[Guide] Make your iPhone’s lock screen more secure

While reading about huge hacks that happened over the last year, with Ashley Madison in the lead, you might be tempted to see yourself as too insignificant to become the target of hackers, at least compared to all these large organizations. But here’s the problem – identity theft is real and you don’t need a fat bank account to be an interesting catch so to speak. And most of these hacks were about fetching tons of user data anyway.

Despite all the built-in security measures, smartphones still make us the most vulnerable, simply because we carry them around everywhere we go and they’re way easier to snatch than a desktop or even a thin notebook.

iPhones are no exception and if you’re using a four-digit passcode, take into account it’s not that hard to go through the 10,000 possible combinations to crack your code. Here are some options you can use to improve your iPhone’s lock screen security:

Strengthen your passcode

Regardless if you’re using Touch ID or not, a passcode is still mandatory and until iOS 9 the four-digit kind was the standard. You might still use it even if you upgraded to iOS 9 and transferred your settings during that process.

The first thing you can do if your iPhone is running iOS 9 is to switch to a 6-digit passcode – this makes for 1,000,000 possible combinations which is so much more than just 10,000.

If you don’t have it already go to Settings -> Touch ID & Passcode. You’ll need to enter your current passcode to access the preferences, and once you do, tap on the Change Passcode option. Then enter the current passcode one more time, select Passcode Options and tap on 6-Digit Numeric Code.

You can always go for a longer passcode if six digits seems insufficient. As you can see in the image above, when you’re about to change the passcode in iOS 9, there are several types available. If you select the “Custom Numeric Code” you can make a passcode made only from numbers which can be of any length. Sure longer also means more typing every time you want to unlock your phone but an 8 to 12 digit passcode can still be typed fast altough it’s much harder to crack compared to a 6 or 4 digit alternative.

Alternatively you can select the “Custom Alphanumeric Code” option (the equivalent in iOS 8 is to disable “Simple Passcode” to switch to a “Complex Passcode”), meaning your passcode can include letters, numbers and special characters, plus it can be of any length. Use all types of chars and you get one really tough to crack iPhone (I’m sure Mr.Robot agrees).

Toggle off lock screen features

Having various apps and services accessible on your lock screen is very comfortable but also unsafe. Let’s not forget about the recent iOS 9 exploit that was leveraging Siri to bypass passcodes.

iOS 9 - Allow Access When Locked

However, you should be disabling lock screen access to other sensitive content and you can do that from your iPhone’s Settings -> Touch ID & Passcode -> Allow Access When Locked. The safest approach would be to disable all the options, especially the Wallet if you’re not using it with Touch ID.

Disable lock screen access for Control Center

Find My iPhone can be a life saver as it lets you monitor the location of your lost phone. One way a thief or the ‘lucky’ person who finds it can render it useless is to access the Control Center from the lock screen and enable Airplane Mode. This will disconnect your iPhone’s GPS, Wi-Fi and/or cellular data connection making it impossible to track.

As a result, the only way to make sure this cannot happen is to go to your iPhone’s  Settings -> Control Center and disable the “Access on Lock Screen” option. The thief could turn off the phone completely to avoid it being tracked, but he won’t be able to use it either.

Set the shortest lock time

A phone that locks itself quickly can be a nuisance if you tend to check it frequently but it is an important security enhancement. The shorter the lock time, the harder it is for a thief that pulls the phone out of your hands and takes off (or a sneaky person going behind your back) to access its contents.

Go to Settings -> General -> Auto-lock  and set it to 30 seconds, the shortest time available. This will dim the screen in 30 seconds but it will take longer for your iPhone to lock if you’re not using Touch ID as well. To fix the problem head over to the Passcode & Touch ID settings one more time and toggle on the “Require Passcode” option.

Remove sensitive notification content from the lock screen

If you’re a privacy conscious person, you shouldn’t allow apps containing personal content to send notifications accessible from your iPhone’s lock screen. The obvious things that should remain hidden from prying eyes are your messages and emails but there are plenty of third-party apps offering lock screen preview to personal/sensitive information and you should remove all of them from the lock screen.

iOS Notifications - Show on Lock Screen

You can customize lock screen notifications on a per app basis from Settings -> Notifications. There simply select the app you’re interested in and you can either disable notifications on the lock screen or just the previews.

What other methods are you using to make your iPhone’s lock screen more secure? Let us know in the comments section below or leave us a message on Facebook, Twitter or Google+.