You might not think about it, but securing your iOS device can help protect your personal information if you lose your device or leave it unattended. We keep everything on our devices: from bank information, to personal text messages and emails, to corporate communications from our work. All of this information, if placed in the wrong hands, could be detrimental for you personally and/or professionally. Fortunately, iOS includes several ways of securing your device. Let's take a closer look.
Secure your personal information
The best way to secure your iOS device is to add a passcode. You can add either a 4-digit pin number or an alphanumeric passcode.
To do this, follow these steps:
- Open Settings
- Tap General | Touch ID & Passcode
- Tap the button labeled Turn Passcode On
- Enter and re-verify the passcode
That's it. Once you do this, your device will automatically prompt you to enter the passcode (Figure A) when attempting to unlock the screen. When your device is locked, all of your information is encrypted and protected behind this passcode.
Setting a passcode is the easiest way to protect the data on your iOS device.
By default, the passcode is a simple 4-digit pin number that's used to unlock your device. To set a passcode using alphanumeric characters and have a longer password, just navigate back to Settings | General | Touch ID & Passcode, and then disable the option for Simple Passcode (Figure B). With this option turned off, you can reset your pin number to be a much longer password and feature alphanumerical characters.
Toggling the option for Simple Passcode to OFF will allow for longer, alphanumeric passcode using all of the iOS keyboard keys.
If you have an iPhone 5s, then you have added security with the Touch ID feature on your device. With the Touch ID enabled, the home button becomes a fingerprint reader that can scan and unlock your device using your fingerprint.
To set up Touch ID, follow these steps:
- Open Settings | General | Touch ID & Passcode
- Tap the button labeled Set Up Touch ID to launch the setup assistant flow
After the set up, you'll be able to unlock your device by simply resting your recognized finger on the home button while on the lock screen (Figure C). Without entering your passcode, the device will be unlocked, and you'll be taken into iOS.
Enabling Touch ID gives the ability to unlock an iOS device using the touch sensor on the home button.
Note that by setting up Touch ID, you'll also be required to set a passcode on your device as a backup option in case your finger isn't recognized. The passcode will be required to unlock your device after a restart.
Protecting against theft
iOS and iCloud include some amazing technology to protect your device against theft — plus help you recover it if it's lost or stolen. Using the Find Devices feature of iCloud, you can be notified of the exact whereabouts of your device at any given time, as long as your lost device has a charge and a data connection.
Follow these steps to set up iCloud's Find Devices feature:
- Open Settings | iCloud
- Either sign into iCloud or, if signed in already, enable the option for Find My [device type] (Figure D)
Toggle a single switch to make sure that you can receive GPS updates if your device is lost or stolen.
Once configured, you can browse all of your iOS devices by logging into your iCloud account at icloud.com.
Wiping your device remotely
If you've previously set up iCloud's Find Devices feature, then you also have the ability to wipe your devices remotely through the iCloud web interface or through the Find My iPhone.
Here's how to wipe a device that's gone missing, when there's no chance of recovery:
- Log into icloud.com
- Click Find My iPhone
- Locate your device using the Devices drop-down menu
- Once selected, the device details will show in the top right corner
- Click Erase [device type] (Figure E)
You can completely wipe your device if there's no chance of its recovery.
Once you've confirmed that you wish to erase your device, iCloud will go to work, sending the message to erase the device completely. If the device isn't connected to the network, the next time that it connects to iCloud and gets the message, it will be erased immediately.
Note: Once you've wiped your device, it will no longer show in the Find My iPhone section of the iCloud website, and you'll no longer be able to track its location. This service works on iPhones, iPads, iPods, and Macs that are compatible with iCloud.
Final notes about mobile security
As you can see, with our digital lives contained on our mobile devices, it's increasingly more important to secure the devices that you carry around with you on a daily basis. Fortunately, by following the steps outlined in this article, you'll be a few steps closer to having a more secure device.
Do you have another security tip, or do you use additional software to make your device more secure? Let us know in the discussion thread below.
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Cory Bohon is an indie developer, creating both iOS and OS X applications at Cocoa App (his own company), MartianCraft, and for various other clients. As a part of full disclosure, he does not write about any software that he has created or has helped to create through these outlets.
Cory Bohon is an indie developer specializing in iOS and OS X development. He runs a software company called Cocoa App and is also a developer at MartianCraft. He was introduced to technology at an early age and has been writing about his favorite technology part-time since 2007. He runs a development blog named ObjDev when he isn’t writing about consumer tech.