Check Your iPhone for This Dangerous Setting

Oct 6th 2022 : A woman holding and touching on Iphone 13 smart phone screen, Chiang mai Thailand Credit: Farknot Architect / Adobe Stock
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Do you use a VPN for school, work, or for general privacy on your iPhone? Have you used one in the past?

If so, you’ll want to take a quick look at your VPN & Device Management settings to make sure any existing VPN profiles are known and trusted. If you don’t recognize the VPN profile or there are older ones you don’t use anymore, you should delete them immediately. Here’s why.

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An unknown or unrecognized VPN profile on your iPhone is a major security vulnerability. In the simplest terms, a dangerous profile could allow for remote access to your iPhone. A malicious actor behind such a VPN profile could intercept data you send and receive, see your internet activity, distribute malware, redirect you to phishing sites, and bypass security measures set by legitimate apps and services. The worst potential outcome here is a third party gaining access to your most private and intimate information and photos and the ability to access your banking or other financial information and passwords.

Fortunately, the risk is relatively low, but not unheard of. Users in the European Union are at greater risk due to the introduction of “sideloading,” which allows users to install apps from outside of Apple’s App Store. Sideloading is a change brought about by the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA).

Apple has been forced into compliance with the DMA, but it hasn’t done so silently. In Apple’s Non-Confidential Summary of DMA Compliance Report released earlier this year, Apple said: “The DMA requires changes to this system that bring greater risks to users and developers. This includes new avenues for malware, fraud and scams, illicit and harmful content, and other privacy and security threats. These changes also compromise Apple’s ability to detect, prevent, and take action against malicious apps on iOS and to support users impacted by issues with apps downloaded outside of the App Store.”

How to Check VPN & Device Management Settings

VPN and device management

Here’s how to check your VPN profiles:

  1. Open the Settings app on your iPhone.
  2. Select General.
  3. Scroll down and select VPN & Device Management.
  4. Delete any unused or unrecognized VPN profiles.

It’s worth regularly checking your VPN and Device Management settings to check for anything suspicious. Only use VPNs from a trusted source like your school or employer. If you’re using a VPN for privacy, it’s best to avoid free services, however tempting. Hopefully EU users aren’t exploited on a larger scale due to sideloading. Apple has brought us this far. We think they’re best positioned to create and enforce their own security protocols. We’ll continue to follow the impact of sideloading on EU user security and keep you posted.

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