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Now for the Real Security Work

Let's discuss passcodes, passwords, and passphrases.

The only thing protecting your information (and your friends' and family's information, such as phone numbers) is the passthingie you configure on your iPad 2. Maybe you have little more than music and a few magazines stored. Maybe a simple four-digit passcode is enough. Only you know for sure. Just remember, those four numbers are the only thing keeping your information secure.

Now let's imagine that you have more than a few songs and magazines. You've visited your financial services websites. You allowed the system to cache your passwords, and who remembers the important passwords stored on your iPad 2? Remember the functions your websites provide? Many people allow money transfers to other accounts. Your four-digit passcode is all that prevents someone from grabbing your money. This makes using 1-1-1-1 a silly choice.

Four-digit PINS are the standard for ATM cards, but many credit cards and some ATM debit cards limit your losses when they're hacked. I don't know of any financial services companies that limit your losses when a hacker uses your iPad 2 and your password to transfer your money offshore. Four-digit passcodes may not be enough for your iPad 2.

Are you considering a password? Most passwords are just that—a simple and predictable word that we hope hackers won't guess. How many guesses are needed for your password?

The iPad 2 penalizes for bad guesses. It will give you a timeout—a delay that slows your ability to keep guessing. Make hackers work for it: Use a passphrase—lots of words strung together that make wrong guesses very likely. Use unpredictable combinations of words no dictionary is likely to list (and no one is likely to associate with you). Don't overuse the same passphrase at multiple sites. xkcd.com has great passphrase advice at http://xkcd.com/936/ and http://xkcd.com/792/. I laughed when I first saw these cartoons, and I share them with others often—but only after giving credit to xkcd as the authorized source.

If your iPad 2 has important information, you need a passphrase. Use something that's easy to type on the virtual keyboard. (Shoulder surfing is so very easy on an iPad 2. The keys light up a bit and stay lit too long.) Choose a passphrase that's fairly easy to type and is unlikely to require you to enter it multiple times because you hit the wrong key.

Let's configure your passphrase, now that you have one ready. Open Settings and select General. Scroll down to Auto-Lock, Passcode Lock, and Restrictions.

I recommend enabling an Auto-Lock. Leave your iPad 2 unattended for a minute, and someone has stolen it. Auto-Lock will help to guarantee that your system locks. Only you can decide which Auto-Lock value is good for you. Too short, and every distracting phone call locks you needlessly. Too long, and locking won't occur in time to protect you.

Now click the Off link in Passcode Lock. This moves you from a four-digit passcode to a password or passphrase.

On this page, I set Require Passcode to Immediately. Other settings undercut Auto-Lock security. Unless the lock is applied immediately, the hacker may be able to reopen the screen before it truly locks. Remember the "magic magnet" attack?

You may not find the iPad 2 Cover Lock/Unlock setting I mentioned earlier. Put a kitchen magnet on the front side of the iPad 2, near the volume switch. This dupes the iPad 2 into thinking that you have a SmartCover. Now you can enable or disable the iPad 2 Cover Lock/Unlock. Please notice that the default setting is unsecure. Push the slider to OFF to keep some hacker from grabbing your data.

Another useful setting wipes your data if the wrong passcode is used 10 times. If you want to secure a child's iPad 2 use, the Restrictions settings might help. You can set a second passcode and control the applications and functions that your juvenile iPad 2 user can use. If your teenage son tries to escape your control, after six failed attempts, he gets a one-minute timeout Number 7 is magic and puts one quizzical teen on timeout for five minutes. Number 8 failed login gives 15 minutes in timeout. The ninth bad guess puts him on a 60 minute timeout. Overall, the Restrictions may not have as strong a security purpose as other functions, but by making it available, Apple is showing how much this iPad 2 is a more secure and safe tool for Internet browsing.

Have We Done Enough?

Overall, the iPad 2 is a very useful tool, which can be configured to be reasonably secure. Once you've determined your security needs and made appropriate settings, you should have an iPad 2 that doesn't open access to your information to just anyone. If someone steals your iPad 2, Auto-Lock and requiring the passcode immediately provide some assurance that your cached passwords are safe. If you choose a difficult-to-guess passphrase, your protected information may be wiped away at the tenth incorrect guess.

If you work for an organization that's looking for an extensible mobile device with good security abilities, review Apple's iPad in Business "Resources" page. There, you'll learn more about the hardware-based encryption abilities and other great security technologies.

Is the iPad 2 the best device ever? I'm not sure. Is it a marked improvement on past devices? Yes, it is.

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