As Apple users, we often find ourselves lulled into a false sense of security.
After all, Apple has been very vocal in denying organizations like the FBI access to user information! But that doesn’t mean our iPhone privacy and security are totally in safe hands.
For starters, in August 2019, Google’s Project Zero team discovered a mysterious iOS attack that changed everything we know about iPhone hacking.
A simple browser exploit caused millions of users to be hacked over 2 years. And all you had to do was visit one of the many compromised websites to give the hackers complete access to all of your information!
Luckily, tech companies like Apple continue to provide regular updates to their software. While they might seem annoying to us, they’re very important for keeping your devices (and therefore your iPhone privacy and security) protected.
And the best way to make sure you never miss one is to use the automatic iOS update download and install setting.
However, to help you improve your iPhone privacy and security in ways that don’t totally rely on Apple, here are 5 easy tips you can follow right now.
Use a Reliable iPhone VPN
Perhaps the most important tip on our list is this one.
If you have a device that connects to the internet (which your iPhone certainly does), you need to be using a VPN. However, not just any VPN will do, because many are fake or simply don’t work properly.
You’ve already spent good money on your iPhone – don’t mess it up by using a bad VPN app.
Instead, compare the best iPhone VPNs at TheVPNShop.com to find one that ticks all the right boxes for you and your needs!
Why should you be using a VPN, though?
For starters, a reliable VPN will encrypt your online data. That way, anyone who hacks your internet connection can’t see any of your private information. It’ll just look like gibberish to them.
Plus, companies like your internet service provider (who can and will sell your online data without telling you) and intelligence agencies like the NSA won’t be able to read or use that data either!
This is a big win for online privacy, as the NSA is known to get user data from companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook through their ongoing PRISM program.
A reliable VPN won’t guarantee your iPhone’s privacy and security, but it will certainly help in a huge way.
Disable Ad Tracking for Your iPhone, Browser, and Apps
One of the easiest ways for companies to follow you around the internet is through ad tracking. This is also the number one reason most companies are tracking you in the first place – they want to sell stuff to you!
Luckily, you can fight back in a few different ways.
The first is a quick and simple solution. All you need to do is visit the Advertising section in your iPhone’s Privacy settings. There, you’ll find an option to disable your device’s unique ID For Advertisers (IDFA). By doing so, your IDFA is set to zero and advertisers will have a harder time tracking you.
Unfortunately, most of them are also installing tracker cookies on your device every time you visit their website. This means you need to either block all cookies in your Safari browser’s Privacy & Security settings, or regularly tap Clear History and Website Data.
Apple has a full tutorial right here.
However, you should remember disabling cookies can cause other problems – like some websites no longer working, or not being able to log into some of your accounts.
Finally, if you’re using social media apps, you need to check the privacy settings there too. Let’s take the Facebook app as our example:
- Open the app Menu in the top-right corner
- Open Settings & Privacy then Settings
- Tap Ad Preferences
- Tap “See all of your interests” and remove them all
- Open Ad Settings and change them to “Not Allowed” for the first 2 and “No One” for the third
- Under “Hide Ad Topics,” hide all 3 permanently
Other social media apps will have similar settings, but you might need to spend time looking for them.
Disable Access Privileges
While we’re on the topic of apps, have you ever stopped to think about the Permissions they ask you for?
For the most part, they’re asking for access privileges that make no sense. And that’s because they’re harvesting your personal data to sell to advertisers – or worse.
Luckily, you don’t need to go into each app and change the settings. iPhones make it super easy to do everything in short bursts. Simply open your iPhone Settings and head to Privacy:
- Open Location Services. All you need to do is disable the location data privileges for all the apps listed there! For ones that genuinely do need that ability (like Uber or Google Maps), you can set them to “While Using the App” so they aren’t tracking your location 24/7
- Next, open the Camera menu and repeat the same process. Apps like Instagram and SnapChat have valid reasons to request access (again “While Using the App”), but very little else does.
- Finally, do the same again under the Microphone menu.
If at any time you find yourself needing to enable certain access privileges, it’s just as easy to go back to Settings > Privacy and change them again.
It’s also a good idea to go back to your iPhone Settings and tap General then AirDrop. Disable AirDrop by selecting Receiving Off, as it’s a huge liability.
Lock or Disable Your Voicemail
This one might come as a bit of a shock to most of you, but your voicemail can easily be hacked through a brute force attack.
The weakness has been known for more than 30 years, but none of the major carriers have done anything to fix the issue yet. And that means you need to do it yourself.
But why would cybercriminals want access to your voicemail, you ask?
Think about all your main accounts. Apple, Netflix, PayPal… almost all of them give you the option to reset your password via automated phone call.
All the hacker needs to do is gain access to your voicemail inbox and run a script that makes all incoming calls go straight there. They then request a password change, opting for the call option, and receive the code in your voicemail.
And now they have access to all of your accounts.
Let’s face it – anyone needing to get hold of you can send a text message or email. There’s no real reason to keep using an outdated and vulnerable tool like voicemail. It’s much better to simply disable voicemail entirely by calling your service provider and asking them to do so.
But if you feel you genuinely do need voicemail in your life, you can make it more secure by changing the default password. Simply open your iPhone Settings, tap on Phone > Change Voicemail Password, and enter a new, secure password.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
You know when you get a notification, there’s usually a preview of the text visible on your iPhone lockscreen?
Most of us don’t think much of it. But next thing you know, the person next to you or behind you has read those previews without you realizing it.
Granted, it’s usually not going to lead to any malicious activity.
But it is a breach of your privacy and can lead to compromised account security. Plus, can you imagine what would happen if a surprise you’ve been planning gets ruined because the wrong person sees a preview of a message relating to it?
Luckily, this is easily avoided. Simply go to iPhone Settings > Notifications > Messages and set the “Show Previews” option to Never. You’ll still get notifications, but they won’t reveal any private information anymore!
It’s best to go through all your other apps that can be used to send private information: Instagram, Facebook Messenger, and so on.
There’s always more we as users can do to protect our own privacy and security. But with these 5 tips, you’ll be well on your way to making sure your iPhone isn’t a huge liability anymore!