How to better protect your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch
Last evening I was helping a friend get up-to-speed with an email system he needed to use. Just as we were finishing up, his lovely wife arrived home and asked me for some advice about reducing the Internet bandwidth her Apple iPad 2 was using. So I duly explained what she should be doing and what she needed to keep an eye on. Satisfied with this she then asked, “How secure is what I have stored on this thing?”
Well, I could have gone into a lengthy explanation about how the iPad, along with the rest of the iOS product family including the iPhone, is a full-featured UNIX computer with almost permanent Internet access. That such a powerful computer needs to be properly protected if you’re to keep the information on it, and the details about the services you access using it, fully secure.
But I didn’t. Such an explanation would have gone straight through to the keeper. Instead I asked, “Is it password protected?”
“Ah, no,” was her reply.
“So if you accidently leave it somewhere, or have it stolen, whoever picks it up will be able to view all of the information you have on it,” I explained.
Her face saddened. “Oh dear. What do I need to do?”
“Don’t worry,” I said. “About 80% of smartphone and tablet users don’t have this covered, yet it’s very simple to do.”
Step 1: Setting the iOS passcode
I explained that with the Apple iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch, you can set a security passcode to protect your information and data. Each time you turn on or restart your device, or press the wake button, or unlock the screen, it will prompt you for the passcode.
Basically, you can configure a passcode for your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch using Settings > General > Passcode Lock.
Using the “Require Passcode” setting, you can also specify the amount of time the screen must be locked before the passcode is requested. “Immediately” would be the most secure setting.
By default, your device will be set to use a “Simple Passcode” that is a four digit PIN. The problem is that even though iOS is designed to slow down an attacker making multiple guesses at the passcode, many people use common PINs like “1234″ or their date of birth and the attacker will try those first. So we strongly recommend you select the option to use a stronger, longer passcode with alphanumeric characters.
You can use the “Erase Data” option to configure your device to erase itself after ten consecutive incorrect password attempts. If you enable this feature, it becomes essential that you regularly and frequently backup your device.
If you cannot remember the passcode, you will need to restore your device using the computer with which you last synced it. This allows you to reset your passcode and resync the data from the device (or restore from a backup). If you restore on a different computer that was never synced with the device, you will be able to unlock the device for use and remove the passcode, but your data will not be present. Refer to Updating and restoring iPhone, iPad and iPod touch software.
Step 2: Beware of where and how you surf the Internet
Be aware of your location and surroundings when using your Apple iPad or iPhone. It’s all too easy to lose sight of it for a second and then it’s gone – along with all your information.
Be aware of how you connect to the Internet. Don’t connect via unsecured WiFi networks, for example in a coffee shop or at an airport gate, unless you just need to look something up that doesn’t require you to enter passwords or personal details.
Be aware of malicious messages. If you receive messages or posts, accompanied by a link, via email, online chat or on Facebook or Twitter, stop and think before opening. Do you know the sender? If you do, is this something that they would send you? If you do click on the link, it’s often too late once you realise that there is a problem.
Be aware of malicious websites, plus the phishing and other scams designed to fool you into visiting them. Don’t be lured into clicking on an unknown link to a webpage. An iPad and iPhone screen is much smaller and it is often more difficult to see a full link to a website and verify what it says it is. Before you know it, your device could have been infected with malware, or you could be filling in an online form to provide the cybercriminals with sensitive information.
To avoid accessing malicious sites and inappropriate content, we recommend installing AVG Family Safety® for iOS. This free app, available for download in the Apple iTunes App Store, includes a secure mobile web browser to block dangerous sites and protect you from scams, fraud and phishing attempts.
Step 3: Back it up, often
Apple iPads and iPhones are obvious targets for thieves and – given how much we now rely on them – a lost device can cost you more than just money. Back up all of the data on your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch, from contacts to photos and music. Just like you would on your computer.
Do it regularly and often. Do it before heading off on a business trip or holiday.
Chances are that if your device goes missing in action, you won’t get it back. If you’ve properly secured it, then at least no prying eyes will see your information and no thief will be able to use the information, or access the services you use via the device.
But if it’s not backed up, then you’ve also lost the information, which can often be more valuable than the device itself. Refer to iOS: How to transfer or sync content to your computer.
I could have also mentioned that you should never jailbreak your iOS device. In this case I didn’t have to, as it’s something she would never consider doing. And nor should you!
I hope you have found the above tips useful. Just keep in mind that almost everything you do to stay safe while using your PC online, still needs to be considered when using an iPad or iPhone.