Apple ramps up its cybersecurity game

Apple's new 6-digit passcode

On top of the many flashy features of Apple's new iOS 9 devices, there's another reason business owners might want to upgrade their electronic devices: To ramp up cybersecurity.

Apple's latest line, unveiled Wednesday, is expected to require a six-digit code, and sometimes a fingerprint, to access the features. That's a step up from the four-digit code used on current models, and one expert said it could be motivation for enterprise customers to make the switch to Apple products.

"This is a big deal, and honestly our friends at Apple are leading the way here," Caleb Barlow, IBM security vice president, said Friday on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street." "It's time to step it up a notch, both on our own devices and on what companies require for logins."

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The added security means devices will be tougher for hackers to crack, Barlow said, with one million possible combinations versus the previous 10,000. The move comes as data breaches have been a growing concern for companies.

Mid-size companies surveyed by PricewaterhouseCoopers detected 4,227 cyberattacks in 2014, up from 2,581 in 2013. A single data breach reportedly costs U.S. companies more than $500,000 on average, the PwC report said.

Despite the potential hazard, IBM's research shows that nearly 90 percent of companies only require a simple, numeric pass code on mobile devices, with 80 percent of those companies requiring a four-digit pass code, which in some cases can be cracked in under 20 minutes, Barlow said.

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For instance, many people bring their own mobile phones to use at work, which may have apps that aren't vetted by the company.

"Think about [data breaches] like a global pandemic," Barlow said. "You would require physicians and hospitals out in the field to collaborate on where they are seeing infections. That is still not happening in the security industry. And it's got to change."

A potential Apple advantage for business owners comes as the company makes a play at more enterprise customers, through a partnership with Cisco's corporate cloud services, and a new iPad Pro, designed for corporate productivity.

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Barlow said he sees a movement within companies toward discussing cyber-risk as part of investments in technology.

"This is where financial companies are really starting to move," Barlow said. "What is the right posture I need to take, relative to the risk in my business?"

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