Innovation

How to securely manage an Apple ID to best protect business information

An Apple ID provides access to a variety of Apple services, including iCloud files, applications, and messages. Follow these security practices to ensure your account, apps and data remain safe.

Image: James Martin/CNET

The username and password pairing composing an Apple ID grant access to numerous important components, including business documents, spreadsheets, presentations, photos, videos, and other files stored in iCloud, applications purchased from the App Store, and instant messages. Depending upon how you've configured services, an Apple ID may also access email messages, calendaring information, contacts, and other data, too.

In addition to using an Apple ID to access iCloud storage, Apple applications and services, an Apple ID enables accessing iTunes, iBooks, FaceTime messaging, Apple Store purchases, and assisting with lost device recovery. Thus, Apple IDs should be carefully protected to help secure the sensitive business information they safeguard.

In my experience, most Apple users possess a single Apple ID. A single Apple ID, of course, can sign in to multiple Apple devices—including iMacs, MacBooks, iPads, and iPhones. A parent's Apple ID can also be used to administer Family Sharing subscriptions for up to six people.

Business owners, however, can dedicate a standalone Apple ID for managing corporate operations. While a personal Apple ID might prove adequate for managing a small business' data, larger organizations should consider joining Apple's Volume Purchase Program (VPP). Using a VPP plan, a dedicated Apple ID can manage the corporate account to specify program administrators (each of whom will receive a program-specific Apple ID), purchase software, obtain custom iOS programs, purchase iBooks, leverage purchase orders for business software purchases, and streamline application and book distribution, which requires an independent third-party mobile device management (MDM) platform.

The first step in properly securing an Apple ID is to create a strong password. An Apple ID requires eight or more characters, including an upper and lowercase letter and numeral. Apple users should also leverage additional special characters and punctuation marks to strengthen an Apple ID password and help protect against a robotic agent guessing the password using a standard attack in which known words are paired with numbers to attempt access.

Next, Apple IDs shouldn't be shared with other users, particularly when simply sharing credentials appears a quick and easy method for sharing files or music. Such practices can violate terms of use and subject an account to an increased likelihood of trouble later.

Ensure security questions are set, are difficult to answer, and cannot be readily guessed by coworkers and casual acquaintances who might share a loose friendship or even some of the same hobbies. The security question answers should also be safely and securely stored for later retrieval, should the need arise.

Apple ID owners should also enable two more advanced security options: two-step verification and two-factor authentication. These additional security protections help further secure Apple ID accounts.

Two-step verification helps prevent unauthorized access to an account. For example, two-step verification requires the account holder to verify his or her identity from one of his or her trusted devices before signing in to iCloud on a new device or from the Web.

Two-factor authentication, meanwhile, helps lock down access. Two-factor authentication, as the name implies, requires more than just the password to log in. For example, when using two-factor authentication and someone attempts to sign in to the account using a new device, the Apple ID owner will be prompted to provide both the account password and a six-digit verification code Apple sends to one of the Apple ID owner's trusted devices. Without that verification code, an unauthorized user will be denied access.

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About Erik Eckel

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

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