Please note: this handout is up to date as of March 31st, 2019. Please check with your iPhone’s latest model and operating system for the latest capabilities.
Smartphones store a lot of personal information, including email or social media accounts, reminders and notes, the number of steps we take each day, and even personal biometric data, such as fingerprint. While all this can make life easier, abusers and stalkers can also misuse this information to monitor, control, and harass victims. In Canada, 70% of mobile phone users have a smartphone, and of those, 54.9% are iPhones as of January 2018[i]. This guide will help users enhance their iPhone’s security and privacy by explaining the built-in privacy and security mechanisms on the iPhone and associated accounts.
The first time you purchase an iPhone or iPad, you must create an Apple ID. This ID is used for everything that you do with Apple, including shopping in the iTunes or App Store, accessing iCloud services, using iMessage or FaceTime, or contacting Apple support. Your Apple ID is typically an email address – it can be a personal email address or an email address that ends with @icloud.com (which is also used to access your iCloud Account) or @me.com.
It is possible to add alternative Apple IDs or emails associated with your account. To see which emails are associated with your account, log into your account to manage your Apple ID. Log in with your Apple ID and password. Once logged in, you can delete old email addresses that you’re no longer using and ensure that no other additional emails were added. Here, you can also update passwords, security questions, and other contact information. When updating or creating new passwords, use a strong password, one that others can’t guess, and change it if you suspect that someone else may know it. Read more tips about passwords.
Most iPhone users also use Apple’s iCloud services, which is a cloud-based service that allows users to store their music and other files, such as photos, apps, contacts, emails, and documents. Documents created in apps, such as presentations, spreadsheets, images, PDFs or other types of documents, can also be saved to iCloud Drive.
Access to iCloud can be through all connected Apple devices or by logging into the iCloud account from a computer. If you save your device back up to iCloud, after resetting or updating your phone, you merely have to sign back into your account for all your apps and settings to automatically reset on your device.
There are pros and cons to using iCloud services. On the benefit side, if you purchase a new device or need to reset your device, logging in using your Apple ID will automatically update your device with your apps and settings the way you want it. If you’re using iCloud Drive, you can also access the same documents or apps on other devices using the same Apple ID.
On the other hand, using iCloud means that your information is no longer only on one device but accessible from multiple places. Multiple access points can make your information more accessible and therefore, more vulnerable. If someone knew your Apple ID or your iCloud username/password, they might be able to access your data and information.
Some security and privacy measures include determining what of your information you want to be accessible from in the cloud or changing the password to your iCloud account. To select what information on your iPhone or iPad will back up to iCloud, on your device, go to Settings/iCloud, and select what data (Photos, Mail, Contacts, etc.) is backed up to your iCloud. Under that setting, you can also select what you want saved to iCloud Drive.
The iPhone itself has many settings that allow you to control access to information on your device. Although time-consuming, one of the ways to ensure that your phone is as private and as secure as possible is to go through each setting. This will help you learn what each setting does, how much control you actually have over your device, and how much information is stored and potentially shareable on your device. It’s best to go through each setting; however, the following are some major privacy or section settings to start with.
Another location setting to review is System Services, in which the iPhone uses your location information for other features or functionality. To access System Services, go to Settings/Privacy/Location Services and scroll to the bottom of screen and select “System Services.” Minimizing location information access here will also help conserve battery life.
Some people will “jailbreak” their iPhone, a process in which the hardware restrictions by Apple and wireless carrier are removed so that users can root access the iOS file system and manager, allowing them to download additional software and applications not available in the Apple App Store. This process will make the phone more vulnerable to malware and spyware. In fact, most (if not all) of the commercially available spyware products require a jailbroken iPhone to install.
One way to know if your iPhone is jailbroken is to access the Spotlight Search page (swipe down on your screen) and search for the Cydia app, which is one possible indication that your device might be jailbroken. If your phone is jailbroken or you believe that it is, do a restore of the device and make sure you are running the latest iOS on your device. This will remove software that was downloaded outside of the Apple App Store.
©2019 BC Society of Transition Houses, Technology Safety Project.
Adapted from and in cooperation with the Safety Net Technology Project at the National Network to End Domestic Violence, United States