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Smartphones & gadgets

Secure your tech: Change these iPhone or iPad settings now

Did you purchase or receive an Apple product this year? Those beautiful white boxes are hard to miss, after all. And now that brand new devices are in so many hands, Apple Stores across the country will be filled to the brim with guests who are full of questions.

Of course, anyone who’s been to an Apple Store during the holidays or times of new device releases knows how crowded it can be. Some folks even end up waiting hours just to talk to an Apple Genius. Tap or click here to learn how to get support at the Apple Store.

But not everyone has time to wait several hours in a mall. To help our readers get the most out of their gifts, we’ve put together a list of essential security settings you need to activate right out of the box. Not only will your device be safer to use, your social media accounts and privacy will benefit too.

Create a secure enough passcode (and use biometrics for good measure)

iOS devices are acclaimed for their security. In fact, competitors actively try to copy some of Apple’s most secure systems like Apple Pay, Touch ID and Face ID.

When you first set up your device, you’ll be prompted to create a passcode. Many people try to skim through this section to create something “easy,” but your passcode shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s the main way you lock your phone from the outside world, and leaving it unsecured leaves it open to bad actors.

Upon booting up your device, follow the passcode prompts and select a combination of digits that is easy enough to remember, yet tough enough to be secure. You may want to write it down just to be sure.

By default, the system will have you set up a 6-digit code, which is quite secure. We don’t recommend reducing the digits, even if it may seem easier. The security is worth it in the long run.

If you missed or glossed over this part of the setup, open the Settings app and visit the Touch ID/Face ID & Passcode setting.

If it isn’t already enabled, tap Turn Passcode On and enter your 6 digit code. Once you’ve set this code, you can set up any biometric settings like Touch ID or Face ID. Which one you use will depend on whether or not your phone has a home button. Tap Add a Fingerprint or Set up Face ID and follow the on-screen prompts.

Restrict USB access to lock out accessory hackers and hijackers

As secure as iPhones and iPads are, a dangerous new way hackers are cracking these devices is via compromised USB connections. A modified device plugged into an iOS system can easily access personal data if it isn’t properly secured.

Thankfully, Apple thought ahead and included an option to restrict USB access in iOS. To find it, visit the Touch ID/Face ID & Passcode menu in the Settings app and scroll down. You’ll see an option labeled USB Accessories. Make sure it’s toggled Off as in the image above.

By doing this, your phone will restrict data access to your device if it’s left locked and dormant for an hour or more. This means any USB accessories will only be good for charging and will not be able to access any data.

Prevent others from using your home screen to bypass your lock

Apple tends to walk a fine line between security and convenience, and the home screen on iOS is a perfect example. As secure as your lock and biometrics may be, an iPhone or iPad will allow certain features like replying to texts and returning calls right from alerts that appear when your device is locked.

Though this can be useful when you’re on the go and unable to fully log into your phone, it can have dangerous side effects for your security. A nosy friend could easily pick up your phone and start replying for you if they see an alert.

To limit lockscreen access on iOS, we’re going to revisit the Touch ID/Face ID & Passcode menu. Scroll down until you find a section labeled Alow Access When Locked. Here, you can toggle specific settings like Siri and message replies and restrict access without a passcode.

Turn on Automatic Updates to stay ahead of the curve

Hackers and cybercriminals are constantly refining their tactics, which means the security on your device can become obsolete in a matter of weeks. Exploits and security flaws pop up all the time, which is why companies like Apple release patches and updates to refine their products and security.

If you’d rather not be pressured to download new updates constantly, you can instruct your phone to download and install these updates automatically. This will keep your device on the cutting edge of Apple’s security releases.

To activate auto updates, open Settings, followed by General. Then, select Software Update. In this menu, you may see an update available to download. Do so when you have the chance, but for now, tap Automatic Updates and toggle the setting on.

This will download and install updates overnight when your phone is connected to power. Don’t forget that if you aren’t charging your phone overnight (which you should do anyway) the updates won’t install.

Keep in mind not every Apple update is perfect. Some have had significant issues that broke major features on devices. Tap or click here to see what a recent update from Apple broke. But Apple is pretty good about releasing new updates to fix previous ones if need be. And updates are still worth it for the security patches.

Stop Apple from tracking frequent and important locations

Apple is a bit better than other companies about privacy, but it still will track your location if you visit the same places frequently.

Thankfully, you can disable this as well. To turn off Apple’s frequently visited location tracking, visit Settings, followed by Privacy. Then, select Location followed by System Services and choose Significant Locations. Turn this feature off to stop your device from keeping track of locations it thinks are important.

Bonus: Stop Apple from recording your Siri requests

We know that companies like Amazon have come under fire for recording and transcribing interactions with users. But what surprised almost everyone was learning that Apple did the same exact thing. Tap or click here to see how Apple transcribes Siri voice data.

The company has since claimed to have stopped the practice unconditionally, but it does admit to doing so if given permission. This helps Apple improve its voice recognition software, but if you aren’t comfortable playing guinea pig, you can turn this off.

To access audio review settings, open the Settings app and select Privacy. Then, scroll down and open Analytics & Improvements. Here, look for the section labeled Improve Siri & Dictation and toggle it off. This will stop Apple from storing and transcribing your Siri and Dictation interactions to improve its systems.

With these settings enabled, you should have a much more private and secure experience on your device. Beyond this, be cautious with what you share on social media and beyond to keep your device as personal as possible. Otherwise, these settings won’t go far enough to protect you.

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