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Got An Apple Watch 5? How To Secure It In Three Simple Steps

Apple Watch Series 5 security tips

Following the publication of a U.S. patent that mentioned a fingerprint sensor for the Apple Watch, rumors have been rife that Touch ID will be coming to the wearable soon. If you’ve just received a gift of an Apple Watch 5, then rumors won’t help you secure it (or an Apple Watch 3 or 4 for that matter) from those who would use it to unlock other devices, perform Apple Pay transactions or access data. These tips, however, will.

Do you need to secure your Apple Watch?

Although one recent study has suggested that Apple is less trustworthy than Google when it comes to data encryption, that is something of an outlier. Apple has a pretty decent security record when it comes to the iPhone and its iOS operating system when compared to relatively insecure Android devices. Not that the iPhone is immune from device-specific malware as the iPhone only Krampus campaign demonstrates. The Apple Watch, however, doesn’t run on iOS; it uses the iOS-derived WatchOS instead.

So, is WatchOS free from any security issues? Well, if you check the security vulnerability database at CVE Details, you will see plenty of problems that could specifically impact WatchOS. There are 473 vulnerabilities listed in total, ranging from the low severity to the critical. But don’t panic; if you sort the results by “number of exploits,” you’ll notice there have been precisely zero for any of them. And Apple regularly updates WatchOS as it does iOS and operates a bug bounty program to reward those security researchers who uncover vulnerabilities, with a top bounty of $1.5 million (£1.15 million) on offer. So you don’t need to worry about securing it, right?

Wrong.

The security issues you do need to be concerned about now you are the owner of a shiny new Apple Watch Series 5 are, frankly, much the same as you face with any other mobile device. The wearable is, in practical terms, an extension of your iPhone. This means that you need to be aware of how it interacts with your iPhone and the access it provides to the smartphone itself, the data upon it and the services it facilitates.

Apple Watch security tip number one: Set a long passcode

The default four-digit PIN, what Apple refers to as a “Simple Passcode,” is not secure enough. Especially as most people will likely use the same PIN for their Apple Watch as they do for their credit cards, debit cards, smartphone, SIM card, and anything else that requires a four-digit code. Password reuse is a terrible thing, and the same applies to PIN codes which are just pretty bad passwords after all.

To strengthen your Apple Watch PIN, go to the Watch app on your iPhone and click on “Passcode” then disable the “Simple Passcode” option. After confirming your existing PIN, you will be able to set a new 10-digit code. The longer the PIN the more secure, in theory. However, the usability factor kicks in if you are using a random 10-digit code that you can’t easily remember. It’s not recommended to use memorable dates either; a threat actor will likely be able to guess these from social media information.

That said, a six-digit PIN is far more secure than the default and just as easy to remember. Or how about keeping the four-digit PIN you know off by heart and repeating it, in reverse, to create an eight-digit code? So 1234 (please don’t use that) would become 12344321. If you enable the “Erase Data” option, then another security feature kicks in: self-destruct. OK, it’s not quite that extreme, but not far off. After six incorrect PIN code attempts, the Apple Watch will initiate a 60-second delay between further attempts. Get it wrong ten times and all data will be erased from the device.

Apple Watch security tip number two: Get smart with more locking options

Either on your Apple Watch or iPhone, it’s less fiddly for those of us with fat finger syndrome to use the iPhone, make sure that the “Wrist Detection” option is toggled on. This has the effect of automatically locking your Apple Watch when you take it off, necessitating entry of that now longer PIN before unlocking.

There’s also an option to “Unlock with iPhone,” which works in combination with the wrist detection to automatically unlock your Apple Watch without needing the PIN code. As long, that is, the iPhone is close enough to the watch, which you must be wearing. It’s another good usability option with no substantial negative impact on security for 99.9% of people 99.9% of the time. As I said before, good security must be easy to use or people find ways to get around it. Which usually means they disable it altogether.

Apple Watch security tip number three: Lost Mode and Activation Lock

Every iPhone owner is familiar, I’m guessing, with the Find My iPhone iCloud feature or app, or “Find My” for iOS 13 users. If not, then get acquainted as it’s an essential part of your iPhone security posture. And that of your Apple Watch.

As well as being useful in finding your watch if you can’t remember where you left it last, Find My has some additional security-related functionality up its virtual sleeve. Things like being able to remotely wipe your data from your Apple Watch if it is permanently lost or stolen and activating “Lost Mode.” The latter will display a short custom message and number to call if someone finds your Apple Watch. More importantly, it will also disable Apple Pay which ticks a significant security concern box for most people who have lost their wearable.

You should also check that the Activation Lock function is enabled in Find My, and if it can see your watch, then it is. What does this do? How does making your Apple Watch worthless to any thief sound to you? Unless that thief knows your Apple ID and password, Activation Lock prevents them or anyone else from being able to wipe your data from the device. The result, an unsaleable Apple Watch.

For more Apple security advice, read How To Secure Your iPhone: 12 Experts Reveal 26 Essential Security Tips.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

I’m a three-decade veteran technology journalist and have been a contributing editor at PC Pro magazine since the first issue in 1994. A three-time winner of the BT Security Journalist of the Year award (2006, 2008, 2010) I was also fortunate enough to be named BT Technology Journalist of the Year in 1996 for a forward-looking feature in PC Pro called ‘Threats to the Internet.’ In 2011 I was honored with the Enigma Award for a lifetime contribution to IT security journalism. Contact me in confidence at davey@happygeek.com if you have a story to reveal or research to share.

Source: Got An Apple Watch 5? How To Secure It In Three Simple Steps

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Top 10 Things You Can Upgrade with a Little Electronics Hacking – Whitson Gordon

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Never settle for what you’re given. You can upgrade and improve just about anything with a little knowledge and elbow grease, especially if you know a little about electronics. Here are 10 things in your home that you can beef up with a little soldering and DIY know-how.

10. Your TV

You may have the coolest home theater on the block, but even that won’t save you when your TV rebels with the latest celebrity gossip you don’t want to hear. Take control of your TV with the Enough Already, a little DIY gadget that mutes your TV whenever it hears a word or phrase you’ve programmed it to watch out for—like “Justin Beiber” or “Twilight Saga.” While you’re at it, you can use an Arduino to automatically lower the volume if it gets above a certain threshold, like when excessively loud commercials come on.

9. Your Home Security

It may not be as foolproof as a true home security system, but you can make quite a few DIY burglar alarms for almost nothing. $2 gets you a tiny motion alarm that beeps if its moved, while a few more dollars will get you a motion-detecting camera or an SMS-equipped monitor. Heck, you can even build your own LoJack for your car at a fraction of the price. Of course, you can also do quite a bit with just a few webcams and some free software.

8. Your Desk

If your workspace is starting to feel a little cluttered with gadgets, make them work with your desk. Instead of getting another power strip, build an outlet into the desk itself, or embed a USB hub for easy charging and peripheral connection. If you want to take it one step farther, you can add an inductive charging station or even build a computer inside the desk drawer. And, while you’re at it, clean everything up by making your desk lamp cordless for under $20.

7. Your Video Game Consoles

What’s better than having a couple of video game systems in your living room? Not much, except maybe combining them into one mega system that can play nearly any game. If you’re more of a retro gamer, you can do something similar (with much less work) by building an all-in-one retro gaming console inside an NES, inside a briefcase, or even inside a coffee table to mimic the old arcade systems you love so much.

6. Your Cellphone Charger

If you want a really easy DIY project, try upgrading your wall outlets to charge USB devices. You can also build a super-simple portable USB charger in an Altoids tin. For a greener solution, make it solar-powered or charge it with the power of your bike pedaling. And, if you want to do away with wires altogether, we’ve shared a ton of options for modding your phone for wireless charging without the bulky “induction charger” case.

5. Your Transportation

Many of us may upgrade our phones every year to stay up-to-date, but it’s a little harder to do that with cars. If your car’s missing a feature you want, though, just add it yourself. Put in an auxiliary audio jack for only $3, or add Bluetooth capability for wireless streaming wherever you go. If you’re prone to running red lights, you might also consider this GPS hack that warns you when red light cameras are near. And, if you don’t have a car, you can still beef up your transportation with these bike upgrades.

4. Your Headphones

We love headphone hacks, and if you’re willing to dig into your DIY arsenal, you can mod the hardware in quite a few ways. If you have earbuds, you can add an inline remote control with just a little bit of work (and without ruining them). If you have a bigger set of headphones, adding removable cables can be really handy, or you could go wireless altogether and hack them for Bluetooth. Of course, a good pair of earmuffs can also make for a dandy noise-isolating pair of headphones, too.

3. Your Light Switches

Turning on the lights manually is no fun. Instead, mod the lamps in your house to turn on with a wave of your hand, or with an old-school made-at-home clapper. Alternatively, control them with your voice, or set them up in the hallway for easy motion-controlled lights that illuminate your path to the bathroom. Whatever you can think of, it’s probably possible.

2. Your Chores

Doing chores is for chumps. Luckily, an Arduino and a bit of code can automate a ton of chores for you: it can make the plants water themselves, it can feed the cat for you, or even rock your baby to sleep. Just make sure your parents/spouse/roommates don’t find out what you’re up to.

1. Your Home

A home of the future isn’t as far off as science fiction makes it out to be. With a little DIY electronics hacking, you can automate your home to do just about anything: open the blinds when it’s light, tell you who’s at the door, make you coffee with a tweet, unlock your door with a text message, and oh-so-much more. It won’t get you George Jetson’s flying car, but you’ll feel like a futuristic badass nonetheless.

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