11 tips to increase iPhone security. Make it harder for thieves ad hackers to access your iPhone

Is your iPhone or iPad as secure as it could be? It probably isn’t and here are the top methods to increase the security and privacy of your iPhone. How many of them are you using?

1 Erase the iPhone

The iPhone can be locked with a fingerprint and you might wonder what could be more secure than that. However, a four digit PIN code is always available as a backup, so a finger is not needed to unlock an iPhone. Could someone guess your PIN or try all numbers up to 9999?

There is an option to erase the phone after 10 failed attempts to enter the passcode. Go to Settings> Touch ID & Passcode. Swipe up to get to the bottom of the screen and turn on Erase Data.

Securely erase the iPhone contents if someone tries to guess the password

2 Disable access when locked

It can be convenient to see notifications, access the Today view, use Siri and other features when the iPhone is locked, but it means anyone with access to your phone can use them.

Could someone see something private? A snippet of in incoming email perhaps? Disable access to these features to increase security.

Go to Settings > Touch ID and Passcode. Half way down is ALLOW ACCESS WHEN LOCKED, followed by a number of activities. Turn them all off for maximum security, or just disable those you don’t want others to access.

The downside is that you have to unlock the phone to check for emails, use Siri and so on.

3 Don’t store photos online

Celebrities are often the target of hackers and embarrassing photos are stolen from their iCloud accounts. These are then passed around on the internet. Could this happen to you?

Keep your photos and videos private by keeping them on the phone. Go to Settings > iCloud > Photos and disable iCloud Photo Library.

The disadvantage is that your photos are not backed up and they use up storage space on the phone.

4 Auto-lock the iPhone

If you put your phone down after you have been using it, someone else could pick it up and use it. This is a security risk, so the phone will automatically lock after a certain time. Set a short timeout for greater security.

Go to Settings > Display & Brightness > Auto-Lock. Set it to 30 seconds.

Automatically lock the iPhone when it is not being used

5 Block location-based ads

Your location can be tracked and advertisers will use it to target you with adverts. However, you can block this for extra privacy.

Go to Settings > Privacy > Advertising right down at the bottom of the screen. Turn on the switch Limit Ad Tracking.

Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services and turn off Location-Based Apple Ads.

Limit ad tracking on the iPhone for extra privacy and security

6 Disable automatic wi-fi connections

If you connect to a wi-fi network, the details are remembered, such as the network name and password, and the next time the network is encountered, the iPhone will automatically connect to it.

This is a useful feature that saves time and effort, but it is possible for a scammer or hacker to create a fake wi-fi hotspot with the same name and password. The iPhone would then automatically connect to it and personal information could be accessed.

To prevent this, go to Settings > Wi-Fi and turn on the switch Ask to Join Networks. The iPhone will not connect unless you authorise it.

Ask to join wi-fi networks on the iPhone for extra security

7 Use a VPN

Whenever you access the internet using wi-fi, it is possible for someone else on the network or for the owner of the router to eavesdrop on the communications.

Someone could listen in on your web activities. This is especially bad if you access online banking, shopping and other services that require you to enter usernames and passwords.

A VPN (virtual private network) creates an encrypted internet connection that prevents anyone from seeing what you are doing. It is recommended for public wi-fi hotspots like cafes, hotels, airports and similar places. It makes your internet activities secure and private.

Go to Settings > General > VPN and press Add VPN Configuration.

Add a VPN to the iPhone and increase the security

You are asked to enter the configuration details and these are supplied by VPN providers. Most VPNs require a subscription payment and once you have signed up, either an app from the App Store is used to configure the VPN or settings are provided to manually configure it.

Search for ‘VPN’ at the App Store. All your web traffic goes through the VPN server, so choose a VPN provider that you can trust. Check the company and check the reviews.

8 Increase Safari security

Safari has a number of security settings that can help to prevent third parties from tracking your activities on the web. For example, go to Settings > Safari and turn on Do Not Track. This asks websites not to track your browsing activities. (It cannot force them, so they might ignore the request, but good websites will respect the setting.)

Turn on Fraudulent Website Warning. If you enter a URL to go to a website or click a link, Safari will check it against a list of known bad sites and if it is on the list, you are warned before the site is accessed. You can then choose not to go there.

Set Safari on the iPhone to maximum security

Press Block Cookies and there are four options. The most secure is Always Block, but some websites rely on cookies and they will not work if they are blocked. It can be a pain to use this setting.

A compromise is Allow from Websites I Visit. This lets a website store a cookie, but it would block a third party, such as an advertiser.

When you visit a website that requires you to log in, the AutoFill feature will automatically enter the details. This is super convenient, but if someone gained access to your phone, they would be able to use this to access websites too.

This feature can be turned off for extra security. It makes it much harder for others to access the websites you use, but it also makes it harder for you too. You’ll need to enter the details every time.

Go to Settings > Safari > AutoFill and turn off all the switches.

9 Update iOS

Security flaws in iOS are sometimes discovered and not long after, Apple releases an update to fix them. Downloading and installing updates promptly will increase the security of your iPhone or iPad.

Go to Settings > General > Software Update to check for updates.

10 Change your passcode

A four digit passcode (or PIN) can be used to unlock the iPhone and access certain features. This uses the numbers 0 to 9,999. It is possible to use a passcode with six digits and this uses numbers from 0 999,999. It is obviously much harder to guess.

Go to Settings > Touch ID & Passcode > Change Passcode. You can then enter a six-digit code. Don’t forget it or you’ll never be able to unlock your iPhone or iPad.

On that Change Passcode screen is a link - Passcode Options. Press it and there is an option to use a Custom Alphanumeric Code. This can be any length and can use any characters.

Set a passcode on the iPhone

If you choose a really complex password, it makes the iPhone very secure and impossible to break into. However, you will find it harder to remember and harder to enter when you want to use your phone.

11 Ignore links

Links in emails and text messages could be used to infect the iPhone or iPad with malware, adware or spyware. It could be used to send you to a fake website that is used for phishing - tricking you into entering your username and password for your Apple ID and iTunes, online banking, eBay, PayPal, Amazon and other places.

Do not press links. Ignore them.

Security sum up

Making your iPhone or iPad super secure is possible, but there is a trade-off with convenient. Make the device more convenient to use and you must reduce the security. Make it extra secure and it is inconvenient to use.

You must find the right balance of convenience and security. Many of the tips above do not significantly make the iPhone or iPad harder to use, but a few of them do. The choice is yours.