If You Don’t Lock Your iPhone, Please Read This Immediately

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Recently, iDrop News conducted a Twitter poll where we asked this question: Do you lock your iPhone with either password or fingerprint? We were quite surprised at the results: 91% said yes, but 9% said no. 9 percent might seem like a small number, but we live in a world where we put our most sensitive data into our iPhones, a world where theft is a real concern. Right now, your new shiny Jet Black iPhone 7 Plus is making some thief salivate, and while a phone lost to theft stinks, the data you potentially grant access to with an unlocked phone is a very serious matter. And for those reasons, 9 percent isn’t a small number at all.

And it’s not just new models. It would be illogical to think that just because you don’t update to the latest model that thieves aren’t interested in your iPhone.

I’ve been locking my phone since the feature became available way back in the iPhone 3G days. And when Touch ID came on the scene more recently, I began to lock my phone that way as well. What’s more, I lock certain apps by fingerprint. In fact, I’ve been known to decide between two apps based solely on the ability to lock or fingerprint lock. My goal is to make sure that if someone steals my phone what’s inside stays inside. And remember we’re not only talking about data such as passwords and bank account numbers — which are sensitive enough — we’re talking about photos of our children and maps that trace our every move from home to work and everywhere in between. Criminals could wreak havoc given access to your logged-in social media accounts.

As our iPhones get smarter, the risks get larger. Your iPhone is a vault of information. Would you leave an actual safe filled with valuables unlocked where anyone could reach in and help themselves? Of course not.

According to Consumer Reports, 2.1 million Americans had phones stolen in 2014, iPhones and otherwise. That’s down from 2013, and the belief is, phone theft became less enticing when manufacturers started adding kill switches — a remote way to wipe data from a phone if it’s lost or stolen. Your iPhone can do that, and I’m glad it’s there. While we can’t quantify it, we’d have to wonder how many people who don’t lock their phones take the time to enable a kill switch feature? The features to protect your phone might be great, but not if you don’t use them. Locking a phone with a 4-digit passcode is the least that can be done. In your iPhone’s settings, you can choose a more complicated password if you wish. And as mentioned, protecting your phone by locking it with a fingerprint is definitely the most secure way to protect your phone and its contents. And for an extra layer of security, you should enable Find My iPhone so if it is ever lost or stolen you can both wipe the data and track it, in the hopes of getting it back.

There’s no national database when it comes to iPhone thefts, but judging from the stories I’ve read it seems that you really have to be lucky to get a stolen iPhone back. Maybe you were able to track it and alert the police. You see stories all the time about how thieves take selfies on stolen iPhones and inadvertently end up uploading them to iCloud.

But here’s something interesting. Go online to your favorite auction site and in the product search type in “iCloud locked iPhone.” You’ll see a lot of phones with broken screens that are passcode protected and these words: “This is for parts only.” While proving it would have to be done on a case-by-case basis, word on the internet is these are the phones that are stolen but locked. If a thief can’t get into the phone, they can sell it for $100 for parts. And from the looks of these auctions, plenty of people are willing to bid.

Now, if you’re thinking that if you are careful, and decide not to put a lock on your iPhone, that you could save a lot of time by avoiding every second it takes you to unlock your phone – well, I hear you. Believe me, I get it. You’re a careful person who never lets your phone out of your sight and there’s no way anyone is ever going to want to steal it. But can you really afford to take that risk?

Here’s something to look forward to. In a year or two all of this might not matter. We already know that the technology exists and that Apple is rumored to be working on iris-scan protection to allow unlocking via the eye. “Iris scanning works by recognizing the user’s iris, which is a flat, colored, ring-shaped membrane behind the cornea of the eye. Much like a fingerprint, every person’s iris is totally unique, making it a secure way to unlock a smartphone.” Early rumors are stating this technology will make it into the 2018 iPhone, which is supposed to be its biggest redesign since the initial iPhone launch in 2007. The question becomes whether or not an eye scan is better, worse, or the same as a fingerprint scan, and whether or not someone who doesn’t employ fingerprint lock would even consider using an iris lock. My hope is that the eye scan is so darn cool that it gets people excited about locking. That would change everything.

But now what? There’s no iris scan yet, so how do you make sure you don’t become a statistic? As someone who has been using an iPhone since the first day they became available in 2007, I’m pretty familiar with iPhone tips, tricks and best practices. If you want to keep your data safe from prying eyes, do the 5 following things immediately.

1. Enable password protection on your iPhone

Go to Settings > Touch ID & Passcode. It’s here where you can enable fingerprints and change the passcode and wipe data if the wrong password is entered too many times. As mentioned earlier, a phone that is locked by fingerprint is more likely to keep your data safe. Having your phone stolen is bad enough but realizing what secrets you gave away makes the experience exponentially worse.

2. Enable Find My iPhone

Enable Find My iPhone using the Find My iPhone app. Hopefully you’ll never need to track your iPhone, but if the situation calls for it, you can see where your iPhone is located at iCloud.com.

3. Be Cautious Sharing Sensitive Data Like Passwords on Public Wi-Fi

I’ve seen people with passcode protected phones fall for this. When you go to your favorite coffee shop, many times the security on the Wi-Fi network is non-existent, meaning when you enter a password logging into your social media accounts, or even your bank account, you run the risk of that password being intercepted.

4. Consider Password Protecting Apps

Did you know that you can lock Google Drive? If you are in the habit of storing passwords and sensitive work documents in Google, a lock is a must. Like your phone, Google apps can be protected by fingerprint as well. Check the other apps you use and decide whether or not protecting them makes sense. When in doubt, air on the side of caution.

5. Beef-Up Your Passwords

Do not choose a poor, guessable password – especially if you are only using 4 digits and are not setting up Touch ID. Passwords are not meant to be simple and shouldn’t be created laxly just to be easily remembered. In other words, 1-2-3-4 is not an acceptable password.

One thing to note about those five steps: none of them are truly time consuming. You’re changing a few preferences, practicing safe unlocking, and watching for other opportunities to protect data in the future. It’s a sound investment of time. And once you lock, you’ll wonder how you went all that time without it. Even if nothing bad ever happens to your iPhone, peace of mind is a very powerful thing.

Do you lock your iPhone? Why or why not?
Let us know in the comments below.

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