5 Steps to Protect Your Privacy on iPhone
In this day and age, there is nothing more sensitive and vulnerable than the phones we carry in our pockets. They contain all of our online accounts – from social media to bank details, our backups, private photos and videos, text messages, emails, and even recorded calls.
Apps that we choose to install quietly collect as much of our data as they can (browsing history, social media activity, physical locations, contacts, messages, etc.), sending it back to the parent companies for analysis, storage, and even sales to third parties.
Our complete and utter dependence on our little electronic buddies in recent years has also made them the perfect target for hackers looking to collect information, steal our identity, or even use the content found on them in order to extort or shame us.
We have grown accustomed to relying entirely on our phones for every little thing in our lives, and have forgotten that the information we have in them lies not only in our pocket or purse but on clouds and WiFi. This turns our iPhones – and us, as a result – into a sitting duck for virtual snipers (or snoopers).
So, how do we protect ourselves?
Delete iOS apps
Sorry to say this, but most applications jeopardize your privacy. The first step in increasing your iPhone security is to completely remove any app that is not absolutely essential. First and foremost, this means social media apps (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+), chat and messaging apps (WhatsApp, Snapchat, QQ), transportation and weather apps that require your location (Uber, Gett, Waze, GO Weather Forecast), and finally those silly little games with the very long disclaimers no one ever reads through (Angry Birds, Words with Friends, Bubble Blast).
Unfortunately, that’s pretty much every type of app you have (or would like to have) on your phone. Most apps are potential privacy threats at best, and flat out information black holes at worst. So, if it isn’t absolutely essential in your everyday lives – delete it.
Choose a secure messaging app
Corporations, governments, and hackers have been spying on SMS messages and listening to calls for years. As you probably know, the biggest messaging app, WhatsApp, is actually owned by Facebook. Despite claiming to be “encrypted,” WhatsApp does not use end-to-end encryption and has many known security issues. Unfortunately, there is no simple solution to encrypt your text messages without an app.
Signal is a free option that uses a strong, end-to-end 256-bit AES encryption, and it integrates well with your iOS device and utilizes perfect forward security to protect your data. Signal’s code is also open source, which is good. (Download Signal for iOS.)
Another secure messaging option with end-to-end encryption is Threema. It is a low-cost alternative for those who value their messaging privacy, based in Switzerland. (Download Threema for iOS.)
Block ads and malware
Online advertisements are becoming more and more risky with every passing month. They are an easy attack vector, because:
a) Third party advertising domains can be hijacked to inject malware and ransomware into ads and onto your device
b) Most sites host ads that are fed in from untrusted third party domains
c) Your device can be infected simply by loading the website, even if you do not actually click on any of the ads.
What’s the cure? Well, you can either download an ad blocker app, such as Purify, which will cost you a couple bucks in the Apple store (Download Purify for iOS), or use a VPN service that has a built-in ad blocker (we will get into that later on).
It’s true, there are free ad-blocking options out there, but I would recommend avoiding those, as free apps will, more often than not, collect and sell your data to make their money, which is exactly what we are trying to bypass.
Modify your iOS settings
Your default iOS settings are simply not good enough. Changing them can significantly enhance your device’s privacy and security. Here’s how:
- Modify your home screen widgets, which are accessible without a password. To do this, go to your home screen, swipe to the right, then go to the bottom and select ‘Edit’. Delete everything you don’t absolutely need from the unsecured “Today” screen.
- Set a strong password (at least 6 digits). You can set it through Settings > Touch ID & Passcode > Turn Passcode On > Passcode Options.
- Stop location tracking and limit which applications can get your location. Go to: Settings > Privacy > Location Services (double check which Apps you want to allow access to your location) and then > System Services > Frequent Locations (turn this off and ‘Clear History’).
- Enable the ‘Erase Data’ feature to automatically erase all data on your iOS device after 10 failed passcode attempts. This is a great way to keep your private data secure if your phone gets lost or stolen. Settings > Touch ID & Passcode > Erase Data (at the bottom) – enabled.
- Review all the data that is available to your apps. Go to: Settings > Privacy, and check everything. From the Privacy section, you can also go to the bottom and select Advertising > Limit Ad Tracking (enabled). This makes it much harder for companies to hit you with targeted advertisements.
Install a VPN
This is the most significant and efficient step in our book. A good virtual private network will encrypt and protect all of your info, while also allowing you to bypass geo-restricted websites and access blocked content.
When using a VPN on a mobile device, you can either use your device’s built-in VPN configuration or use a VPN app.
Let’s start with the former, your phone’s built-in VPN: All you need to do is import your VPN’s configuration files onto your iOS device and enter your connection credentials. The built-in VPN configuration is easy to access and setup directly from your Settings menu.
- Your VPN connection status will be displayed at the top of your screen in real-time. Enabling the “connect on demand” option has no significant effect on your battery life or performance.A built-in VPN configuration forces every internet connection on your iOS device, including your apps, through the VPN and is leak proof (when “Connect on Demand” is enabled). With a good VPN service, it will be very reliable and won’t crash all the time (unlike some VPN apps). Additionally, it provides strong encryption and privacy protection, utilizing the IPSec/IKEv2 encryption protocol. And finally, a built-in VPN is generally less risky than downloading a third-party app.If you would still rather use a VPN app instead of the built-in VPN configuration, here’s our list of best VPNs for iOS to help you choose the best VPN client for your needs. A good iPhone VPN app will be simple to setup and use. CLICK HERE for a tutorial on how to install a VPN on your iPhone.
Following the five tips in this article will greatly increase your protection when using your iPhone, no matter where you are. If you’re the kind of person who values privacy (and if you’re here at VPNmentor, chances are that you are) – these steps are absolutely essential.
Never compromise when it comes to your privacy.
For more on internet privacy, we recommend you also check our blog, which is constantly updated with important posts regarding privacy and using VPNs wisely and skillfully.