8 Simple iPhone Security Tips
An iPhone contains huge amounts of detailed personal information about the owner, including emails, contact lists, banking information, personal notes, pictures, and much more, all of which most users want to keep private and secure. Fortunately the iPhone makes having a secured device pretty user friendly, and even novice users can take a few fairly simple precautions to make sure their devices are secure and locked down.
The approaches we’ll cover here will help keep prying eyes away from your personal data, even if someone was to gain access to your iPhone by theft or otherwise.
1: Use a Passcode, the Longer the Better
Almost everyone knows they should enable the passcode on iPhone or iPad, and this needs to be the first tip because many people skip this. Always use a passcode! Perhaps lesser known is that users should aim to have a longer passcode whenever possible as well. Newer versions of iOS default to wanting to use six digit passcodes versus the four digit passcode from prior releases, and you should absolutely take advantage of that.
- Open “Settings” and go to “Touch ID and Passcode”
- Choose “Turn Passcode On” if you haven’t done so already, otherwise choose “Change Passcode” and pick a six digit passcode (or use an alphanumeric if you want to get more complex and safer)
Even if you just elongate an existing four digit passcode into six digits, that is better than nothing as it still makes the passcode much harder to guess.
2: Disable Lock Screen Access to Notifications, Certain Features
It’s obviously useful to have lock screen access to notifications, Today view, Siri, Messages, and Apple Pay Wallet, but this can pose some potential security issues if someone was to get ahold of your device as it may reveal some important info from a text message or a notification. The easy way to avoid this is to turn off this stuff if you don’t use it enough to find it valuable:
- Open “Settings” and go to “Touch ID and Passcode”
- Under “Allow Access When Locked” section, toggle settings OFF for Today, Notifications View, Reply with Message, Wallet, and maybe Siri*
* Personally I leave Siri enabled because I find it very useful, but also because Siri from the lock screen allows users to ask “whose iPhone is this?” to see the owners contact info, which may help an honest person return a lost iPhone to you as the rightful owner.
3: Enable iCloud and Find My iPhone
Find My iPhone is one of the most useful services offered by Apple through iCloud. It allows you to remotely track and remotely lock down an iPhone if it has been lost or misplaced, and if device recovery becomes hopeless, you can even remotely wipe the iPhone with the service too.
- Open “Settings” and go to ‘iCloud’ (be sure you have enabled iCloud if you haven’t done so already)
- Check to be sure that “Find My iPhone” is set to ON
Don’t skip this one, it’s extremely useful. I know multiple people who have personally recovered lost or misplaced iPhones by using the Find My iPhone service, it works!
4: Use iCloud Backups
Having backups of an iPhone are essential, and iCloud makes it easy. With iCloud backups turned on, the device will back itself up every night when it’s connected to wi-fi and a power source. Plus, iCloud backups are encrypted and secure, meaning the data is safe.
- Open “Settings” and go to ‘iCloud’
- Insure that iCloud backups are set to “ON”
The other obvious benefit to iCloud backups is that it allows you to quickly recover your data, photos, notes, messages, contact details, and anything else on the device, in the odd event that you lose, misplace, or break an iPhone.
Having data backups are very important, and iCloud makes it easy. By the way, I generally recommend using both iCloud and iTunes for backups if possible simply for the redundancy, but if you do use iTunes (or exclusively use iTunes for backups) you will almost certainly want to encrypt iPhone backups in iTunes too.
5: Consider Two-Factor Authentication for iCloud / Apple ID
Two-Factor Authentication makes it so that even if someone was to get ahold of your Apple ID password, they are not able to log in to the account or access the data without confirming the authentication from a secondary trusted device or phone number. This is a bit more advanced, but if you’re serious about keeping a device secure and locking down your data, it’s one of the better ways to do that. You can learn more about enabling two-factor authentication for an Apple ID here.
6: Perform a Privacy Check, & Be Mindful of What Apps Want Access To
Apple keeps the App Store locked fairly tight, but every once in a while a dubious app seeps through the cracks or performs a function you may not quite be expecting it to do. Also, some apps may want more data than they actually need to perform their given functionality. For example, some apps may try to access your iPhone location, microphone, or iPhone Photos for no obvious reason. Ask yourself, why might an app need access to your iPhone microphone or pictures, unless they are clearly related to the apps function? For example, a picture editing app obviously needs access to your pictures, but does a picture editing app really need access to your location or your contacts? And would a simple game really need access to your microphone? There’s no need to be overly paranoid, but do be discerning about what apps you allow to access what functions and features.
Performing a simple app privacy check for existing apps is easy:
- Open the ‘Settings’ app and go to “Privacy”
- Browse through each section, focusing particularly on apps requiring “Location Services” access, Contacts, Photos, Microphone, and Camera
- Turn off access to specific features if something seems iffy or misplaced*
* Do keep in mind some apps stop working correctly if you disable their access to a necessary feature, for example Instagram can’t work without Camera or Photo access, but that’s an appropriate usage given that Instagram is a photography app.
7: Avoid Jailbreaking
Many advanced users like to jailbreak their devices for a variety of reasons, but if you are concerned about privacy and security, it’s generally a bad idea to jailbreak. The reason is quite simple, by jailbreaking you are intentionally bypassing security features on the iPhone so that other stuff can be installed, accessed, or adjusted – that means, at least in theory, that a bad actor could also attempt to install some junk onto your iPhone, or access something from your iPhone that you may not want to share. This is pretty rare, but there are examples of this happening in the real world with nefarious software from ill vetted sources. Additionally, Apple also may void warranty on a jailbroken device.
You can read 7 specific reasons not to jailbreak an iPhone here if you want more details on this issue. Basically, don’t do it, because it’s not without some risk.
8: Update iOS Software
Just about every iOS update includes bug fixes and security fixes, so installing the latest versions of iOS onto an iPhone are an easy way to insure that you have better protection from the various potential threats out there. Apple is really good about patching security flaws, and the single most reliable way to insure that these patches help your device security is to install available iOS updates.
As always, backup a device before updating iOS software. The rest is easy:
- Go to “Settings” and to “Software Update”
- If a system update is available, install it
Do you have any other simple iPhone security tips? Let us know in the comments!