iPhone data security threats have been on the rise over the past few years thanks to the global sales success of the iPhone. Owners really need to make sure that all their iPhone data is properly protected in case of loss or theft. Many of us today use our iPhones for shopping and banking as well as communicating. The iPhone is basically the new Swiss Army knife of tech. The fact that your iPhone has so much personal and sensitive material stored on it can make it a target to thieves and hackers alike. Just like your computer at home, we always recommend that you implement some type of iPhone data security to keep all that precious information safe. In the event that your phone is lost or stolen, this sensitive data may be compromised. To improve your digital security, Gazelle recommends the following:

Keep Your iPhone up to Date

Apple has added hardware-based disk encryption to iOS 4 and above. This technology allows you to instantly purge all the personal data on your iPhone. This feature can be activated locally, by enabling the data erase feature, or remotely, using Apple’s Find My iPhone service. iPhone users can upgrade their iPhones for free by following these easy steps:

Wireless Update (iOS 5 and above):

Settings > General > Software Update

Update with iTunes:

  • Plug in your iPhone to your computer’s USB port.
  • Sync your iPhone with iTunes.
  • Create a backup of your current data (right-click your phone on the left side of the screen, then select the backup option).
  • Click “Check for Update” in the Summary pane.

Lock Your iPhone with a Complex Passcode

Your lock screen passcode forms the first and most basic defense against iPhone data theft and unauthorized access to your applications. To adjust your passcode security settings, navigate through the Settings > General > Passcode Lock menus and select “Turn Passcode On.”

When picking a number, you can increase the strength of security by following a few guidelines:

  • Do not choose a code with two or more consecutively ascending or descending numbers, two or more consecutively repeated numbers, or numbers representing important dates, like birthdays or anniversaries. App programmer Daniel Amitay recently collected over 200,000 four-digit passcodes, and found that one in seven users chose 1234, 0000, 2580, 1111, 5555, 5683, 0852, 2222, 1212, or 1998.
  • The brute-force attack—a simple method of defeating security by attempting all possible combinations—prioritizes high-frequency passcodes to achieve quick access. For additional security against brute force, turn off the simple passcode option to enable a full keyboard for password entry, set the lock screen to engage immediately, and enable the data erase feature. The automatic data erase process activates after 10 incorrect entries; with a password of even moderate strength, cracking your phone using brute-force methods becomes virtually impossible.

Enable Encrypted iPhone Backups

Once you secure your device with a strong passcode, regularly back up your personal data through iTunes. When you activate data encryption, iTunes copies your iPhone files in a way that makes all the iPhone data unreadable by users without your password. Here’s how:

  • Launch iTunes on your computer and sync your iPhone using the USB cable.
  • Select your iPhone from the left iTunes pane, under the Devices drop down menu.
  • From the Summary tab, select Encrypt iPhone Backup.
  • When you first enable data encryption, iTunes will prompt you to enter a password. Choose a phrase of suitable strength, and then select Set Password. You’ll need this password whenever you want to restore your iPhone with an encrypted backup.
  • Select Sync to finish creating the copy of your iPhone data.

Because your iPhone is highly portable—and thus more vulnerable to loss or theft—keep your most sensitive data at home. With frequent backups, you can enable the automatic data erase or initiate a remote wipe without the risk of completely losing your data.

iPhone Data Security: Don’t Rely on Just Your Password

In February 2011, Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Secure Information Technology publicized an iPhone hack that bypassed the screen lock, accessed the device’s password keychain, and retrieved sensitive data, including login and password information for Gmail and Exchange mail accounts, Wi-Fi networks and numerous other apps. The entire process required six minutes to complete. Although Fraunhofer Institute’s method is not public knowledge, a number of other well-documented and freely available programs—like jail-breaking software—circumvent the iPhone lock screen. For an additional layer of security beyond passwords and encrypted backups, associate your iPhone with Apple’s Find My iPhone service.

Get to Know The Cloud

With iCloud replacing MobileMe last year, backing up your data is simpler than ever before. All iOS devices and Macs have iCloud built right into the device. iCloud requires you to have a mobile device running iOS 5 or greater, a Mac running OS X Lion 10.72, or a Windows PC running Windows 7 or Vista SP2. iCloud can perform all the following:

  • Automatic backup of files and apps
  • Access your Calendar, Contacts, iTunes music, photos
  • Sync data between devices
  • Find my iPhone/iPad security feature (see below)

Find Your Lost or Stolen iPhone

Once the Find My iPhone feature has been activated on your Apple computer or other iDevice, you can track the location from any computer by logging in with your Apple ID at www.icloud.com. Alternatively, you can access your data from any other iOS device using the free Find My iPhone app.

In the event of loss or theft, you can use these tools to send a message to the device to arrange its return, remotely lock your device with a passcode, or initiate a remote data wipe of your device. Additionally, the GPS data logged by your iOS device may prove invaluable over the course of a police investigation. iPhone data and security is a major issue today. With the proper protection and awareness tools, you can make sure your iPhone data remains safe and sound.