Securing the iPhone 5: What Will It Deliver?

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Mark your calendar.  Amid analyst predictions of unprecedented demand for the newest version of Apple’s iPhone, Cupertino tea-leaf readers now believe October 4 is the release date -- with the device possibly made available on CDMA-based Sprint. 

But the day of release is not the only focus of speculation. The fan boy community is also rife with guesses about what new features will be built into the phone, with some attention to new security wrinkles.

Apple of course is scrupulously secretive -- except for the odd habit of losing prototype phones -- so guesses are just that. But there are plenty of them.

Topping just about every list is the belief that the new iPhone will feature a new operating system, iOS 5.  That’s been so for predecessors and the Apple community seems certain it will be so for the October release. 

There’s also wide belief the new phone will have a smarter, more robust dual core processor; possibly the A5 chip that powers the iPad 2. Steve Jobs said at the iPad 2 launch event that it “is twice as fast.” A new OS and more processing power open the doors to fresh security concerns and experts are quick to offer insights into what the new iPhone may deliver.

Probably the single biggest security concern with iPhone (going back to the first version and continuing to today) is that “IT has no reliable way to know if a phone is in compliance,” said Custie Crampton, a VP at  telecom management firm Tangoe.  That is right, there is no trustworthy technique for identifying jailbroken iPhones on the network and a huge hope of security professionals is that iOS 5 will address this pressing need.

Crampton is skeptical. “I don’t see iPhone 5 delivering that.”  Pretty much no expert does, so cross that off the wish list.

Another hope among many security pros is that iOS 5 will give IT more control over the behavior of individual apps because, right now, IT’s app-level controls are feeble.

“IT does not have enough control over the apps running on iPhone,” said Chris Perret, CEO at mobile management company Nukona. “It is our belief that the apps that access corporate data need to be secured and managed by corporate IT.”

Valid as Perret’s hope is, few believe Apple will address this in iOS 5 issue either. But changes are coming with iOS 5.  Just think smaller.

For instance, Chris Harget, a product manager at security firm Actividentity, said his wish is for “tools allowing enterprise IT administrators to do complete remote management of iOS devices, a la the Blackberry BES server,” a tool set that effectively gives the enterprise administrator full control.  Apple’s upgraded security tools for enterprise going back to iOS 4.1 released in September 2010 give IT considerable control over iPhones.  But Harget is right: BlackBerry retains the lead but, theoretically at least, just a few tweaks in iOS 5 could make the iPhone the new IT favorite.  A BlackBerry admin can still do much more (even controlling phone access to cameras, requiring data encryption on removable media, etc.).

Will iOS 5 give an admin new powers? Best guesses are absolutely ... yes. “iOS 5 [will provide] new controls,” predicted Josh Lambert, a product manager at mobile device management company Fiberlink.

The reasoning is pure dollars and cents. As enterprise BlackBerries go off contract, Apple wants those users and if a few frills in admin security tools will help win contracts, guesses are that Cupertino will deliver.

Crampton also predicted that iOS 5 will give enterprise the ability to turn iMessaging -- the Apple answer to BlackBerry Messenger, introduced by Jobs in a June keynote -- on or off.  “iMessaging is essentially another form of email distribution and enterprise wants more controls, which I believe Apple will provide.”

What won’t change with iPhone 5? No expert envisions Apple moving away from its determination to sandbox apps, and neither are there any signs that,  despite loud cries from IT, Apple will make the device hospitable to antivirus software. That just is not in the offing; not with iPhone 5.

“Enterprise admins still complain that they cannot run on-device software such as phishing protections,” said Marc Fossi, a manager at Symantec. After they inspect the October release they will still have plenty of complaints.

Add up the expected changes versus the improvements IT experts wish for and, overall, Crampton said, “we will see only minor security improvements in iOS 5.”

That’s the consensus perspective. iOS 5 will upgrade iPhone security but by a little, not a lot.

As a busy freelance writer for more than 30 years, Rob McGarvey has written over 1500 articles for many of the nation's leading publications -- from Reader's Digest to Playboy and from the NY Times to Harvard Business Review. McGarvey covers CEOs, business, high tech, human resources, real estate, and the energy sector. A particular specialty is advertorial sections for many top outlets including the New York Times, Crain's New York, and Fortune Magazine.