1. Make your Pin more difficult
Many users get tired of entering in a string of numbers whenever they want to send a text, play music, or run app. So, users will sometimes pick really simple pins like the same four numbers or easy patterns to make the passcode as painless as possible. But if you’re using a real simple pin like 0000, 1111, 1234, or 2580, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Those may be the first passcodes a hacker will try. Instead, try making up a more difficult number sequence.
[box_tip]Note: Your iOS 7 may have defaulted to requiring Require Passcode “Immediately.” This can be a real drag when your listening to music, using apps, etc., and keep having to enter you passcode. You can set your Passcode Lock to happen more infrequently under the General > Passcode Lock > Require Passcode settings. There you can set the time to require a passcode to after 1 minute, 5 minutes, or 15 minutes. (Although, Apple notes shorter times are more secure.) Use your best judgment. In a heavily populated area where you might worry about getting hacked, set to immediately or 1 minute. At home, you may set the time to 5 or 15 minutes. [/box_tip]
2. Use a Complex Passcode
With a 4-digit passcode there are only 10,000 possible combinations, and hackers know what number combinations are most popular. So why not use a longer passcode to decrease the odds? With Simple Passcode turned off, iOS 7 allows up to 37 characters that can be made up of a combination of 77 letters, numbers and symbols to choose from. (The harder passcode can also be used as a backup when the Touch ID fails – see next item below.) You can enable a complex passcode by turning the Simple Passcode to OFF in Settings > General > Passcode Lock.
3. With Touch ID use a Complex Passcode
iPhone 5s users have a much easier time accessing their phones because of the simple-to-use Touch ID option. But if you’ve enabled Touch ID it’s advisable to make your Passcode complex in case some does get access to the phone. The more complex Passcode will have to be entered whenever you don’t use your phone for 48 hours, when you shut down and restart your iPhone, or if the Touch ID sensor fails 5 times. This is a pretty good deterrent for anyone who picks up your phone and tries to use the button with Touch ID with multiple failed attempts.
[box_tip]Even though Apple claims “Your fingerprint is one of the best passcodes in the world” in their Touch ID security documentation, others denounce fingerprint biometrics for use as security tokens because fingerprints are essentially passcodes you leave wherever you go.[/box_tip]
4. Use Other Fingers with Touch ID
Most people use their index finger for the Touch ID. Instead, use a finger that is much harder to make a print of such as your pinky. It may look odd using your pinky to access your phone, but chances are no-one is going to get your pinky finger print any time soon.
5. Shut off Touch ID completely
While the Touch ID was created to make your phone more secure and more convenient to access without the need to enter a long string passcode every time you want to use, the system, as we know, was hacked within days using fingerprint transfers. Recent iOS 7 updates have addressed the issue, but you may want to turn off Touch ID to make your phone even more secure.
6. Set to Erase Data
Warning, don’t use this setting unless you’re storing highly sensitive information on your phone. We’re talking self-destruct mode here, and not something to be taken lightly. There is an option at the bottom of the Passcode Lock settings that if turned on will erase all data on your phone after 10 failed passcode attempts. Why the number 10? And why can’t you set your own failed attempt times? Who knows how Apple determined this number. This gives hackers an idea of how many attempts they’ll have before the data gets erased. (See the Passcode screen image outlined in yellow above for reference.)
7. Find My iPhone & Activation Lock
The Find My iPhone service can be used to locate your lost iPhone using either iCloud.com or the Find My iPhone app on another device. If you indicate your phone is in Lost Mode, someone trying to break in will be asked for an iCloud username and passcode to unlock it. And, if you’ve lost your phone Activation Lock was created to prevent erasing of your phone so someone can resell it.
8. Remote Erase
As a further precaution, you can remote erase all the content on your iPhone. This will also work with iPads, iPod touch, and even your Mac computer. With iOS 7 you can set the message the phone will display (for example a contact number to reach you) even if you wipe the device clean. That way, if your device is recovered you’ll know information hasn’t been accessed and you restore it using your latest iCloud backup (a good reason to backup your data more frequently than less).
Jeff Chabot has a background in web development and design, as well as working in broadcast television as a studio engineer, lighting director and editor. He frequently writes about technology, broadcasting, digital entertainment, and the internet.