There are several basic actions every iPhone user should take to make the device more secure, such as setting it to auto-lock after a specified period of time, and requiring a passcode to unlock it (both can be accessed within Settings -> General), but other functionality, such as managing your passwords on the device, or implementing additional protection for sensitive files, requires the installation of third-party apps.
Still, with hundreds of thousands of iPhone applications available in the App Store, it can be a challenge to find the right solution for a given issue. What follows is a look at some key areas in which apps can help improve iPhone security, and suggestions of some specific applications that may be a perfect fit for your needs.
Several iPhone apps are available to help users manage all of their online passwords securely in one place. As long as the data is well-protected, an iPhone can be an ideal place to store and manage your passwords, since you’re likely to have the device with you no matter where you may be.
Many password management apps also offer users the ability to generate random (and strong) passwords, which is key to improving online security in general – and some also enable syncing with a PC-based solution, which serves both to back up your data and to make desktop browsing easier and more secure.
Among the wide range of options available, SplashData’s SplashID ($9.95) password manager offers a particularly comprehensive solution, including the ability to sync with the company’s desktop software ($19.95). Key features include AES and Blowfish encryption, a random password generator, and a browser plug-in for quick sign-in on your desktop.
Still, there’s not an enormous amount to differentiate SplashID from competitors, such as LastPass ($12.00/year, including cloud storage and desktop software), 1Password ($6.99, plus $39.95 for desktop software), among many others. Crucially, the three options mentioned here all offer free trials, allowing you to decide which interface you like the most.
Apple’s MobileMe service ($99.00/year) includes a Find My iPhone feature, which offers users a wide range of essential functionality if an iPhone is lost or stolen. Users can view their iPhone’s location online, display a message on the iPhone, and remotely lock or wipe the device as needed. While the Find My iPhone app (free) isn’t required, the service itself does have to be enabled on the iPhone within Settings -> Mail, Contacts, Calendars.
Find My iPhone is by far the most complete theft protection solution available for the device, and it comes along with MobileMe’s mail, contacts and calendar syncing, as well as online iDisk storage – but if you’re not using any of MobileMe’s other features, $99.00 can be a lot of money to spend just for theft prevention.
Still, all other options for device recovery are limited by the fact that the iPhone doesn’t allow third-party applications to run in the background. One simple option is GadgetTrak (free), which offers very basic device tracking functionality, while a similar solution, TapTrace ($1.99), also provides an interface for the user to send a message to the lost or stolen iPhone offering contact information and a reward.
Accessing e-mail on an iPhone can be frustrating if your inbox is being flooded with spam. To improve detection of spam and malware when downloading e-mail to the device, Mobile Active Defense ($16.99/year) filters all incoming e-mail through its servers prior to delivery. The company updates its filters more than 100 times per day to maximize protection from spam, phishing attacks and malware.
Spam Arrest ($49.95/year) offers a more aggressive challenge/response solution – rather than filtering for spam and malware, it requires everyone who sends you an e-mail to respond to a query in order to confirm their identity. The company’s iPhone app offers users the ability to create an account, manage incoming mail, and edit an approved senders list.
A third option is simply to set up a free Gmail account purely for iPhone use, then configure that account to read all incoming e-mail from your other POP or IMAP accounts. Gmail’s spam filters will then clear spam prior to delivery to your iPhone. It’s not the simplest or most comprehensive option, but it is a free and reliable way to ensure nearly spam-free mobile e-mail access.
If you need to carry sensitive files with you on your iPhone, it makes sense to add an extra level of security in addition to password-locking the device itself. File protection apps, such as Folder Lock ($3.99) or iDiscrete ($1.99) are designed to safeguard a wide variety of file types – and both Folder Lock and iDiscrete enable users to transfer files to their iPhone from a PC or Mac via Wi-Fi.
Finally, while Apple hasn’t approved any iPhone anti-virus solutions, several security firms now offer apps that give you the ability to monitor threats on your iPhone in real time, including Symantec (free), Cisco SIO To Go (free) and Threatpost (free).
These applications provide news feeds and alerts regarding the latest vulnerabilities and security threats – of the three, Cisco’s SIO To Go is targeted most specifically at IT users, offering the ability to customize incoming news and alerts to focus on specific threats that could impact the user’s network.
Jeff Goldman is a veteran technology journalist based in California.