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Almost all iPhone and iPad users should set an iOS password for their individual devices. This forces anyone who tries to use the device to enter a password before they can unlock it or access any device on the device, and it also requires the same password before any user can make changes to certain system settings. Setting a device passcode is very simple, and if your iOS device never leaves home, work, or school, or if it has no personal information, it should be considered an easy but necessary security tip for all users.
This guide is for those who don’t yet use passwords to protect their iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch (hey mom!). If you are already using a password, you can skip the initial setup section and check the password requirement timeframe, or consider using some of the more advanced security methods, from complex access codes to more extreme security methods. mandatory destruction of data when several erroneous attempts have been made.
Enabling the lock screen password on iPhone and iPad
This enables a password that appears when someone ‘slides to unlock’ a secure iPhone or iPad, and entering the password is required before access is granted to the iOS device.
- Open the Settings application on your device and go to General
- Select Face ID & Passcode, Touch ID & Passcode, or Passcode Lock, then select Turn Turn Passcode (exact ID depends on iOS device features)
- Enter the password using the on-screen numeric keypad and confirm and set it by re-entering the same password
Of course, don’t choose a password that you forget or that’s too awkward to enter, otherwise you’ll just annoy you. If you happen to forget it, you can either go to Apple Support to take care of it for you, or restore your device from one of the backups to restore it.
Now that the password has been set, you need to adjust the amount of time the device is inactive before it is needed again.
Setting a reasonable password requirement
This basically means how long the device is inactive or how long the screen is locked before re-entering the password is required to re-grant access. Shorter times are safer.
- Go to Settings> General> Access Code Lock and select Require Password
- Determine the most appropriate schedule for your use (usually recommended immediately, 1 or 5 minutes)
- Exit Settings normally
The shortest times are the safest. My personal preference is to “immediately” prevent unwanted use of devices that have been left for a while, sitting somewhere in public, or if the device hurts wrong. Because the password is required immediately after the screen is locked, there is no need to worry about someone being able to access personal information or adjust device settings immediately. 1 minute is also a reasonably safe schedule, and 5 minutes is nearing the end of what I comfortably recommend for iPhone users or those who frequently carry devices in public spaces. Anything that takes 15 minutes or more (not to mention a 4-hour setting) is too much time to be considered particularly secure, but such settings have use cases in many environments and for many users. If you want the best possible safety or are paranoid, use the “Immediate” setting.
Assuming you have used the ‘instant’ setting, you can now test its functionality by hitting the device’s power button and sliding to unlock it as usual. You will be presented with the following screen:
Stronger: Using complex passwords for added iOS security
Another option is to change the setting to use a stronger complex password to increase security, allowing all alphanumeric keypad characters or even accents to be used as a potential device password.
A complex password means that when a user goes to unlock an iOS device, the entire standard keyboard appears instead of the keyboard shortcut that appears with a regular password. While complex passwords can provide much better security, they can also be more difficult to enter, which can make them impractical for some iOS users who want faster access to their devices. Ultimately, whether a safety or comfort switch with a regular number vs. a complex alphanumeric is a personal preference for the user.
Extreme: Delete data after failed password attempts
Another possibility is to use what I want to call the “James Bond Self-Destruction Setting,” which literally deletes everything from the device after too many failed password attempts. This is a very high level of security feature that is not practical for most users, and is certainly not recommended for forgetful people or iOS users with children using (or trying to use) their iPhone and iPad. Nevertheless, make regular backups of all devices where this is configured.
Also, don’t forget to configure Find My iPhone as part of iCloud. This allows you to remotely lock the device as “Lost Status” as well as provide physical map-based tracking for an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, or Mac configured to use the feature. These two features can make the difference in recovering a lost device or not, and at least provide more peace of mind. Just think about how much personal information is stored on smartphones, tablets, and computers, and you can imagine why each of these precautions is a good idea.
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