Apple Beefs Up iOS 8 Security In Preparation For Launch Of Secure Smartphone Competition

Jun 10 2014, 11:24am CDT | by

The iPhone 6 could be Apple’s most secure smartphone to date thanks to iOS 8’s new privacy upgrades. The new OS has two new features in particular that show that Apple has responded to this new wave of enthusiasm for smartphone security.

The first is that location trackers won’t be able to duplicate data from anything running iOS 8. What that means is that when iOS 8 is looking for a Wi-Fi connection, it will randomise your MAC address (otherwise known as MAC spoofing), and effectively disguise any trace of the real device until it choses to connect to a network.

Usually phones ping out the MAC address when looking for a connection and the signal is tracked by people and companies looking to pinpoint your exact location. It’s essentially a leak in your phone’s security armour from which an entire industry has been built upon, as the New York Times revealed last year.

Fashion retailer Nordstrom began exploiting the flaw and tracking their customers’ location within the store and using that information to see their shopping habits.  Other stores like Mothercare, Benetton and Family Dollar have used similar technology to track their customers, but this new iOS 8 feature will bring an end to that entirely.

The second is cracking down on spammers and advertising in the App Store, as TechCrunch reported yesterday. Some developers are receiving rejection notices from Apple’s app review team because their software is excessively asking users to share its app on Facebook to receive in-game bonuses.

There’s also the issue of Apple rejecting apps that promote other apps and ones that have over-the-top built-in  advertising. Apple’s guidelines aren’t exactly clear on what is and what isn’t acceptable, but it appears that it has moved the goal posts in-favour of less spam.

Why exactly is Apple taking this route? Competition is the simple answer. Privacy has been on the top of the tech agenda and dominated headlines since Snowden’s revelations last year and companies have been scrambling to prove their security credentials. We’re also seeing a new wave of smartphones hitting the shelves that are entirely geared, and built around, security.

The Blackphone was an unexpected hit at the Mobile World Congress this year. It didn’t have a big glitzy launch show like Samsung or Nokia, but it did have queues of journalists waiting next to its small, hidden away, booth. There’s also the Boeing Black and the FreedomPop Privacy Phone that are offering similar services to the Blackphone.

These phones don’t broadcast your MAC address, they let you manage app permissions, they let you communicate and transfer files securely and they don’t collect your data. Apple has recognised the rising popularity for these services and that’s why it has, in one update, eliminated the location tracking industry and aimed its crosshairs at app-advertising and spam. Expect others to follow suit.

 
 

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