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How to Protect Data on Lost or Stolen iPhone

5 Steps to Take When Someone Else Has Your iPhone

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Having your iPhone stolen is bad enough—you're out hundreds of dollars that the phone originally cost and now you need to buy a new one—but the idea that the thief now has access to your personal data stored on the phone is even worse. Luckily, there are a few steps you can take before your phone is lost or stolen, and a few after it is, that can protect your data.

1. Set a Passcode

enter passcode on stolen iphone

This is a basic security measure that you can add to your iPhone at any time. Setting a passcode will force someone to enter it when they want to access your phone. If they don't know it, they won't get in. In versions of the iOS prior to 4, passcodes are limited to four digits. In iOS 4 and higher, you can turn off that Simple Passcode and use a more complex—and thus more secure—combination of letters and numbers. While it's best if you do this before your iPhone is stolen, you can use Find My iPhone to set a passcode over the Internet. Read on to learn more about that.

2. Delete Data on Incorrect Passcode Entries

set passcodoe for stolen iphone

One way to really make sure that a thief can't get your data is to set the iPhone to automatically delete all its data when the passcode is enteredly incorrectly 10 times. If you're not good at remembering your passcode you may want to be careful, but this is one of the best ways to protect your phone. This is an option when you set up a passcode.

3. Use Find My iPhone

mobileme remote delete
image copyright Apple Inc.

Apple's Find My iPhone tool, a free part of iCloud, is a major asset if you've had your iPhone stolen. You'll need an iCloud account, and to have enabled Find My iPhone on your device, before your iPhone is stolen, of course, but if you did that, you'll be able to:

  • locate the phone on a map (often down to the building its in) via GPS
  • display a message on the screen with instructions on where to return the phone
  • have the phone play a sound (useful if you think it's nearby)
  • set a passcode lock remotely
  • delete all data on your phone over the Internet.

Related: Do you need the Find My iPhone app to use Find My iPhone?

4. Remote Wipe with iPhone Apps

fonehome screenshot
image copyright Appmosys LLC

In addition to Find My iPhone, there are nearly a dozen third-party apps available at the App Store to help you track down a lost or stolen iPhone. Some require annual or monthly subscriptions, some don't. These apps offer alternatives to Find My iPhone, and some even offer nearly identical features.

5. Change Passwords

Once your phone's been stolen, you'll want to make sure to secure all aspects of your digital life, not just your phone. Make sure to change your other online passwords: email (to stop the thief from sending mail from your phone), iTunes, online banking, etc. Better to limit the problems to your phone than let a thief steal from you even more.

And if your iPhone has been stolen, you may also want to check out these tips on what to do when your iPhone is stolen.

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