3.3. Securing an iOS Device – iOS encryption, backup, and restores

– Once my device is secure, the next step in setting up security is managing my data. Unlike the Android OS, encryption is built into Apple’s iOS from the beginning. Encryption isn’t even something a user has access to configure or disable. Because Apple owns both the software and hardware build process, they own the entire security ecosystem. Apple uses hardware and software elements in tandem to encrypt data. The software encryption is divided into the File System and the Kernel.

The hardware and firmware encryption is accomplished by a different set of tools, like the security enclave. Here’s a graphic representing each layer of Apple device encryption. From this it becomes clear why iOS has earned a reputation for being a difficult platform to break if strong access procedures are in place. With everything encrypted, malicious parties will be unable to access your data without the passcode. Even if I lose a device, my data is secure.

I need to make sure that if that happens I’ll be able to recover gracefully by backing up my data. Apple has made the backup and restore of an iOS device quite simple. With a solid back up strategy, my mobile life should be able to recover should my device be lost, stolen, broken, or otherwise unusable. Apple provides two options for backing up an iOS device: on a server through iCloud, or on your own computer through iTunes.

I’ll set up iCloud backup first. With my device connected to Wi-Fi I’ll tap Settings, iCloud, I’ll scroll down and select Backup. I’ll select Back Up Now and give it time to finish. With iCloud backup turned on, I can automatically back up my device daily. iCloud makes these daily automatic backups only if a device is connected to a power source and a Wi-Fi network, my device’s screen is locked, and I have enough available space in iCloud for the backup.

The second option is to back up through iTunes. On my computer I can see my device. iCloud is currently selected as my backup option. I only have 5 GB of storage space in my iCloud account, so backing up my computer might be a better option for me. I will select This computer. iTunes also gives me the option to encrypt my backup. This adds another layer of security and requires a password restore from the backup. Be careful, if you forget the password you could be out of luck.

Once the backup is complete, restoring from this backup is easy enough. If my iPhone is lost or damaged, I can sub in a new device, pop in the password and be up and running in no time.

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