

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This is definitely not a comfortable way but the only option to keep sensitive information away from unauthorized people. Even if government comes knocking there is no chance to decrypt your data regardless of the provider keeping your files. I would understand if you say “I hear the message well but lack faith’s constant trust.”.

Summary …

Sad to say that effective encryption is still not a standard feature of using cloud storages. Even Apple doesn’t use client-side encryption and so you should be careful when creating documents with sensitive data. Even if you deactivate syncing via iCloud your documents will find their way into the cloud when your iPad or iPhone initiates the next backup to iCloud.

Related links …

About QR-Codes

Mystic signs of progress

About encryption

Notes on encryption

About clouds

The cloudy iCloud

Risky free clouds

iOS cloud clients

Box for iOS

Thanks for flying with iNotes4You.





Saying Goodbye

30 10 2014

If it’s time to say Goodbye to one of your Apple devices because you are impressed by an innovative new model and cannot wait to order, here is what you should know and what you should do with your old device if you plan to sell it.

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In my example I talk about an iPhone 5 running on iOS 7 and temporarily used by my wife. This version of Apple’s mobile operating system turns ‘Find my iPhone’ and ‘Activation Lock’ automatically on. Additionally the Apple ID is secured with 2-Step-Verification.

Activation Lock
Loosing a device with sensitive data may compromise your identity in the digital world followed by severe problems with law. At WWDC 2013, Apple unveiled Activation Lock, a new feature in iOS 7 that locks stolen phones even after thieves wipe them.
Apple’s Craig Federighi
“We think this is going to be a really powerful theft deterrent.”
The company on its website
“Losing your iPhone feels lousy. Thankfully, Find My iPhone can help you get it back. But if it looks like that’s not going to happen, new security features in iOS 7 make it harder for anyone who’s not you to use or sell your device. Now turning off Find My iPhone or erasing your device requires your Apple ID and password. Find My iPhone can also continue to display a custom message, even after your device is erased. And your Apple ID and password are required before anyone can reactivate it. Which means your iPhone is still your iPhone. No matter where it is.”

If activated, 2-Step-Verification needs a SMS capable device. Every time you want to have access to your Apple account you need a verification code Apple will send to one of your trusted device. So, selling a device should always be followed by removing the device from the list of trusted devices. But don’t worry, if you didn’t go the recommended way you can manually remove a device from this list.

Your Apple account …

Apple’s mobile devices are connected with the Apple ID you used during setup. If you go to your support profile you will see all devices connected to this ID.

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Sold devices or devices you do not own any longer (giveaway or theft) must be removed from your account to avoid abuse.

Backup your device …

If you want to purchase a new iPhone or iPad backup your old device to iCloud (and/or iTunes) to use this backup for configuring to predecessor. Keep in mind that account and other personal data are only included in an iOS backup if you use an Unlock Key on your device. If you later run through the setup process of your new device you can restore the backup from iCloud and there is nothing more to do.

You can use an iOS backup of an iPhone to configure an iPad and vice versa.

The only thing you have to do is to install apps that are designed for just one of the two devices.

Two cases …

Distinguish between these two cases:

If you still have access to your iOS device …

Follow these steps to protect your data and get your device to its factory default state for the new owner:

Go to Settings – General – Reset, then tap
Erase All Content and Settings.
This will completely erase your device and turn off iCloud, iMessage, FaceTime, Game Center, and other services.
If you’re using iOS 7 and have Find My iPhone turned on, your Apple ID and password will be required. After you provide your password, the device will be erased and removed from your account so that the next owner can activate it. If you don’t remove you device from your account, Activation Lock will prevent other users to activate the device.

When the device is turned on for the first time by the new owner, Setup Assistant will guide them through the setup process.

Important …

Do not manually delete contacts, calendars, reminders, documents, photo streams, or any other iCloud data while signed in to your iCloud account.

The content would also be deleted from the iCloud servers and all of your other iCloud devices.

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Apple will send you an E-Mail which confirms that you erased your device and that it’s removed from your device list and the list of trusted devices defined for an account with 2-Step-Verification. You now can say Goodbye and sell it or shed love and give it to your wife or your child.

If you no longer have access to your iOS device …

If you didn’t follow the steps above before selling or giving away your iOS device:

Ask the new owner to erase all content and settings as described above.
If you’re using iCloud and Find My iPhone on the device, you can erase the device remotely and remove it from your account by signing in to icloud.com/find, selecting the device, and clicking Erase.

Erasing a device remotely is only possible if it’s still connected to the internet (via cellular network or WiFi and turned on). If this is not the case then the device will be erased when it connects to the internet again.

When the device has been erased, click Remove from Account.

If you’re unable to complete either of the above steps, you should change your Apple ID password. Changing your password won’t remove any personal information that is cached on the device, but it will make sure that the new owner can’t delete your information from iCloud.

I removed the SIM card from the iPhone to simulate a SIM, deactivated by the carrier and turned the phone off. On my iPhone 4S I opened ‘Find my iPhone’, signed in with the Apple ID used on the iPhone 5 and started the process of erasing the device.

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Because the iPhone 5 was turned off, it couldn’t receive anything and so ‘Erase’ couldn’t be executed. After turning the device on it connected to the internet via my WLAN which basically simulates the insert of a new SIM card with which the device can connect to the internet via cellular connection.

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It’s over now.

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A new liaison is waiting. What should be said is that the whole procedure is incapable for being used in human relations.

Troubleshooting …

After erasing the iPhone and removing it from the account via the app ‘Find my iPhone’ something went wrong. The device couldn’t be activated any longer. The iOS setup procedure stopped with the message ‘… activation server temporarily unavailable …’. Several further attempts to activate the device weren’t successful.

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It turned out that there is just one way to fix the problem, doing a RECOVERY. It needs a computer with an installation of the latest version of iTunes. There is no need to do more than just a recovery. Follow these steps to make your device ready for a new activation:

  • Turn off your device.
    If you can’t turn it off, press and hold the Sleep/Wake and Home buttons at the same time and wait a few seconds for it to turn off.
  • Plug the device’s USB cable into your computer only.
  • Hold down the device’s Home button as you connect the USB cable to it.
  • When you see the ‘Connect to iTunes’ screen, release the Home button.
  • Follow the instructions in iTunes after clicking on ‘Recover’.

Summary …

This concept map (created with the app INSPIRATION for the iPad) summarizes the steps to sell an iOS device.

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If you have to say Goodbye, do not cry. I’m quite sure that each iteration of an iOS device and the operating system will let you forget your former darling in a jiffy.

Related links …

iOS Device Backup

Recovery

The Apple ID

2-Step-Verification

Inspiration

Thanks for surfing by.





2-Step Verification

7 05 2014

Strong efforts have to be undertaken to secure data in the digital world. Even your identity can be countermined if you think about a hacked social media account where a bad guy publishes using your name.

Sometimes hackers behave like terrorists and try to destroy everything they are able to. A victim could suffer humiliation, identity theft, and lifetime suspension from services and social networks.

See this article to understand what I mean

How Apple and Amazon Security Flaws Led to My Epic Hacking

There are many different approaches to secure accounts …

  • 1 Using strong passwords
    that means passwords consisting of characters, special characters, and numbers.
    Apps like 1Password by AgileBits Inc., USA, are able to randomly generate complex passwords up to a length of 30 characters. Good idea but from then on you are bound to access accounts via the integrated browser of this app if you don’t want to write the password down on a sheet of paper. If you temporarily do not have access to your device there is no chance to access your account.
  • 2 2-Step Verification
    Your personal device is needed to receive a code with which you then identify yourself.
  • 3 Additional hardware
    to generate a code which has to be entered on a website. A transaction authentication number (TAN) is used by some online banking services as a form of single use one-time passwords to authorize financial transactions. TANs are a second layer of security and are used in different kinds

    • Classical TAN
      numbers generated by a bank and printed on a sheet of paper
    • Indexed TAN
      called iTAN where the user is not asked to use an arbitrary TAN from the list but to enter a specific TAN as identified by a sequence number (index). As the index is randomly chosen by the bank, an arbitrary TAN acquired by an attacker is usually worthless.
    • iTAN with CAPTCHA
      Prior to entering the iTAN, the user is presented a CAPTCHA, which in the background also shows the transaction data and data deemed unknown to a potential attacker, such as the user’s birthdate. This is intended to make it hard (but not impossible) for an attacker to forge the CAPTCHA.
      This variant of the iTAN is method used by some German banks adds a CAPTCHA to reduce the risk of man-in-the-middle attacks. Some Chinese banks have also deployed a TAN method similar to iTANplus. A recent study shows that these CAPTCHA-based TAN schemes are not secure against more advanced automated attacks.
    • Mobile TAN
      mTANs are used by banks in many countries. When the user initiates a transaction, a TAN is generated by the bank and sent to the user’s mobile phone by SMS. The SMS may also include transaction data, allowing the user to verify that the transaction has not been modified in transmission to the bank.
    • Simple TAN generators
      The risk of compromising the whole TAN list can be reduced by using security tokens that generate TANs on-the-fly, based on a secret known by the bank and stored in the token or a smart card inserted into the token.
    • ChipTAN
      is a TAN scheme used by many German banks. It uses a TAN generator which only works if the bank card for the account is inserted into it. The TAN generated is specific to the current transaction. There are two variants: In the older variant, the transaction details (at least amount and account number) must be entered manually. In the modern variant, the user enters the transaction online, then the TAN generator reads the transaction details via a flickering field on the computer screen (using a photodetector). It then shows the transaction details to the user for confirmation before generating a TAN.
  • Smart Card
    An example for a smart card you all know is the SIM card (subscriber identity module).

or this suggestion, using a complex password and a simple trick to not forget it

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If you are lucky and have just one bank account you just need one additional device to identify yourself or to verify a transaction. All these more sophisticated methods are not used by companies engaged in eCommerce. Instead, some companies still allow to buy with an eMail address and the password 1234.

Apple and passwords …

Ronald Carlson published interesting stats on tapscape.com (Jan 25, 2014) about how companies handle security:

Dashlane, a company that sells a password manager of the same name, has assessed the world’s top 100 websites for password security and published the results (pdf) for all to see. Unsurprisingly, Apple comes out on top with a perfect password security score of 100, while a long list of “trusted” companies, like Amazon, do less well:

The roundup assesses the password policies of the top 100 e-commerce sites in the US by examining 24 different password criteria that Dashlane has identified as important to online security, and awarding or docking points depending upon whether a site meets a criterion or not. Each criterion is given a +/- point value, leading to a possible total score between -100 and 100 for each site — Dashlane.

  • 55 % still accept notoriously weak passwords, such as “123456” or “password”
  • 51 % of websites, including Amazon, Dell and Best Buy, make no attempt to block entry after 10 incorrect password entries
  • 64 % have highly questionable password practices
  • 61 % do not provide any advice on how to create a strong password during signup and 93 percent do not provide an on-screen password strength assessment
  • 10 % scored above the threshold for good password policies (i.e. 45 points or more in the roundup)
  • 8 sites, including Toys “R” Us, J.Crew and 1-800-Flowers.com, send passwords in plain text via email

The research study puts Apple on #1 with a score of 100, Microsoft on #3 with 65, Nike on #10 with 45, Toys R Us got a score of -60, and MLB -75 which means that this e-commerce offer was the leader of the bottom 10.

Thanks to Ronald Carlson for sharing Web Password Security, Apple Protects Users Best, Amazon Less So on Google+.

Securing web-based services …

It’s indispensable to secure access to web-based services to increase reliance. This must be an integral part when building up customer relationships.

My article describes two ways to securely access accounts offered by Apple and Google. While Apple’s solution is limited to account access and purchases within Apple’s ecosystem Google’s solution supports 2-Step Verification for a whole range of services even from other vendors like Dropbox, Facebook, or WordPress.

Today companies make it easy to register for services.

Usually you need an E-Mail address (as a username) and a password. Instead of separating username, password, and email address for communication purposes nearly all companies reduce these three properties to just two which makes it easier to use their services but it goes along with less security.

To increase security the so-called 2-Step Verification was developed.
The basic idea is that apart from a password a second input is required to successfully access an account. Additionally access is limited to so-called trusted devices, devices you personally own and have access to.

2-Step Verification means “something you know” (like a password) and “something you have” (like a smartphone). Once you activated 2-Step Verification you have to use both, your password and an authorized device to sign in. To increase usability Apple as well as Google let you authorize a device to not asking for an authentication code again.

With 2-Step Verification security is drastically increased but not perfect at all. The only way to further increase the level is to use biometric identifiers (like a fingerprint) which are actually not supported for mobile devices. A standardized solution implemented in all operating systems would be a great step forward.

Many authentication processes could be made much more easier if “something you are” (fingerprint, iris) would replace “something you know” and it would increase security drastically if all these three methods are combined to identify yourself.

Biometric identifiers are the distinctive, measurable characteristics used to label and describe individuals. Biometric identifiers are often categorized as physiological versus behavioral characteristics. A physiological biometric would identify by iris scan, DNA or fingerprint. Behavioral biometrics are related to the behavior of a person, including but not limited to: typing rhythm, gait, and voice. Some researchers have coined the term behaviometrics to describe the latter class of biometrics.
More traditional means of access control include token-based identification systems, such as a driver’s license or passport, and knowledge-based identification systems, such as a password or personal identification number. Since biometric identifiers are unique to individuals, they are more reliable in verifying identity than token and knowledge-based methods; however, the collection of biometric identifiers raises privacy concerns about the ultimate use of this information.
(Wikipedia)

Apple did a first step with a fingerprint scanner implemented in it’s flagship iPhone 5S, released in October 2013.

Apple’s solution …

For a comprehensive description of the 2-Step Verification process visit:

Frequently asked questions about 2-Step Verification for Apple ID

or see this concept map which contains all information in a visualized layout.

20140507-082044.jpg

On your iOS device 2-Step Verification will look like this:

20140130-205257.jpg

Unsurprisingly Apple did not follow the open standard Google, Microsoft, and many others use. So this optional security feature is just made for Apple services and devices that means for Apple’s ecosystem. It requires you to verify your identity using one of your devices before you can:

  • Sign in to My Apple ID to manage your account
  • Make an iTunes, App Store, or iBookstore purchase from a new device
  • Get Apple ID-related support from Apple

The complete process …

I published a How To for the complete activation process on Snapguide com.

http://snapguide.com/guides/activate-and-use-apples-2-step-verification/

Note
You can view this public guide via Safari but I suggest to download the app Snapguide from Apple’s App Store (universal, free). The iPad version enjoys all the advantages of a perfect user experience.

Google’s solution …

Sorry. But as usual Google spreads information about the internet and it’s hard to find out a simple description which contains all the information a normal user needs to understand this additional layer of security. So here is a description I found on MacWorld for configuring 2-Step Authentication:

2-Step Verification by Google

My opinion: This is not the way to let users accept the efforts made by the company. It seems to be quite difficult to explain this approach to more security to a broad number of unexperienced users.

The flaws …

Apple …

  • 2-Step Verification is still not available in all countries.

Google …

  • After you turn on 2-Step Verification, non-browser applications and devices that use your Google account (such as the Gmail app on your phone), will be unable to connect to your account. Google solves this by generating application-specific passwords to allow these applications to connect to your account. Although this must be done only once for each device and application it’s an additional hassle to manage these settings.

Common flaws …

  • What will users do to keep usability on an acceptable level.
    They first declare their device as a trusted device. That means this device has direct access to all services because the apps generating security codes are fully accessible. Furthermore Google’s authentication provokes to grant access to all the installed applications by using application-specific passwords and setting the option “Remember Password”.
  • Security is still bound to the unlock code of your device.
    The progress coming up with 2-Step Verification is limited because it doesn’t secure your device but only reduces the chance to successfully hack an account.

Some FAQs …

01 What to do if the phone doesn’t have a carrier signal but is on WiFi?

Google
You can install a standalone app called Google Authenticator (it’s also available in the App Store), so your cell phone doesn’t need a signal.
Apple
You can use the app Find My iPhone to get a verification code.

02 What to do if the phone runs out of power, is broken, or is stolen?

Google
You can print out 10 one-time backup codes and put them in your wallet. Use those one-time codes to log in even without your phone.
Go to your 2-step verification settings page. Under the “Advanced” section, you’ll have the choice to remove a device. The device will automatically sign out of your account, and you’ll be prompted for a verification code next time you try to sign in from them.

Apple
While activating 2-Step Verification you will get a so-called Recovery Key which has to be printed out. This code can be used in the event that none of your trusted devices are available. You have to sign in to My Apple ID and remove the stolen or sold device from the trusted devices. Access from this device to your Apple ID (Settings – iTunes+App Stores – Apple ID) or purchases from Apple’s stores are no longer possible.

03 What to do if an authentication within an app like Apple Mail fails?

Google
For apps you can create so-called ‘application-specific passwords’ (ASPs) that your app can use instead of your regular password. You can revoke ASPs at any time.
Apple
Not applicable

The worst case …

If you lost two or more of the required sign-in items (your Apple ID password, access to one of your trusted devices, your Recovery Key) you cannot regain access to your Apple account. You will need to create a new Apple ID. You can do so on one of your devices or on the web at My Apple ID.

Costs …

If you use SMS as the transmission service for verification codes you will be charged by your provider. The sender of the SMS is located in UK (+44).

To clarify costs you should ask your provider. Best practice is to activate Find My iPhone. The app is ready for receiving verification codes. It’s obvious that this transmission only works if you are connected to the internet.

The main features …

These are the main features of Apple’s 2-Step Verification

  • 2-Step Verification is bound to your Apple ID.
  • You can use any device capable of receiving SMS.
  • If you loose two or more sign-in items you cannot regain access to your account.
  • If you sell your device or if it’s stolen immediately go to My Apple ID and remove this device from the list of trusted devices.

Summary …

Use 2-Step Verification to improve security and to avoid compromising your identity which can cause severe problems with law if it’s obvious that you did not follow well-known security advices.

The digital world offers great benefits but increased security always goes along with decreased usability. That’s the price we have to pay. Be sure it’s a good investment.

The solution of both companies, Apple and Google, do not meet the requirements of their users. You cannot keep a recovery key or up to 10 backup codes in mind but your biometric identifiers are always with you. So let’s wait for the next step of a more innovative technological progress where you have access to all your accounts just with ‘something you are’.

Related links …

Apple …

Security made by Apple

Emergency Guide

The Apple ID

Apple ID: Frequently asked questions about 2-step Verification for Apple ID

Apple ID: Can’t sign in with 2-Step Verification

Google …

Google: 2-Step Verification

Google: Install Google Authenticator

Google: Sign in using Backup Code

Overview …

Overview about 2-Step Verification of other companies

Thanks for dropping by.








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