Apple has been known to fight even the FBI for their users’ privacy rights – so that means your iPhone should be just fine! Your photos, emails, contacts, payment info – and everything in between – are in safe hands, right? Well, not exactly.
2019 is looking to be the best year for hackers (thus far), with over 4.1 billion exposed records in just the first half. Let’s not forget about the iPhone hacking campaign discovered by Google’s Project Zero team in August. All the victims had to do was visit one of several hacked websites, and their device would be compromised. Devices running iOS 10 through 12 could eventually fall under the complete control of cyber criminals because of mere browser exploits.
So if you haven’t turned on automatic updates yet, there’s your friendly reminder. Otherwise, here are some other easy tips to keep the data on your iPhone from falling into the wrong hands.
Disable Access Privileges
Does that free Candy Crush clone really need access to your location or phone contacts? Spoiler alert: it most likely doesn’t. So many apps want to know every little detail about your daily life that it’s disturbing. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to disable access to privacy-invasive services:
· Location – Head over to Settings – Privacy – Location Services and pick off any apps that don’t require location data to function. As for location-based apps like Google Maps, you can just set them to “While Using the App.”
· Camera – While you’re still in Privacy, access the Camera menu and repeat the process above. Snapchat? Needs access. Most other apps that have nothing to do with taking pictures or video? Not so much.
· Microphone – Disabling app access to your mic basically follows the same steps as the above two. Tap the Microphone menu under Privacy and make sure Facebook, Twitter and the other usual “privacy wonders” can’t hear you talking about tonight’s dinner.
It’s just as easy to re-enable these functions if you end up needing them sometime in the future.
Ad Tracking Has To Go
The primary reason corporations track your behavior is to understand what you want and, well, try to sell it to you. If you don’t want to be tracked through your device’s unique ID for Advertisers (IDFA) then you can switch this off in the “Advertising” section under the Privacy menu. It will set your IDFA to all zeroes to prevent advertisers from targeting you with personalized ads.
Of course, they have methods of skirting around this and tracking you anyway. You need to take extra precautions to avoid this.
Encrypt Your Data
No need to think of this as fancy hacker-speak. Encryption essentially means the data will be turned into gibberish to any prying eyes. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) does exactly that, so nothing coming or going from your iPhone can be read by hackers, advertisers, ISPs (known to sell your data), or even intelligence agencies like the NSA.
Not only that, but a VPN also hides your IP address and replaces it with the IP of the server you’re connecting to. For one, this means your location can’t be tracked. But you can also do cool stuff like access content not available in your geographic region due to copyright issues.
It’s a great idea to get a VPN if you use free public Wi-Fi often. And who doesn’t nowadays? But with free Wi-Fi come free hackers as well. It’s not particularly difficult for the person sitting across from you at the café to gain access to your data if you connect to the same network.
On a related note: disable AirDrop while you’re in public if you don’t want anybody sneakily sliding some infected files on your iPhone, or snooping around in your own. Simply swipe to bring up the Control Center and turn it off from there.
In any case, iPhone VPNs should be researched thoroughly and for good reason. Many “free” VPNs make the rounds on the App Store, but here’s a little secret: Nothing is truly free, and a lot of those VPNs either have ads galore, sell your data for profit, or outright contain malware.
Beware of Shoulder Surfing
You don’t need to be a hacker to invade somebody’s privacy when you can just sneak a peek at their lock screen. iMessage, Signal, and plenty of other apps will display previews of texts on the lock screen, along with who sent them. Next thing you know, your friend’s message about the birthday party you’re throwing for your significant other ruins the surprise. Or worse.
Avoid these situations by disabling previews. Go to Settings – Notifications – Messages. In this menu, you’ll see an option called “Show Previews” – set it to Never. You’ll still get notified about texts and who sent them, but their contents will be private. Consider doing this for any other app you receive messages through (like Instagram).
Voicemail – Do You Use It?
Then you might want to know that hackers can easily brute force their way into your voicemail account. Then, they can potentially reset passwords on your main accounts (say, PayPal) by requesting they get a call with the reset code. Miss the call and you get a voice message with the code instead. And yes, hackers can even make it so the reset call goes straight to voicemail. Since they have access to your voicemail account… you can see where this is going.
There are a couple of solutions to this problem:
· Set a password by going to Settings – Phone – Change Voicemail Password. A random 9-digit code is recommended (don’t forget to jot it down somewhere in case you ever need it).
· Contact your phone carrier and ask them to help you disable your voicemail. If you’ve been looking for a good reason to do it, here it is.
And there you have it. These methods will put you head and shoulders above the average iPhone user when it comes to privacy.