How to Secure an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch

Introduction

In this modern connected age, more and more of our personal and professional lives are interwoven into our smart phones and tablets. Taking good measures to keep these devices secure should be of paramount importance.
To keep your iOS device secure you can set up specialized passwords using your face or fingerprints, enable find my device, disable lock screen notifications, enable 2-factor authentication, and keep your device backed up in case of problems.
Before You Begin:
  • Your iOS device should be up to date.
Make sure your iOS device has the latest updates
iPhone displaying enter passcode screen.

Outside of security settings, be cautious of:

  • What websites you visit.
  • What you tap on while surfing the web.
  • Links and attachments in emails.
  • Granting 3rd party apps permissions.
  • Who you allow to use your device(s).

Built-in security measures can only keep your device so safe. The best way to keep your device(s) secure is to always exercise caution.

1 Set a Passcode

The following steps are based on iOS devices running iOS 11 and later. For earlier versions, options may be similar, but may not exactly match the instructions provided.

  1. Tap Settings.
    iOS Settings.
  2. Tap Touch ID & Passcode.
    Touch ID and Passcode in settings.
  3. Tap Turn Passcode On.
    Turn passcode on option.
  4. Enter the desired passcode.
    User being prompted to enter a 6 digit passcode. Screenshot.

    Do not use a passcode that can be easily guessed. Avoid using passcodes that contain personally identifiable information such as your birthdate, street address, your telephone number, etc.

  5. To choose a different type of passcode, tap Passcode Options on the passcode entry screen.
    User being prompted to enter a 6 digit passcode. Passcode options highlighted. Screenshot.
  6. There are options to choose between a custom-length alpanumeric code, a custom-length numeric code, or between a standard 4 or 6 digit numeric passcode. The type of passcode chosen is personal preference. More information about types of passcodes can be found below.
    Passcode options prompt with different passcode options available. Screenshot.
  7. Upon entering a passcode, you will be prompted to re-enter it for verification purposes.
    User being prompted to verify the passcode that was previously entered. Screenshot.
  8. Once the passcode has been successfully set, you will be returned to the Touch ID & Passcode screen. Earlier options have been replaced with options for removing or changing the passcode that was just set.
    Touch ID and passcode screen highlighting options to turn off passcode and change passcode. Screenshot.

Types of passcodes

iOS devices have long been protected by numeric passcodes, giving iOS users a way to keep their devices safe from hackers and prying eyes. For a long time, passcodes were only 4-digit numeric codes, but Apple began using a 6-digit passcode as the default option. Longer and more complex passcodes offer greater security, as their complexity makes guessing, hacking, or cracking a passcode much more difficult. This is where custom-length numeric and alphanumeric options come into play.

Custom Alphanumeric Code
This allows for a custom-length passcode to be created using both letters and numbers.
User being prompted to enter an alphanumeric passcode. Screenshot.
Custom Numeric Code
This allows for a custom-length passcode to be created using numbers only.
User being prompted to enter a numeric passcode. Screenshot.
6-Digit Numeric Code
Beginning with iOS 9, Apple began using a six-digit passcode as the default passcode option. This is the most common type of passcode used with iOS devices today.
User being prompted to enter a 6 digit passcode. Screenshot.
4-Digit Numeric Code
The 4-digit numeric passcode was the original passcode option that iOS devices used as a standard. This is also commonly referred to as a "PIN-style" passcode.
User being prompted to enter a 4 digit passcode. Screenshot.

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  1. I would like to set up Touch ID
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In this modern connected age, more and more of our personal and professional lives are interwoven into our smart phones and tablets. Taking good measures to keep these devices secure should be of paramount importance.
To keep your iOS device secure you can set up specialized passwords using your face or fingerprints, enable find my device, disable lock screen notifications, enable 2-factor authentication, and keep your device backed up in case of problems.
Before You Begin:
  • Your iOS device should be up to date.
Make sure your iOS device has the latest updates
iPhone displaying enter passcode screen.

Outside of security settings, be cautious of:

  • What websites you visit.
  • What you tap on while surfing the web.
  • Links and attachments in emails.
  • Granting 3rd party apps permissions.
  • Who you allow to use your device(s).

Built-in security measures can only keep your device so safe. The best way to keep your device(s) secure is to always exercise caution.

The following steps are based on iOS devices running iOS 11 and later. For earlier versions, options may be similar, but may not exactly match the instructions provided.

  1. Tap Settings.
    iOS Settings.
  2. Tap Touch ID & Passcode.
    Touch ID and Passcode in settings.
  3. Tap Turn Passcode On.
    Turn passcode on option.
  4. Enter the desired passcode.
    User being prompted to enter a 6 digit passcode. Screenshot.

    Do not use a passcode that can be easily guessed. Avoid using passcodes that contain personally identifiable information such as your birthdate, street address, your telephone number, etc.

  5. To choose a different type of passcode, tap Passcode Options on the passcode entry screen.
    User being prompted to enter a 6 digit passcode. Passcode options highlighted. Screenshot.
  6. There are options to choose between a custom-length alpanumeric code, a custom-length numeric code, or between a standard 4 or 6 digit numeric passcode. The type of passcode chosen is personal preference. More information about types of passcodes can be found below.
    Passcode options prompt with different passcode options available. Screenshot.
  7. Upon entering a passcode, you will be prompted to re-enter it for verification purposes.
    User being prompted to verify the passcode that was previously entered. Screenshot.
  8. Once the passcode has been successfully set, you will be returned to the Touch ID & Passcode screen. Earlier options have been replaced with options for removing or changing the passcode that was just set.
    Touch ID and passcode screen highlighting options to turn off passcode and change passcode. Screenshot.

Types of passcodes

iOS devices have long been protected by numeric passcodes, giving iOS users a way to keep their devices safe from hackers and prying eyes. For a long time, passcodes were only 4-digit numeric codes, but Apple began using a 6-digit passcode as the default option. Longer and more complex passcodes offer greater security, as their complexity makes guessing, hacking, or cracking a passcode much more difficult. This is where custom-length numeric and alphanumeric options come into play.

Custom Alphanumeric Code
This allows for a custom-length passcode to be created using both letters and numbers.
User being prompted to enter an alphanumeric passcode. Screenshot.
Custom Numeric Code
This allows for a custom-length passcode to be created using numbers only.
User being prompted to enter a numeric passcode. Screenshot.
6-Digit Numeric Code
Beginning with iOS 9, Apple began using a six-digit passcode as the default passcode option. This is the most common type of passcode used with iOS devices today.
User being prompted to enter a 6 digit passcode. Screenshot.
4-Digit Numeric Code
The 4-digit numeric passcode was the original passcode option that iOS devices used as a standard. This is also commonly referred to as a "PIN-style" passcode.
User being prompted to enter a 4 digit passcode. Screenshot.

The following steps are based on iOS devices running iOS 11 and later. For earlier versions, options may be similar, but may not exactly match the instructions provided.

To set up Touch ID on your iOS device

  1. Tap Settings.
    iOS Settings.
  2. Tap Touch ID & Passcode.
    Touch ID and Passcode in settings.
  3. Tap Add a Fingerprint...
    Touch ID and passcode screen with add a fingerprint highlighted.
  4. Instructions will appear on-screen prompting you to place your finger on your device's Home button.
    Touch ID setup screen displaying setup overview.
  5. As your device begins to detect your fingerprint, it will ask you to lift and rest your finger on the Home button repeatedly, so it can properly map your fingerprint.
    Touch ID setup screen with instructions for capturing fingerprints.
  6. Your device may also ask you to change the angle at which you rest your finger on the Home button to capture a more complete fingerprint. Tap Continue to proceed.
    TouchID setup screen with the Continue option highlighted.
  7. When your device has captured a complete fingerprint, it will display a Success screen letting you know your fingerprint has been captured. Tap Continue to complete the fingerprint capture process.
    Touch ID setup successful screen with Continue highlighted.

    Because Touch ID is linked to your device's passcode, if you do not already have a passcode set, you will immediately be prompted to create one at this time.

  8. You will be returned to the Touch ID & Passcode screen where you can choose what options you would like Touch ID to be used for.
    Touch ID and passcode screen highlighting Touch ID options.
  9. To add an additional fingerprint, tap Add a Fingerprint... and repeat the steps outlined above. Touch ID can store up to 10 individual fingerprints.
    Touch ID and passcode screen highlighting the add a fingerprint option.

Find My iPhone isn't just handy for locating a missing iOS device it can also be used to lock or erase a device in a worst case scenario.

To enable Find My iPhone:

  1. Select Settings.
    iOS Settings.

  2. Select your Apple ID.
    iOS Settings menu highlighting the Apple ID button.

  3. Select iCloud.
    iOS Apple ID settings with icloud selected

  4. Select Find My iPhone.
    iCloud settings highlighting the Find My iPhone option.

  5. Ensure that both Find My iPhone and Send Last Location are on.
    Find my iPhone settings highlighting both toggle switches.

If your device is not connected to an iCloud account, it will need to be signed into one in order for this feature to be available.

Once enabled, there are two ways you can remotely use Find My iPhone:

  • Using the Find My iPhone app on another mobile device.
  • Using the Apple iCloud website: https://www.icloud.com/

Find My iPhone will only work on an iPad if it is connected to a cellular network or Wi-Fi. If the iPad does not have connectivity, Find My iPhone will not be able to communicate with the device.

Lock screen notifications generate previews of notifications that appear on your device's screen while it is locked. These previews can contain portions of information you receive in text messages, email messages from VIP senders, and notifications from other apps you have installed. Because these notifications appear on your screen while your device is locked, if it is left out in plain sight, anyone nearby can view this information freely. Depending on what sorts of notifications you may receive while your device is out in the open, this can create a privacy risk that you may wish to avoid.

The following instructions will demonstrate how to disable lock screen notifications. While displaying notifications on your lock screen doesn't always present a privacy risk, disabling them may give you peace of mind. If you would rather lock screen notifications remain on, the following instructions can be skipped altogether.

To Disable Lock Screen Notifications

  1. Tap Settings.
    iOS Settings.
  2. Tap Notifications.
    settings with notifications highlighted
  3. Select the App you would like to disable notifications for, E.g. Mail.
  4. Toggle off Show on Lock Screen.
    notification settings with show on lock screen switch highlighted
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 for any App that can potentially display sensitive information.

The security of your iOS device is tied tightly to the security of your Apple ID and iCloud accounts. For that reason, it is important to make sure your Apple ID is secure. We can guide you through ensuring you have a strong password selected as well as turning on two-step verification.

Wherever possible, you should pick a password that is impossible to guess and is also resistant to brute-force attacks. Note that some devices or systems do not allow special characters or they may have their own requirements.

Best practices for picking a strong password

  • Passwords should be around 8 to 12 characters, but can be longer.
  • Avoid using words that are in the dictionary.
  • DO NOT use information that is easy to guess or phish for such as:
    • Important dates such as birthdays, anniversaries, etc.
    • Names of pets, friends, family, locations, etc.
  • Add some complexity to your password by adding at least:
    • 1 Capital letter
    • 1 Small letter
    • 1 Symbol
    • 1 Number
  • Try replacing letters with symbols, for example:
    • "Abc?123!" is easier to guess than "@B(?123!"
    • "Password!?" is easier to guess than "P@$$w0rd!?".

How to Change Your Apple ID Password

  1. Visit https://appleid.apple.com/ on your computer, and sign in with your Apple ID and Password.
    AppleID webpage with ID and Password area highlighted
  2. Scroll down, and choose Change Password... A box will open on the page. Fill in the password you just used to sign in, then your new password twice. After you are done, click the blue Change Password... button.
    AppleID website with change password area highlighted

Your Apple ID and password are very important, and you will need them across every Apple device you have; now and into the future.

Enabling a two-step verification for your Apple ID will further prevent unauthorized use of your account.

Two-factor authentication is an extra layer of security for your Apple ID. The first is your password, the second will be a special code or prompt displayed on your iPhone.

Enable two-step verification

  1. On your iPhone, tap Settings.
    iOS Settings.
  2. Tap on your Apple ID, at the top.
    iOS settings with Apple ID selected
  3. Tap Password & Security.
    Apple ID menu showing passwords selected
  4. Tap Two-Factor Authentication to turn it on.
    Turning two factor authentication on
  5. Follow the prompts on your iPhone's screen to complete setting up two-factor authentication.

You will need to have your iPhone available whenever you are using your Apple ID, such as making purchases from the Apple App Store, or making changes to your Apple ID from your computer.

There are two ways to backup your iOS device: iCloud, and to your computer via iTunes.

Backup to iCloud

iCloud has been the default way to backup your iOS devices since iOS 5. The first 5GB of files you backup using iCloud are free. Once this has been filled up, you'll have to pay a monthly fee. Photos and videos can fill up your free 5GB fast. If you take a lot of pictures, you may need to consider upgrading your iCloud storage, or backup using iTunes instead. 

While iCloud is the default backup method, it will need to be turned on.

  1. Tap Settings.
    iOS Settings.
  2. Select your Apple ID.
    iOS settings with Apple ID selected
  3. Select iCloud.
    iOS apple ID page with iCloud selected
  4. Make sure iCloud Backup is turned on.
    iOS icloud menu with iCloud backup highlighted
  5. Tap Back Up Now.
    iOS icloud menu with back up now highlighted

From now on, whenever your iOS device is connected to WiFi and not in use (locked), it will automatically back itself up to iCloud.

Backup to a Computer using iTunes

To backup using iTunes, you will need to connect your device to your computer. You'll be using the USB cable that it came with to do this. While this method is free, it is not automatic and will take some time to download all of the data on your device over to your computer.

  1. Open iTunes on your computer.
    iTunes.
  2. Connect your device to your computer using the USB cable that it came with.
    iPhone plugged into laptop via cable.
  3. Select your device from the list on the left, then choose Summary.
    Choosing your device and then summary
  4. Finally, click the blue Back Up Now button on the right.
    Backup button

At this time, Face ID is an option that is only available to all iPhone X models and latest iPad Pro running at least iOS 11.

  1. Tap Settings.
    iOS Settings.
  2. Tap Face ID & Passcode.
    Settings screen highlighting Face ID and passcode option.
  3. Tap Set Up Face ID.
    Face ID and passcode screen highlighting set up face ID.
  4. Instructions will appear on-screen with an overview of how setting up Face ID will work. Tap Get Started to proceed with the setup process.
    Face ID setup screen displaying setup overview and get started button.
  5. Your iPhone's front-facing camera will activate and prompt you to position your face within the on-screen frame.
    Face ID setup displaying face capture instructions.
  6. As your iPhone X's TrueDepth camera system detects your face on-screen, it will guide you to turn and rotate your head so it captures all angles of your face.
    Face ID setup displaying face capture instructions.
  7. Once Face ID has captured your face properly, it will present you with a confirmation screen letting you know Face ID has been successfully configured. Tap Done to continue.
    Face ID setup complete screen displaying a done button.

    Because Face ID is linked to your device's passcode, if you do not already have a passcode set, you will immediately be prompted to create one at this time.

  8. You will be returned to the Face ID & Passcode screen where you can choose what options you would like Face ID to be used for.
    Face ID and passcode screen highlighting available Face ID options.
  9. If you need to remove Face ID or re-perform the setup process, you can choose to Reset Face ID from within the Face ID & Passcode screen.
    Face ID and passcode screen highlighting reset face ID.
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