Having your iPhone stolen is traumatic enough, but it hurts more to know that your most intimate data is also in the hands of unscrupulous individuals. Fortunately, there are more than a few things you can do to ensure that even if thieves find a way to steal your iPhone, they won’t get a hold of your data easily.
Set a longer passcode
Your iPhone’s passcode can easily be used against you. Thieves have long employed the trick of peeking over someone’s shoulder to see their iPhone passcode before stealing the device. Once they have that code, it’s easy to access all of your personal information, and they can even use it to disable built-in security features such as Find My tracking. You can prevent this by covering your phone whenever you have to type the passcode — but you can also user a stronger, more complex passcode.
Go to Settings > Face ID & Passcode > Change Passcode > Passcode Options and select either a longer numeric passcode (10 digits or more) that is harder to memorise at a glance, or an alphanumeric password.
Enable Find My
This one seems obvious, but bears repeating: Find My tracking allows you to locate your device if it’s lost or stolen. It’s one of the best anti-theft features on your iPhone. Although it’s enabled by default, you should check if it’s not been disabled accidentally. Go to Settings and tap your name at the top. Then, visit Find My > Find My iPhone and enable everything on that page.
Move away from iCloud Keychain
Although iCloud Keychain is great for managing passwords, you should be aware that your iPhone’s passcode can be used to access all the data in this service. That means if someone gets into your phone they will also be able to get into your email, bank account, and other sensitive accounts. To be on the safe side, it’s better to move to a dedicated password manager app that will protect you if your phone is stolen.
Use your Apple Watch to lock the iPhone
If someone snatches your unlocked iPhone from your hand, you can still lock the device using your Apple Watch. To do this, you’ll have to set up an automation using Apple’s Shortcuts app. First, go to Settings > Focus and tap the + button to create a new focus. Call it something like “Lock Screen.”
There’s no need to enable any triggers for this automation. Open the Shortcuts app, and go to the Automation tab and select Create Personal Automation. Scroll down to the Focus section and select Lock Screen, then tap When Turning On, and hit Next. Tap Add Action, use the search bar to find and add the following actions:
- Lock Screen
- Set Wi-Fi
- Set Mobile Data
Press Next again. Lastly, disable Ask Before Running and tap Done.
You can now open the Control Centre on the Apple Watch and enable the Lock Screen focus. This will automatically lock your iPhone and enable Wi-Fi and mobile data so that you can use Apple’s own anti-theft features to your advantage. It’s a good way to quickly lock your iPhone to make it harder for thieves to reset it.
If your phone is stolen, enable Lost Mode
The moment your phone is stolen, use another device to go to iCloud.com/find, log in with your Apple ID credentials, and mark the device lost. This will protect your data and make it harder for thieves to erase and sell your device. No matter what happens, do not remove the device from your Apple ID.
Limit access to features from the Lock Screen
Your iPhone allows you to access plenty of useful features from the Lock Screen. Thieves can use this functionality to buy expensive goods with your stolen credit card, among other things. You can prevent this by disabling a few features. Go to Settings > Notifications > Show Previews and select When Unlocked. Then, go to Settings > Siri & Search and disable Allow Siri When Locked. Finally, you should head over to Settings > Face ID & Passcode, type the passcode, and go to the Allow Access When Locked section. Review all options here and disable everything that can be accessed when your phone is locked.
Set an additional lock for apps with sensitive data
Assuming thieves don’t have access to your iPhone’s passcode, you can set up a Face ID lock on many apps. In case your unlocked iPhone is snatched, this will protect important information such as your banking data or your social media accounts. Thieves won’t be able to open these apps without knowing your passcode.
While many apps allow you to enable Face ID for authentication, you can also use a hack to add this lock to apps that don’t support it.
Use Screen Time restrictions to good effect
Screen Time can save your data when your iPhone is stolen. It lets you disallow certain settings, as we’ve described in the linked piece. Use this to your advantage by going to Settings > Screen Time > Use Screen Time Passcode. Ensure that you use a different passcode for Screen Time, and not the one you use to unlock your iPhone, and then save this passcode in a password manager or in another safe place. After that, go to Content & Privacy Restrictions in Screen Time, and disallow Account Changes.
Put a passcode on your SIM card
You can also lock down your SIM card with a four-digit PIN. When thieves put your SIM card on another phone, they’ll need this PIN to unlock the SIM card. Before you enable this, know that this also stops your SIM card from automatically connecting to mobile data after you restart your iPhone. This could have a negative impact on security features such as Find My, which require an internet connection to work. If that’s not an issue, you can go to Settings > Mobile Data > SIM PIN and enable this feature. Be sure to store this PIN in a safe place in case you forget it.
Enable lockdown mode when you’re in unsafe places
Finally, consider enabling Lockdown Mode on your iPhone in case you’re going to unsafe locations or if you’re worried about losing access to sensitive data in case of theft. Here’s our full guide to the iPhone’s Lockdown Mode, which will tell you what it does and how to enable it.