How Secure Is iPad?

While the Apple tablet doesn't yet equal the BlackBerry in terms of enterprise-grade management tools, it sports a set of surprisingly robust security features.

Kurt Marko, Contributing Editor

May 12, 2011

2 Min Read

In researching a forthcoming InformationWeek Analytics IT Impact Report on the iPad 2, I became much more familiar with features enterprise users and IT staffers fret about in a tablet--things like support for automated provisioning, centralized configuration management, network security, and local data protection. Just the things often lost in the noise of a consumer-oriented rollout blitz.

While the iPad (and sister iOS devices the iPhone and iPod Touch) doesn't yet equal the BlackBerry--every mobile IT administrator's best friend--and leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to enterprise-grade management tools, it does sport a set of surprisingly robust security features.

Of course, the iPad incorporates the latest Wi-Fi security standards such as WPA2 personal (preshared key) and enterprise (Radius). It also offers a host of VPN protocols, including Cisco IPSec, Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol, and Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol, with third-party apps from the likes of Cisco, F5 Networks, and Juniper adding support for SSL VPNs.

So data in motion is well protected, while data at rest, the flash drive partition for user and application data, is encrypted with AES-256 using an embedded hardware key, which is strengthened by salting (much like Unix passwords) with the device's screen-lock passcode. Local data can be wiped either remotely--using a third-party mobile device management app, Exchange ActiveSync, or Apple's Find My iPad service--or locally after a set number of invalid passcode entries.

Here are some quick tips for tightening up security on your iPad:

– Use WPA2 on any networks you control, office and home.

– Use a VPN while on any public Wi-Fi network.

– If you don't have access to a corporate VPN, get an account on a public provider like WiTopia or Strong VPN.

-- Configure a passcode and set a short lock interval of 15 minutes or less. The basic level, four-digit PIN is OK, but the "enhanced" alphanumeric password is better.

-- Configure local wipe after 10 invalid passcode attempts.

-- If you're forgetful, store a copy of your passcode on another system, because without it, you'll have to restore the iPad from your last iTunes backup.

-- Set up the "Find my iPad" feature (requires a MobileMe account), which not only can locate the device but also remotely lock or wipe it.

Taking a few minutes to lock down your iPad configuration, along with practicing some basic mobile networking hygiene, could save you hours of grief.

About the Author(s)

Kurt Marko

Contributing Editor

Kurt Marko is an InformationWeek and Network Computing contributor and IT industry veteran, pursuing his passion for communications after a varied career that has spanned virtually the entire high-tech food chain from chips to systems. Upon graduating from Stanford University with a BS and MS in Electrical Engineering, Kurt spent several years as a semiconductor device physicist, doing process design, modeling and testing. He then joined AT&T Bell Laboratories as a memory chip designer and CAD and simulation developer.Moving to Hewlett-Packard, Kurt started in the laser printer R&D lab doing electrophotography development, for which he earned a patent, but his love of computers eventually led him to join HP’s nascent technical IT group. He spent 15 years as an IT engineer and was a lead architect for several enterprisewide infrastructure projects at HP, including the Windows domain infrastructure, remote access service, Exchange e-mail infrastructure and managed Web services.

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