entering the passcode on an Apple iPhone

That phone in your hand is your lifeline to your family and friends, your reminders, and is your vital entertainment source. In an earlier 411 story, we talked about how to physically protect your devices. Today we’re talking device security. For simplification, we’re only focused on the iPhone today.

Before We Start

Before you begin you should update your iPhone IOS to 13.X and update all of your apps. Then you’re ready for these security measures.

Here are three (not so simple) steps to securing your iPhone – Set-Up, Passcode (or Password) and VPN.

1. Set-Up

There are a number of settings to make your iPhone more secure.

Block Unknown Callers by going to Settings -> Phone and turn on Silence Unknown Callers. Don’t do this if your family and friends are not included in your address book.

Limit Lock Screen Timeout by visiting Settings -> Display & Brightness -> Autolock. That means your iPhone will go into lock mode faster, keeping others from getting to your iPhone if you leave it just for a few minutes.

Limit Location Sharing, Settings -> Privacy -> Location Services. Turn off location sharing for any app where it is not absolutely necessary. It will restrict others from learning your current location and save on battery usage. If you must allow apps to know your location, select “When Using the App.”

Whether you share your location or not, the ability for hackers to track you through the wifi networks you use has been blocked in IOS 13.

Block Apps from Bluetooth Access Just say No when an app asks to transmit data over bluetooth, especially your social media apps like Facebook.

Turn on IOS Automatic Updates to ensure that your phone is running the latest, and usually safest, version. Settings -> General -> Software Update and enable Automatic Updates. This only updates the operating system that runs your phone.

Turn on Automatic App Updates to update to the safest version of your apps while you sleep. Settings -> iTunes and App Store and enable App Updates.

Apple iPhone

Control Authentication, that’s Face ID, Touch ID and your password. Settings -> Face ID & Passcode. Of the three, opening apps using your password is the safest method if your passwords are strong (see later). And while you’re at it, you can limit what Face and Touch ID can unlock, like your phone, password autofill, Apple Pay and the iTunes and App stores.

Brute Force Protection kicks in and erases all of the data on your phone if someone tries to login into your phone and incorrectly guesses your password 10 times. Settings -> Face ID & Passcode – enter your passcode and scroll down and enable Erase Data. Do not do this if others regularly use your iPhone or if you don’t backup (sync) your iPhone through your laptop every night.

2. Passcode

In device security, the secret is passwords, passwords, and passwords. If there is a hack, it will most likely come from using a weak password. Strong passwords should be 10 digits and include upper and lower case letters, at least one number and at least one special character (like !, &, @, %, etc.). It won’t be as easy to remember as your pet’s name, but it will surely be more secure.

1Password and Apple

Then, and this is the part you’re gonna hate, do not reuse passwords, create separate passwords for each device, apps, sites, or services you use. You know what? That’s the best security advice I can give you but I know you’re not going to do it. So enter password manager apps like LastPass, Dashlane and 1Password. These tools let you use unique strong passwords on everything but your device itself. When enabled and they encounter something asking for a password, the manager app will fill it in. It takes some trust to let the tool do the remembering, but it will really protect your apps and data from unauthorized use.

IOS 13 even works with your password manager and your iCloud Keychain letting everything communicate and taking some of the load off of you. You can configure this at Settings -> Passwords & Accounts -> Autofill Passwords.

Two-Factor Authentication on top of a strong password is the safest login security measure by far. In fact, this month most of your SMU systems and services will begin requiring two-factor authentication. The way it works is simple, every time you attempt to log into a site or service (not devices or apps) you login as usual and then you’re presented with a request for two-factor authentication. I use an app called Duo for all my two-factor authentication needs, including the sites and systems at SMU.

3. VPN

Use a VPN before you log into an unprotected wifi network, like at Starbucks, restaurants or airports. A network is unprotected if you do not have to enter a password to use it. So, if you must use an unprotected network, turn on a VPN connection first. There are a number of free VPN services – TunnelBear, Hotspot Shield, Windscribe and others.

These are just a few of the scores of tips to keep your device more secure. We know it sounds scary and complex, and sometimes it is. But look over this list and do what you can, beginning with passwords and password managers.

Cheers.