InfoSec 101: How To Boost Your Privacy On iOS

Andrew Orr Informative Internet Guides

Welcome to InfoSec 101, a series of articles aimed at helping you enhance your online privacy, boost your security and more. Previous topics include creating secure passwords and enabling two-factor authentication. In this article, we will show you how to improve your privacy on iOS.

Apple has gotten much better at respecting and protecting user privacy than other companies, but there are things you can do to enhance your privacy even more.

Location Services

The first thing to check out on your iPhone is the location settings. By letting apps track your location, you’re not only draining your battery but also giving away private information. Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services, where you can turn the feature off on a per-app basis, or turn it off altogether.

privacy_locationScroll through the list of apps and you can see how often each app accesses your location: Always, While Using, Never. Some apps legitimately need your location, like Maps, but other apps like this recipe app I have don’t need it, and so I have it turned off for that app.

Next scroll all the way to the bottom until you see System Services. These are all of the services built into iOS that use location data, like Find My iPhone, Emergency SOS and more.

Advertising, Diagnostics & Usage

In the same area of privacy settings, on the bottom, you will see two more options: Diagnostics & Usage, and Advertising. Under Advertising, you can have your iPhone limit ad tracking and reset your advertising identifier, which is a tool that ad companies use you build a profile of you that they can then use to sell ads to you.

With Diagnostics & Usage, Apple sometimes collects information about your phone, such as your use of it, problems like system or app crashes, etc. You can see what information gets sent to Apple (no sensitive info is sent), but it’s technical and requires an understanding of computer programming. There is also an option that gives Apple permission to share some of this data to app developers.

You have every right to turn Diagnostics & Usage off. However keep in mind that this information genuinely helps Apple and third-party developers improve their apps. This data is useful for finding out what went wrong in the event of an app crash. I keep this setting on, but if you’re uncomfortable that Apple is collecting certain data, you can turn it off.

App Permissions

Under the Privacy setting once again, you will see which apps are using certain system data. It shows you which apps access Calendars, Contacts, Photos, and more. Again, iOS gives you the ability to turn this off on a per-app basis, which means you can let Google Calendar access your iPhone’s built-in calendar, and you can prevent Facebook from using your microphone or camera.

app_permissionsLock Down Safari

In Settings > Safari, you can help make Safari more secure. Turn the Do Not Track option on, although most websites ignore this setting. You can block cookies and website data in four different ways:

  • Always Block
  • Allow from Current Website Only
  • Allow from Websites I Visit
  • Always Allow

safariOther options include having Safari warn you if you visit a fraudulent website, allow or disallow a site to check the status of Apple Pay, and clearing your browsing history and website data.

Set a Longer Password

With iOS 9, Apple gave iPhone users the ability to create longer passcodes and PIN numbers. Previously, the standard PIN number could only be four digits but with iOS 9 users can create six digit PIN numbers. Additionally, with iOS 9 you can create an alphanumeric (letters and numbers) which boosts your iPhone’s security significantly.

Go to Settings > Touch ID & Passcode and have your iPhone require your passcode immediately. You can also allow/disallow certain iPhone features from being displayed on your lock screen.

touchid_passcodeFor example, I do not show new text messages on my lock screen. Whenever I log into an online account with two-factor authentication and a one-time code is texted to me, I have to open the phone to view it. I do not feel comfortable having it displayed on my lock screen where anyone can see it. There is even an option to have your iPhone erase itself after ten failed passcode attempts.

Conclusion

It’s easier than ever to lock down your iPhone to enhance security and privacy. With our InfoSec 101 course, we make technical topics like computer security available for everyone.