How Apple’s tight ecosystem of products can undermine its own security

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There’s an old belief that you can’t have both security and convenience, and this is especially true in your digital life. I’m sure Apple will dispute that claim, pointing to things like Face ID as evidence it can do both.

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Yet, as we’ve seen in recent months, there are indeed times when Apple’s ecosystem, which is so tightly tied to its platforms, can actually Weak your security. If you only have one lock in your home, only one key is needed to access the entire house.

Face ID, iPhone and Apple Watch

Face ID is the best example of the security catch-22 that a company like Apple can end up with. On its own, that’s fantastic, something Apple’s Android rivals can get ahead of, at least when it comes to facial recognition. It’s fast, easy to learn, available on many of your devices, and yes, both safe and convenient. That’s exactly what you imagine when you think of Apple innovation.


Under normal circumstances, it works great. But I don’t think anyone can claim the last 18 months qualify as “normal circumstances” and with all the disruption caused by the pandemic, it has also exposed the weak point of Apple’s tightly bound ecosystem. Have given.

This can be seen in Face ID’s tie-in with the iPhone’s Unlock with Apple Watch feature. If you have an unlocked Apple Watch on your wrist, you can use it to unlock your iPhone when Face ID doesn’t recognize you. It’s specially designed for times when wearing a mask obscures your face, leaving Face ID unable to identify you properly. It is a piece of convenience for a pandemic world.

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It is a piece of convenience for a pandemic world.

The problem is that it seems incredibly Sorry I have both an Apple Watch and an iPhone, so I use Unlocked with an Apple Watch on an almost daily basis. And almost every day, there will be at least one time when my Apple Watch will unlock my iPhone when I haven’t even looked at it. It’s not like my face was covered by a mask – I’m often facing the other direction entirely. Face ID on my iPhone is set to “requires attention”—in other words, I have to look at my iPhone to unlock it. Yet unlocking with the Apple Watch apparently bypasses that requirement entirely.

And with one weakness in the system, the whole ecosystem is in danger.

Sidestepping Face ID

Andy Boxel/Nerdshala

What’s worse is that only an unlocked Apple Watch is required for this feature to work—and unlocking an Apple Watch is child’s play. Instead of the complicated security layers of Face ID or Touch ID, all that’s needed to get into the Apple Watch is a simple four-digit passcode. Considering how many of us are used to such lock-up mechanisms with memorable, recognizable dates and numbers, opening the Apple Watch is beyond easy.

And this is a problem because the permissible unlock with the Apple Watch is upon unlocking an iPhone. Apple claims the chances of fooling Face ID are one in a million. But when a simple four-digit passcode is enough to get into the Apple Watch, Face ID’s apparently undeniable security becomes completely irrelevant.

All it takes is a simple four-digit passcode to get into the Apple Watch.

It’s not just your iPhone that affects it. You can do the same with Mac. An unlocked Apple Watch can log you into a connected Mac provided you’ve set up unlock with the Apple Watch. Once again, all you need is a four-digit passcode for the Watch, and suddenly all of the Mac’s content is yours.

Security Ecosystem Implications

Ultimately, this wouldn’t be happening if Apple’s ecosystem weren’t so tightly bound. It’s only by having devices that interact and communicate closely with each other that the Apple Watch is able to unlock your iPhone when your face is obscured. But by giving this additional feature to the users, the company is undermining its famous security.

That doesn’t mean that Apple can’t work one way for both – getting users to have their cake and eat it. But right now, anyone who steals an iPhone and Apple Watch has only one small obstacle to gain access to all your personal files and information. This is a far cry from the security conscious Apple thought I knew.

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