Four Simple Steps To Secure Your iPhone Against Loss And Theft
As the internet ingrains itself more deeply into our daily lives, our reliance on devices that let us carry the internet around with us – like iPhones – increases as well. While that definitely has its positives, there are a few drawbacks, as well.
For example, if your iPhone is lost or stolen, you could find yourself with a fairly serious problem, especially if your contacts, calendar, and other important data is not backed up elsewhere.
Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take that will make it easier to recover your phone should it get lost or stolen.
1. Turn On “Find My iPhone”
Beginning with iOS 3.0 in 2009, Apple began offering their “Find My iPhone” service to paying MobileMe customers. The service became free in November of 2010, and is now integrated into iCloud. While you have the option of leaving it off, turning on Find My iPhone is one of the simplest and most important steps you can take to protect yourself in the event of a lost or stolen phone.
As the name suggests, the service lets you log into your iCloud account from a computer or from a friends iPhone (or other iOS device) and get your device’s current location. You can also send messages that will pop up on your phone’s screen, alerting anyone who may have it that it has been lost and you are looking for it. In the event that your phone is irrecoverable for some reason, you also have the option of using Find My iPhone to wipe all data from the phone remotely, thus protecting potentially sensitive information from thieves or anyone who may happen to find your phone.
2. Turn On Passcode Lock
Putting a passcode lock on your iPhone is one of the simplest and most effective means of securing your iPhone available. A passcode prevents your phone from being used for anything but taking pictures (since iOS 5 added the camera shortcut to the lock screen) and emergency phone calls. This protects all phone’s data – address book, email, photos, etc. – from the prying eyes of anyone who may take or find your phone.
The basic passcode lock is a 4-digit number that you type in every time you want to unlock your phone. While this may seem a bit cumbersome, the security benefits are well worth the extra second or so it takes you to punch in the numbers. The passcode feature also includes some other options that enable you to increase the security of your phone even more. First, you have the option of switching from a simple 4-digit passcode to a longer alphanumeric passcode. A long alphanumeric passcode is significantly more secure for the simple reason it is much harder to guess. Second, you can set your phone to wipe itself clear after 10 consecutive failed passcode attempts. If someone is attempting to guess your code and fails ten times in a row, all data on the phone – photos, address book, email, MMS conversations, app data, music and videos, everything – is deleted and the phone is returned to factory settings. Of course, this also makes using Find My iPhone impossible, but it’s definitely an option if you have data on your phone that is extremely sensitive.
3. Make An “If Found” Note Your Lockscreen Wallpaper
Of course, many people who find a lost phone immediately go looking through the phone’s contacts for a way to locate the owner. With a passcode in place, this is impossible. That’s why it’s helpful to put some basic contact info – name, email address, alternate phone number, and maybe a physical address – on your phone’s lockscreen.
There are numerous ways to do this. The simplest is to simply type up the message you want to display, take a screenshot of it, and set that screenshot as your wallpaper. You can use the built in Notes app or pretty much any app that allows you to type. You can also use any number of apps on your phone, the web, or your computer to add the text you need to an existing photo. That way you don’t have to decide between that cool wallpaper you like and making it easier to get your lost phone back.
4. Restrict Location Settings
This last step is the most complicated and most prone to causing you frustration day-to-day, but is arguably the most important. In your iPhone’s Settings app, in the General section, you’ll find an entry marked Restrictions. From here you can do a wide variety of things to make sure that people other than you can’t monkey around with your phone’s settings. You can turn off the ability to delete or install apps, you can disable Siri, you can restrict what kind of content can be downloaded, and more.
Most importantly for our purposes, you can also lock down your phone’s location settings. Restricting your phone’s location settings means that anyone who finds your phone will need a passcode to turn off your phone’s tracking features, including Find My iPhone. This is especially important if you don’t have your phone passcode locked.
With these settings unrestricted, a thief who knows anything about iPhones could easily go into your iPhone’s settings and turn off Find My iPhone, making it impossible for you to track your phone or wipe it remotely. When you turn on restrictions, you will be asked to set a restrictions passcode. This code is separate from your unlock passcode, and should be a different number, for extra security.
Honorable Mention: Regular Backups
In a world where we keep more and more of our lives stored electronically, regular data backups have become crucial. While taking the above steps will help you find your iPhone should it be lost or stolen, the simple fact of the matter is that sometimes gone is gone, and you won’t get your phone back no matter what. To protect against those situations, it’s crucial that you make regular backups of your iPhone’s data, whether by syncing your phone to your computer, or by turning on iCloud’s wireless sync feature. If you backup your data regularly, a lost phone only costs you the price of replacement, instead of costing you precious data.
Simon Drew, the author, has recently been looking into iphone 4 deals but was worried about the security on such an expensive piece of kit.