Basic Security in iOS 5 – Part 1

This is a post by Chris Lowe, an iOS application developer and aspiring game developer living in San Antonio, Texas. He warns that this tutorial is pretty Epic in length, but promises you’ll learn a thing or two along the way. :] One of the most important aspects of software development also happens to be […] By Chris Lowe.

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This is a post by Chris Lowe, an iOS application developer and aspiring game developer living in San Antonio, Texas. He warns that this tutorial is pretty Epic in length, but promises you’ll learn a thing or two along the way. :]

Learn how to store passwords securely in the Keychain!

Learn how to store passwords securely in the Keychain!

One of the most important aspects of software development also happens to be considered one of the most mysterious and scary (and is thus avoided like the plague): that of securing an application.

Users expect and demand that applications run as intended and keep their data safe and secure, whether it be from intruders, other users, or even from the correct user making mistakes.

But app security, while it can be time-consuming, need not be scary or mysterious!

Good app security has a couple of qualifications:

  • Users must not consciously know they are being protected. (That is, don’t get in the way! Users aren’t there to evaluate your data security practices; they want to use your app!)
  • Your security must be difficult to work around or break. (Nothing is impossible to hack, given enough time and horsepower.)
  • Don’t be Citibank.

Luckily for us, Apple has created several APIs for our use to help make our apps the best they can be. These include:

  • Secure text entry
  • An encrypted keychain
  • Great hashing algorithms; and
  • The Data Protection API.

In this tutorial, we’re going to cover all of this and more, as we build an application to keep track of the holiday presents that we are going to buy our friends and family. We’ll call it “Christmas Keeper.”

As an added bonus, we’re going to use TONS of awesome new iOS5 features, including Twitter, Storyboards, ARC, JSON, Alert Views, Static Table Views, and a simple Custom UI.

So keep reading to learn more – by the end of this tutorial series, you will be a better, more security-conscious developer!

Getting Started (Plus, a Little Housekeeping)

Launch Xcode and create a new project with the iOS\Application\Single View Application template. Fill out the template fields as follows:


  • Product Name: ChristmasKeeper
  • Company Identifier: the identifier that you use for your apps, in reverse domain notation
  • Class Prefix: leave this empty
  • Device Family: iPhone
  • Use Storyboard: yes, please
  • Use Automatic Reference Counting: Ditto
  • Include Unit Tests: this should be unchecked

Ok, we have our project setup with all of the default settings. This is a great start, but it doesn’t make our app great, so let’s make a few tweaks.

First, download the images we are going to be using and drag and drop them into the project.

Now on the Project Summary page, you should see that Xcode already picked up the Default and Default@2x.png files for your splash images. Drag the Icon.png and Icon@2x.png files into their respective App Icons boxes (Xcode will complain about the images, but just click Yes).


While we are on this screen, scroll down (expand if necessary) to the Linked Framework and Libraries section. Go ahead and add the Twitter and Security Frameworks here.


Jump over to the Info tab (at the top of the Project Settings). Expand the “Icon Files (iOS 5)” option and the Primary Icons option. Take a second and change “Icon already includes gloss effect” to YES.

In Xcode 4.2/iOS5, Apple decided that you could have some icons with and without icon gloss so the generic item of “Icon already includes gloss effect” – that you would put as a new key on the root level – no longer applies.

Also, while you’re here, change the “Bundle Display Name” to something more friendly, like “Christmas” for example, or even something more sneaky like “Boring App” to throw off any spies. :]

Lastly, add a new key (by selecting the last entry and clicking the + button that appears). Select “Status bar is initially hidden” from the drop down, make sure the type is set to BOOL, and set it to YES. This will give us maximum screen real estate for our app.


Our tweaking here is done! Go ahead and hit Build and Run to make sure we didn’t fudge anything.

Christmas Keeper Launch Image

Storyboard Magic

One of the coolest parts of iOS5 is Storyboards. With it, we can mock up an entire application in a matter of minutes and, best of all, we don’t have to deal with the Application Delegate, Navigations Controllers, Tab Bar Controllers, or any other messy stuff that can waste a lot of development time!

So let’s head into the MainStoryboard.storyboard file and dig in. We are going to spend a bit of time here, so bear with me. It will be well worth it!

This is what our app is going to look like:


The default Storyboard is kind enough to give us a blank UIViewController to start with, so let’s be gracious hosts and use it! This view will serve as our landing view when the app is launched, and will be where we prompt the user for their PIN.

Add a UIImageView to the Controller and let it expand to the size of the window. If you happen to have a status bar still showing, snip that by going to the Attributes Inspector and changing the Status Bar Simulated Metric to None.

Set the image on the UIImageView to Default.png. iOS should auto-detect if you are on the Retina Display and change the graphic for us, since one is available.


Next, drop a UITableViewController onto the Storyboard. It’s kind of ugly and it needs a title. So let’s put it in a Navigation Controller!

Do this by using the new “Embed In…” feature of Interface Builder. With the Table View selected, go to Editor menu > Embed In… > Navigation Controller. You’ll notice that a new Navigation Controller is added and automatically linked to the Table View.


Now, let’s spice it up a little bit with some color. Select the Navigation Controller, then the Navigation Bar (you have to be zoomed in to 100% level to select it) and change its tint to green (you might need to select the Table View before its Nav Bar will pick up the color change). Then select the Navigation Bar on the Table View and set its title to “Christmas Presents.”


Let’s hook up the first View Controller we made with the new Table View. Control-Drag from the first View Controller (the one with the Image View on it) to the Navigation Controller. You can also drag it to the Table View Controller but I find it easier to understand this way.

Select Modal as the Segue type, then select the newly created Segue and change its transition style to Cross Dissolve. Set the Identifier as “ChristmasTableSegue.”

We’re going to create a custom Table View cell right inside of the Storyboard, and we’re going to use the one that is already provided for us from when we dropped in the UITableViewController. Select the white box below the “Prototype Cells” header and set the height to 90px. Set the Identifier to “ChristmasListCell,” and the Accessory type to Disclosure Indicator.


Now drag a UIImageView onto the cell. Set the width and height to 90px, move it to the left corner (you’ll see all of the nice blue alignment lines appear), set the Image to “present.png”, and set the View Mode to Aspect Fit.

Then add a UILabel next to the image and set the width to 202 and the height to 90 (this should fill in nicely from the edge of the image to the Disclosure Indicator, again with the alignment lines appearing). Set the number of lines to 0 and set the font to custom, Helvetica Neue Light, size 14.

One last quick step here: add a UIBarButtonItem to the Navigation Bar on the Table View and set it to the “Add” Identifier.


Ok, take a breath. Blink a few times. We have a few more steps, and then our UI will be DONE! All thanks to the power of Storyboards!

Drag out another UITableViewController and embed it inside of a Navigation Controller, just like the last one. Set the Tint on this Controller as well. Maybe a nice festive red would fit the bill?

Next, create a Segue from the + (Add) UIBarButtonItem you added to the Christmas Presents Table and Control-Drag to the new Navigation Controller. Use a Modal action again, except leave the default Transition Style (we want it to pop up like normal). Set this segue’s Identifier to “AddChristmasPresent.”

Give the new UITableViewController a title of “New Present” and add “Cancel” and “Done” Bar Button Items.

Now, select the entire Table View, set it to Static and of type Grouped. It will give you three cells to work with, but we only need two, so delete one of the extras.

Select the first table cell, expand it to 236px, set the Identifier to NewPresentImageCell, and the Selection Style to None. Add a UIImageView to the cell, size 300×236; set the Aspect Fit and Image to “present.png.”

Select the second table cell, expand it to 156px, set the Identifier to NewPresentTextCell, and the Selection Style to None. Add a UITextView to that cell, size 300×156. Set the font to Custom, Helvetica Neue Light, size 14 here as well. Set the Return key to Done, and the default text to “Enter the details of your Christmas Present here!”


Finally, we want to view the presents that we have on the List. We want to view them in the same way that we added them, so we’ll cheat here and copy the “Add Present” Table View and reuse it as the “Present Details” Table View. To do that, click on the Table View Controller inside of the New Present Scene, and copy and paste it back into the Storyboard.


You’ll notice that it is pasted overtop of the Add Present Table View. Drag it off to its own spot and create a Segue from the Christmas Presents table cell to this view, selecting Push as the action. Set the Identifier to “ChristmasDetailsSegue.”

You should see the Table View pick up the existing Navigation Controller and color. Just a few changes needed here – remove the Cancel button, change the Done button to an Action button, change the title to “Present Details,” and uncheck “Editable” in the UITextView.

There, those are all of the changes you need to reuse the “Add Present” Table View as the “Present Details” Table View!

Lastly, hit Build and Run to make sure we didn’t break anything in the process. Of course, none of the transitions will work because we haven’t finished coding them yet, but we have the scaffolding in place!

Chris Lowe


Chris Lowe


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