Just get a new iPad (or iPhone)? Here are a few critical things that you should do right now to keep your new gadget safe and your privacy protected.
Enable Find My iPhone or iPad
Find My iPhone used to be a paid service but it’s now free and it allows you to locate your iPad (or iPhone) on a map when it’s lost – or more likely, misplaced in your house, movie theatre or Chic-Fil-A.
First, log into your iCloud account or create a new one in Settings > iCloud > Account. Then slide the switch for Find My iPhone to ON. When you misplace your iPhone or iPad, use any web brower to access https://www.icloud.com/#find, log in and click the icon for Find My iPhone. From there you have several choices:
- Play Sound, which is super useful for finding it when it’s lost in your house
- Lock Mode allows you to display a message on the lock screen with a contact number. Then whoever finds it can call you without accessing the rest of the information on your device.
- Erase iPhone, which completely wipe it of all information.
Find My iPhone will also send you email messages confirming your actions and notifying you of the status of your device.
Find My iPhone helped me recover my iPhone 4 when it was picked up by a stranger in Hollywood Studios Orlando and I’ve used it to find my parent’s iPhones several times.
Bonus points: For extra security, you can prevent a saavy thief from disabling Find My iPhone by turning on Restrictions and locking changes to Location Services. Here’s how to do it:
- Settings > General > Restrictions > Enable Restrictions (enter your passcode)
- If restrictions are not enabled, choose the ‘Enable Restrictions’ option and then create a 4-digit PIN code and confirm it.
- Then scroll to Privacy > Location Services and touch Don’t Allow Changes
If you don’t take this step, a savvy thief that takes your phone before the auto-lock engages can simply turn off Find My iPhone just as fast as you activated it. When Don’t Allow Changes is enabled, the Find My iPad section of Settings > iCloud is greyed out and it can’t be switched off.
Enable Activation Lock in iOS 7
iOS 7 includes a new feature called Activation Lock, which makes it almost impossible for anyone to use or sell your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch once it’s gone missing or has been stolen.
It starts working when you turn on Find My iPhone in iOS 7 Settings > iCloud > Find my iPhone (see previous Gallery item). With Activation Lock, your Apple ID and password will be required before anyone can:
- Turn off Find My iPhone on your device
- Erase your device
- Reactivate and use your device
Activation Lock has been heralded by big city police departments (like the NYPD) as a potential deterrent to the increase in “Apple Picking” — snatch and grab iPhone thefts in the United States.
Activation Lock keeps the data on your device secure, even if it is in the wrong hands. It also improved your chances of recovery dramatically. Even if you erase your iPhone remotely, Activation Lock prevents another user from reactivating it without your permission — effectively destroying its resale value.
To take advantage of this new feature, simple keep Find My iPhone turned on (Settings > iCloud > Find My iPhone), and remember your Apple ID and password. One word of caution: there’s no way to override Activation Lock if you forget your password and are unable to reset it.
There’s an Activation Lock overview and Frequently Asked Questions document in Apple Knowledgebase document ht5818. I also recommend that you read these tips on how to prevent Activation Lock from potentially bricking your iPhone.
Enable Auto-Lock and Passcode Lock
If you leave your iPad in a taxi or on an airplane, anyone can pick it up and look through your email, contacts and photos — and that’s probably the least of your worries. A simple way to avoid unnecessary data exposure is with a Passcode Lock. You can enable it in Settings > General > Passcode Lock. A Passcode Lock is useless if a thief grabs your iPad while it’s awake.
I also recommend enabling Auto-Lock which locks your iPad after a defined period of inactivity. If you’re super security-minded (or General David Patraeus) I recommend that you also disable the 4-digit “Simple Passcode” in lieu of something more complex. According to Agilebits, developer of the excellent 1Password, a four-digit passcode can be cracked in 20 minutes, while an eight character passcode comprised of lowercase letters and the spacebar will take 1,000 years to crack.
Purchase the AppleCare+ Protection Plan
If you didn’t buy the AppleCare+ Protection Plan (APP) for your iPad or iPhone at the time of purchase, don’t sweat it. You can purchase the Apple extended warranty — which I highly recommend — for up to 30 days after purchase. In addition to extending the technical support period from 90-days to two years, the new AppleCare+ package offers adds up to two incidents of accidental damage coverage (even if it was due to negligence), subject to a $79 service fee.
In the past, the old AppleCare (before they added the “+”) didn’t cover drops, shatters, or liquid submersions, but the new AppleCare+ does — again, subject to a $79 deductible. Anyone’s who’s ever shattered their iPhone screen or baptized it in the toilet, sink or pool will agree that paying $79 is a lot better than the $269 Apple charges for an “out of warranty” service on an iPhone 5/5s/5c.
AppleCare+ must be purchased within 30 days of iPhone purchase and requires inspection of your iPhone and proof of purchase. You can no longer purchase AppleCare after an incident has occurred. So it’s best to purchase AppleCare+ before you leave the store. If you buy an iPhone and AppleCare+ online, Apple will auto-enroll you so there’s no additional work required to active your coverage.
If you’re still on the fence, I recomment an article in Macworld by Jonathan Seff published on September 9, 2013 called Is AppleCare worth it?
Keep your iPad in a case
The iPad is a thin piece of aluminum and glass that costs between $500 and $1000 and one drop could be fatal. I realize that some people are loathe to cloak their beautiful Apple devices in a case, but if you take your device out of the house, it could save you an expensive repair. Cases are very personal items, like apparel or a bag, and everyone has a unique sense of style. One case that I consistenly rely on is the SmartCase ($57-59) from Waterfield designs. They’re made in San Francisco from high-quality materials and offer some of the best protection in the business.
Limit Ad Tracking
Navigate to the iOS Advertising Privacy settings (Settings > Privacy > Advertising) and do these three things:
- Turn on “Limit Ad Tracking”
- Touch “Reset Advertising Identifier” (which I wrote about in January 2013), and
- Touch “Learn More” and learn about what an “Advertising Identifier” is
Disable optional System Services
Apple hides its System Services settings all the way down at the bottom of the Privacy > Location Services panel. If you’ve owned your iPhone for more than a few months you’ll have dozens (possibly over one hundred) apps listed on this screen, making it a very long scroll. If you actually make it to the bottom of the list (most people don’t) you’ll see the fabled System Services setting and the explanation of what that little purple arrow icons means.
Again, the path is Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services.
I recommend turning OFF the following:
- Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services > Diagnostics & Usage
- Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services > Location-Based iAds
Diagnostics & Usage
This setting monitors everything you do on your iPhone and “anonymously” sends it to Apple for “improving iOS.” Whatever. It’s just like when all the major software companies changed their install screens from “send usage data?” to “customer experience program” or some such nonsense. If you leave the “Diagnostics & Usage” option on, you’re giving Apple permission to monitor and record everything you do on your device.
Enable Safari security settings
Navigate to the iOS Safari Settings (Settings > Safari) turn on the following:
- Block Pop-ups
- Do Not Track*
- Block Cookies is set to “From third parties and advertisers”
- Fraudulent Website Warning
*Apple’s one of the few companies that still supports the aging Do Not Track standard in its mobile Web browser. Even if it is considered dead I turn it on anyway, for the few web servers that actually respect it.