TECH

You’re Going To Hate This iOS 9 Feature. But It’s For Your Own Good

Still using a four-digit passcode? It's probably time to change to six digits

You'll probably think the screen below is a big pain in the butt, but take heed: It could be a lifesaver. (Or an identity-saver, at least.)

Apple released its latest mobile operating system, iOS 9, on Wednesday, and it contains a little update to the passcode you're accustomed to punching in whenever you unlock your device. 

When you update to iOS 9, the passcode you already have will remain the same -- at least if your device is anything like ours. But the moment you try to set a new passcode, Apple will, depending on your device, require you to set a six-digit combination instead of the usual four. We tried on an iPad Air 2, and the device asked us to set a six -digit passcode by default. But, oddly, on an iPhone 5 without Touch ID, we had to manually switch to the six -digit option.

You should listen and set up a new passcode with the additional characters.

"At the surface, this doesn't sound all that significant until you dig underneath and realize that a four-digit PIN is basically a 10,000-number combination. It takes about ... 18 minutes to crack with the right training and equipment," Caleb Barlow, vice president of IBM Security, told The Huffington Post in a recent interview.

"You move to a six-digit passcode, you now have 1 million combinations," he continued. "You could be talking a year or more to crack that passcode. [Apple's] significantly increased the entropy that we're talking about here."

That's pretty huge.

Barlow elaborated more in a separate blog post for his company, which has a vested interest in mobile security because it releases enterprise software for devices like the iPhone. His lesson is clear: Opting for a six-digit code could save you a big headache down the line.

If you lose your device and a bad actor is able to bust in, you've forfeited access to your email, photographs and who knows what else -- of all the things you own, your mobile device is probably on par with your Social Security card and passport, things you don't want to lose ever.

(God help you if your existing four-digit iPhone passcode matches your ATM PIN.)

Of course, perhaps the safest option of all would be to set up a custom, complex and unique alphanumeric password. Apple's always offered this option, so you don't even need to delve into iOS 9 -- you can do it from older versions of iOS. Simply go to your settings, tap "Touch ID & Passcode" and select "Change Passcode."

Voila! Your data just got a bit safer.

This post has been updated to include additional details about different iOS devices.

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