These days, iPhone security isn't a topic too many end users are thinking a lot about. At least not beyond making sure that they keep an eye on their phone so no one pinches it.
This generally makes sense. After all, there haven’t been any well-publicized incidents of iPhone hacking, iPhone viruses, or other security incidents. Yet.
For those interested in iPhone security in these relatively safe times, here are some tips:
Use a Passcode Lock
This tip works on the iPhone and iPod touch. It prevents unauthorized users from unlocking your device and reading its data or using its services with a four-digit code. Set your code by going to:
Home Screen -> Settings -> General -> Passcode Lock
Enter a four-digit code of your choice to keep out prying eyes. If you forget the code, though, you’re likely looking at a full deletion of data on the phone and restoring from backup.
In iOS 4, your Passcode Lock options get more complex. You can now:
- Set the phone to Require Passcode on different intervals (minutes, hours, etc.). Shorter intervals are more secure.
- Create a more complex password (as opposed to just four digits) by moving the Simple Passcode slider to off
- Automatically erase all of the phone's data when the passcode, either the simple or more complex version, is incorrectly entered 10 times.
The only security that a passcode provides is that it makes it hard to access the phone. Passcodes don't provide any encryption of data.
Passcode Lock with Siri
On the iPhone 4S and newer, you can access Siri from the lock screen just by holding down the home button. This is a sort of security vulnerability, since it allows someone to access some elements of your phone even if it has a passcode on it. But you can turn this off and enable Siri only when a phone is unlocked. To do this, go to the Passcode screen and move the Siri slider to Off.
Speaking of backups, you can also secure them – and the data on your iPhone or iPod touch, both need to be running OS 3.0 – by encrypting the backups on your computer. This will prevent someone who doesn’t know your password from getting access to your data by using your computer.
Do this in iTunes when you sync your iPhone or iPod touch. On the main sync page, in the Options section below the picture of your device, you’ll see a checkbox called “Encrypt iPhone backup” or “Encrypt iPod backup.”
Click that box and set a password for the backup. Now, if you want to restore from that backup, you’ll need to know the password. Otherwise, no getting at that data.
Remote Wipe Using Find My iPhone
With the introduction of iOS 4.2, many devices running that operating system now give you the ability to remotely destroy a stolen iPhone before the thief can take advantage of your data.
This requires that the iPhone be on and set up to use the Find My iPhone service. If those conditions are met, though, you can use Find My iPhone to locate the phone and then perform a remote wipe of the data on the phone. (Related: Do you need the Find My iPhone app to use Find My iPhone?)
This won’t affect the backup of your data on your computer, but will stop a thief from getting into your life.
There are also third-party apps that can help you track, locate, and recover a lost or stolen iPhone.
iPhone Apps and iPod touch Apps
There aren’t a lot of apps that will improve your iPod touch or iPhone security right now. Expect that to change, though.
As iPhone security becomes a bigger issue, expect to see things like VPN clients, antivirus suites, and maybe even firewalls for the iPhone or iPod touch.
It’s also important to note that some tools available at the App Store that appear to perform heavy-duty security functions – like fingerprint or eye scans – don’t actually perform those tests. Instead, they use another security protocol that they disguise by appearing to perform those scans. Before you buy security apps at the App Store, make sure you’re clear on what the app does and doesn’t do.