Remote locate lock and wipe your Apple iOS iPhone

If you own an iPhone, it’s imperative that you consider how you might protect your device and the personal information you store on it in the event you lose or have your device stolen. There are now many apps that provide OTA backup, device tracking and device lock and wipe feature sets, which all do a good job of protecting your device and it’s data.

Anti-virus vendors have also been busy developing their mobile apps to include some of these feature sets. It’s worth noting that some mobile AV apps only provide the ‘remote’ lock and wipe features as a premium service. That said iOS (based on FreeBSD a hybrid of Linux) is a closed eco-system and having morphed from OS X is tightly managed using app provenance, app data isolation / encryption techniques and app permission controls – and this includes sandboxing (referred to as app data isolation).

Most mobile operating systems use some form of sandboxing – WP7 (includes Mango) uses chambers (WP8 will be following suite) and Android uses Dalvik (by way of ‘intents’) so it’s easy to say they are robust and reasonably good at protecting data but are susceptible to social engineering and jail break attacks. That said it’s still important to consider what would happen if you lost your iPhone.

You don’t actually need a mobile AV for iOS (for the reasons I mentioned earlier) but you will need to consider additional locate, lock and wipe capabilities in the event your device is lost or stolen. Most of these apps will use a combination of GPS, cell tower data and Wi-Fi (where available of course). TIP: If you discarded an iOS encryption key, then any data (and given all data on the device is encrypted) would be inaccessible. You could say this is a useful wipe feature to know about! 🙂 MDM technology (and Apple) use this method for wiping a device and it’s part of the remote wipe feature in Find My iPhone (more on this later).

One feature set I have seen missing is the ability to take a picture of someone who has stolen your device (reminds me of Prey). The automatic picture snap would occur when ‘someone’ mistypes the passcode more than once (obviously you can change this setting). The picture is then transmitted either OTA or by WiFi (which ever is closest and you have a valid connection). For this technology to work effectively, the iPhone will need to have the passcode activated. You only need to do a little research and you will find some useful locate, lock and wipe apps. For the benefit of my readers I’ve picked some of my favourites.

I’d suggest you review each one and make sure it fits with what you want it to do first and foremost. It also needs to be easy to use when you need to use it. It’s no good having a lovely user interface if when you come to use it, it doesn’t work or doesn’t do what you had initially thought. 🙂 Right, here we go…

Find My iPhone – if you own an iOS device (this includes an iPad, iPhone and iPod) and you have ‘Location Services’ enabled you will be able to use this software that comes installed on your device. Apple went one stage further and added remote lock and wipe (the same as BlackBerry Protect) but some people including me have noticed some battery drain when using this feature set. This app comes pre-installed and is free (and was designed and integrated by Apple, so you know it will work) so it stands at the top of my list.

iGotYa (Cyndia) – this isn’t available in the official Apple Store (as you need a jailbroken device) but it’s a very smart alternative never the less. This app takes a picture when the device passcode is mistyped more than once and sends the picture OTA to an email address of your choosing. The downside with this app is that you will need to jailbreak your iPhone which most users don’t know how to do. If you do know how to do it, I suggest adding this app to your armoury.

There are many more apps, including iHound (which is another I recommend) and GadgetTrak(which is similar to iGotYa) but doesn’t have the location feature set of Find My iPhone), Having tested all these apps, one thing they all share in common – they all drain your battery. This shouldn’t deter you from owning one of these apps which in any event will definitely provide you with added piece of mind!

Safe surfing folks!

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