A majority of iPhone users have no idea they are putting themselves and their personal data at risk by ignoring iPhone security. If your iPhone is stolen, unscrupulous parties will have unfettered access to sensitive data. They can take this information and sell it on the black market – or use it themselves – stealing your identity. This can bring a wave of issues crashing down on you including financial losses, personal attacks and more.
In an attempt to reduce theft, Apple added a “kill switch” feature to iPhones that allows devices to be disabled if they are stolen. This prevents unwanted users from gaining access to the data, content and device itself – they cannot even use it. It also brickwalls thieves that might wipe the device and sell your iPhone online.
In just the first six months after the feature went live, robberies involving Apple products in New York City fell to 19 percent. Apple’s plan to reduce theft of their products is working.
Yet, that doesn’t mean iPhone users should forego securing their device and stored data. To help, we’ve compiled a list of tips you can follow to lock down your iPhone and keep potential thieves or snoopers at bay.
Always Use the Auto-Lock Feature
Auto-lock is one of the most useful security features available. It returns the iPhone to a locked state after the touchscreen display has been inactive for an extended period of time.
In the settings menu, users can specify whether they want their device to lock after two, three, four or five minutes. We recommend keeping the timeout period short, at two or three minutes max. Of course, you can disable the auto-lock feature but that will leave your device and stored data vulnerable.
The auto-lock feature will not keep the device secure on its own, but if combined with the passcode lock it is effective.
Enable the Passcode Lock
When the passcode lock is active, a four-digit code must be entered before the device can be used again. If the passcode and auto-lock are used together, the iPhone will automatically secure itself after a set period of time. The passcode lock also becomes active if you turn off the display by pressing the sleep button.
It is highly recommended that you always use the passcode lock and auto-lock in tandem.
You can turn on the feature by visiting the iPhone settings, selecting “General” and opening the passcode lock tab. On the next menu, you can enable the function by tapping the virtual switch to “on.” After doing that, you will be prompted to enter a four-digit pin. Never use personal information in a password like birthdates and addresses. Come up with a random number that you will be able to remember.
There are extra settings you can customize to make your device more secure, as well. You can choose how long it takes for the passcode lock to become active, and you can opt to display SMS previews on the lock screen. The most important setting allows you to erase all data on the device after ten failed passcode attempts. This is a good feature to activate if you’re prone to losing your iPhone. It would take hours to wipe a device, because you have to wait longer and longer each time you enter the wrong passcode.
Optimize Wi-Fi for Safety
Wi-Fi is great because it helps keep your data usage under wraps, but access points can also be a security liability if you’re not careful.
Ensure that your home Wi-Fi connection uses WPA security protocols. Additionally, refrain from connecting to random networks while you’re away from home. Never use public Wi-Fi networks to transmit or handle sensitive data. To prevent your iPhone from connecting to networks on its own, turn-on the “Ask to Join Networks” function. After it is enabled your iPhone will always ask if you want to connect to a Wi-Fi network, instead of doing so automatically.
It also helps to disable the Wi-Fi radio completely when not in use. This keeps your device secure and it also conserves battery.
To turn the “Ask to Join Networks” function on, first navigate to your iPhone settings menu. Next, tap the Wi-Fi tab and turn on the function by interacting with the on/off button in the next menu.
Pay Attention to App Permission Requests
Before you install apps, pay attention to the permission requests agreement. This useful feature is often overlooked by most iPhone users, and it’s a shame. You should pay attention to what permission apps that you install are being given. For example, it doesn’t make sense for a game to access your text messages. You’d be surprised how many apps are allowed to access your sensitive data, and it’s all because you hit the “install” button.
The app permissions agreement is visible on every product page in the App Store.
Keep Geo-Location Off
If you are not using location data for GPS navigation, then turn off the geo-location function completely. This will allow you to remain anonymous, for the most part. If you are connected to Wi-Fi, your location data can also be transmitted. That being said, authorities use that location data in the event of an emergency so keep that in mind.
Use Safari’s Built-in Security Features
Apple’s Safari browser includes several basic, but useful, security features. Most of the settings are already active by default, but it never hurts to check.
Always leave the pop-up blocker setting active. This will prevent the browser from automatically redirecting and downloading questionable content. You can turn on this feature in the iPhone settings menu, by tapping “Safari” in the list and switching the related button on.
Also, you should disable cookies. Cookies are data files that store and distribute information to remote web servers. This can be done by visiting the Safari tab in the iPhone settings menu and changing the “Accept Cookies” option to “never.” If you decide to keep cookies active, then be sure to clear them often.
Protect Yourself and Your Data by Browsing Safely
If you follow the tips outlined above, you should be fine. There are always going to be security loopholes. Even if you activate every security feature available, your data and device can still be stolen or hacked. That being said, following these tips will minimize the risk of getting your information stolen!
Photo: Bjorn Olsson