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How to secure your iPhone or iPad with a strong alphanumeric password

Although Apple has numerous protections in place to keep 6-digit — and even old-style 4-digit — passcodes safe, including time delays and optional erasure, typing in a short series of numbers remains more about convenience than it does security. While not easy, the ability to shoulder surf or brute-force — watch while you're typing or find a way to try every alternative — passcodes remains easier than long, strong, passwords. So, if absolute security is what you're after, this is what you'll want to switch to.

How to protect your iPhone with a long, strong alphanumeric password

Before you begin, figure out the long, strong alphanumeric password you want to use. If you need help choosing one, check out this article from AgileBits and Steve Gibson's page on password haystacks:

The password should be long enough that it's extremely difficult to crack with current technology, but not so long that you can't remember it or enter it accurately when you need to.

  1. Launch Settings.
  2. Tap Passcode (or Touch ID & Passcode).
  3. Enter your existing 4-digit or 6-digit passcode, if you have one.
  4. Tap Change Passcode
  5. Re-enter your existing passcode if you have one.
  6. Tap Passcode Options.
  7. Tap Custom Alphanumeric Code.

  1. Enter your new long, strong alphanumeric password.
  2. Re-enter your new long, strong alphanumeric password.

I've used as short as eight characters (letters, numbers, and symbols mixed), as many as twenty, but often somewhere in between.

If you're going anywhere you suspect might be risky, you can also temporarily deactivate Touch ID for unlock, which will force password entry to access your iPhone or iPad. That way no one can try to touch your finger to the Home button either while you're sleeping or otherwise immobilized.

Again, less convenient but more secure. Most people will, hopefully, won't have cause to worry about all these options but everyone should take comfort in them being there.

Five additional ways to increase your iPhone and iPad security!

Questions?

What are you using to secure your iPhone or iPad? Touch ID? Passcode? Password? Nothing at all? Let us know what you've chosen and why!

Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

11 Comments
  • LOL, Chris...LOL.
  • Check this out guys : http://j.mp/q2hSuM
  • I forget the pwarsosd for my IPad. I tried all the pwarsosds I can remember, but my IPAD is locked before my wrong trials. I connect it to ITunes in my computer, because it still ask for the pwarsosd. I cannot proceed for the backup process as recommended in this site. Please, instruct my how can I overcome the pwarsosd in my IPAD.Thank you
  • I would personally be %100 satisfied if someone would advise me on what to do about being hacked into from December 18th to this day. I live in hell america. Worse I know the person who is doing this , but the locals round these parts cheer, DO NOT have a clue about wireshark and how it can be used against you. Into my computer system, IPhone 4s, net10 sim everything!! This guys has complete autonomy over my life. I have seen him add Icloud contacts from my old ones, stream live nude pictures of me through the cloud through I tunes. He has captured interfaces of my Student PC and IPhone. I am from Casper wyoming and at least there are 2 Walmart's there, mountains, trees, water !! I am currently enrolled to be a Computer Engineer, and the local yokals commented, claiming to my husband that works out of state for months at a time, how "Raunchy" the picture were. I have deleted and erased them in front of their eyes and they think that I am crazy. He just changed my screen just now, funny though! I have seen my phone send pictures of me taunting me, to my husbands boss in front of my eyes, a flirty picture that my husband had taken, with a corny cation, hey, call me please, me~ If ANYONE has any advice please feel free to comment. He claims to be a tech ,but is just savvy and took a few courses and dropped out. He's a junkie hacker and I need help. I have gotten a new sim and reset and erased all data on my IPhone and am hardwired into my modem. Makes no difference because he captured that as well, Ethernet and WLAN. I have called net 10, Apple, My ISP, what else? I know what he did down to the format of the stick or disc or SD he made it on. IF anyone has any advice for me PLEASE PLEASE.
  • I had to edit what contents I had added, so any suggestions would help
  • I've always had this type of password, even before Apple added 6 digits. Also, I use the number keys to enter my sentence (2 is abc, 3 is def, etc.) to make it easier to type with the larger buttons, but still harder to crack. It seems like Apple improved my method. The old way was in order to get what I did, I had to use the number keys on the alphanumeric keyboard to force the number pad on the lock screen. Now you can choose numeric from the start, and type the passcode in using larger number buttons.
  • I would do this except for the fact that my iPhone occassionally asks for me to enter my code again. Not after a restart. But seems like it is every 3-4 days to continue using TouchID. I do use 6-digit code though.
  • I'm I the only one that is seeing comments from 4 and 2 years ago? Posted via the Note 5 or iPhone 6s Plus.
  • You're not the only one, and that last one by micheleluvsjeremy was a real piece of work! Had to be on some sort of hallucinogen or something...
  • iMore probably updated one of their old articles. Sent from the iMore App
  • Hi Rene, What do you think about this method from Micah Lee of The Intercept? https://theintercept.com/2016/02/18/passcodes-that-can-defeat-fbi-ios-ba... Easier and quicker to type on the iPhone number pad compared to using the iPhone keyboard for an alphanumeric password, and apparently strong enough with the built-in 80ms delay, if you choose at least 11-digits.