5 ways to increase security and privacy of your iPhone or iPad
5 easy ways to lock down the information on iOS 7 and enhance your security and privacy!
With iOS 7 — see our complete iOS 7 review — Apple has made the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad more convenient than ever, but also more secure. How is that possible? Well, in most cases you - the owner of the device - have to choose which one is more important to you - the owner of the device. You can set things up so that every major setting and notification is available at the glance of an eye, the swipe of a finger, or the sound of a voice. Or you can make it so that every bit on the box is locked away behind a strong password. There's no "security flaw" that can be taken advantage of, only tools that you can choose to use, or not, to provide the right balance on your device. Now, adding security does require more time and effort than going without, but nowhere nearly as much time and effort as it takes to recover after your stuff is spied, stolen, or otherwise violated. So, weigh the options and make your choice in the eternal battle between security and convenience. Here's what you need know!
1. How to use a strong(er) Passcode lock
If you have an iPhone 5s you have Touch ID which lets you, if you choose to use it, secure your device with a biometric fingerprint identity sensor that can be used to authenticate you instead of a Passcode lock. Because you no longer have to enter a Passcode as often, you can switch to a stronger, longer, more complex Password lock instead. Sure, once in a while it'll be a pain to enter it, but that's offset by how infrequently you have to do it - only when you reboot, fail Touch ID 5 times, or don't use your phone for 48 hours.
If you're really concerned about security, and are willing to give up on convenience for it, turn Touch ID off and go with a strong, complex password.
If you have any other Apple device, you still have the option of a Passcode lock, and you should absolutely use it. Not only does it protect your iPhone from casual snooping - or from people tweeting "poopin" the minute you leave it unattended - it prevents thieves from getting your data, and enables hardware encryption to make sure all your stuff is safe. While the basic 4-number pin offers basic-level of protection, there just aren't enough 4 number variations to keep your stuff really safe. For that you need a stronger password. If an alphanumeric password is too annoying for you to enter on mobile, you can turn it on anyway, enter a longer (than 4) set of numbers, and get some of the benefits without making it overly arduous to enter.
2. How to keep personal notifications and system toggles off your Lock screen
What good is a super-strong Passcode lock if anyone and everyone can see your messages, Notification Center alerts, access Passbook, or use Siri or Control Center right from your Lock screen? Sure, it's incredibly convenient to be able to glance at incoming messages and quickly add things to Reminders or Notes, but for those times when you don't think you can safely leave your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad lying around without people snooping, remember you can turn all that Lock screen stuff off.
If you have an iPhone 5s, there's no reason not to turn off Siri access to the Lock Screen. Touch ID will authorize you as part of the long press to launch Siri anyway.
- How to disable Control Center access on the iOS 7 Lock screen
- How to disable access to Siri and Passbook on the Lock screen
- How to disable Notification Center alerts on the Lock screen
3. Turn on 2-step verification
Security works best in layers, and defensive depth means having as many layers are possible. Touch ID now provides biometrics on the iPhone 5s so "something you are", while the password is "something you know", a token is "something you have". It's not full-on multi-factor authentication, at least not yet (because it's still either or, not all), but it is 2-step verification and, when it comes to security, 2 steps really are better than one. You will have to enter an app-specific password, or an additional pincode/password the first time you set up the service on your device, but it'll make it more than twice as strong for only a minimal amount of extra effort. Do it.
- How to set up 2-step verification for Apple ID
- How to set up 2-step verification for Google accounts
- How to set up 2-step verification for Dropbox
- How to set up 2-step verification for Twitter
4. How to keep your web browsing, location, social and other data private
Let's say you're not looking at porn - we don't judge! - but you still want to make sure cookies, web history, and other information about your browsing doesn't get recorded and tracked across the internet. Safari pioneered private browsing, so that's easy to do. In fact, on iOS 7 Private Browsing can be enabled from the bookmark, tabs, and smart search field screens, so it's even easier and more convenient than ever.
But what about things like location data, contacts, and other sensitive information? What if you, intentionally or simply inattentively, gave access to all off that, and more, to other apps? No worries. Again, iOS makes it easy to review and change your privacy settings. So do many online services as well. Lastly, if you're on a network you don't trust, and have access to a VPN service, that can help keep your data private as well.
- How to keep your web browsing private with Safari
- How to revoke app access to your location
- How to revoke app access to your contacts
- How to adjust privacy settings on Facebook
- How to connect to a VPN
5. How to wipe web history and other data from your device
If you didn't initially use Safari's private browsing, or you want to clear other personal, private, potentially embarrassing, compromising, or just plain awkward data on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, including messages, mail, photos, and more, you can. You even have the nuclear option of securely wiping your entire device, and killing old backups, so you can start over fresh, clean, and safe.
- How to clear website data on iOS
- How to clear messages, mail, photos, and more on iOS
- How to wipe all data on iOS
- How to delete an iCloud backup on iOS
6. Bonus tip: Use a password manager
Security is at constant war with convenience. Fortunately, in order to tip the scales slightly more towards convenience, there are password managers. Due to the lack of browser plugins on iOS, iPhone and iPad password managers aren't as well integrated as they are on Mac or Windows, but there are still many on the App Store to choose from.
- Best password manager apps for iPhone and iPad: 1Password, oneSafe, LastPass, and more!
- How we handle security at iMore: Our apps and approaches to keeping our data safe!
Post iOS 7
Every thing is a trade-off, and every choice comes with repercussions. Even if you disable Siri and Control Center on the Lock screen, a thief could still turn off the device and kill your ability to track it. Even if Apple were to force authorization (Passcode or Touch ID) to enable powering off, a thief could put the device in DFU mode. If Apple were to remove DFU mode, then legitimate trouble shooting and fixes wouldn't be possible.
Instead, we have Activation Lock, which requires an Apple ID to circumvent. The idea isn't to make a device so secure even the owner can't get into it, but to make it as unattractive as possible to pranksters, thieves, and other miscreants so they go elsewhere.
Unless you work in Enterprise or Government and have an enforced policy on your device, you probably want some balance between security and convenience.
Your top security tips?
Those are our top 5 tips for taking your iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad security to the next level! If you've got any other tips, or alternate ways to keep stuff safe on iOS 7, let us know!
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