iOS privacy settings: Medium level

Learn how to change your privacy settings on iOS. These steps adjust your privacy and security settings to Medium level protection.
Kaspersky Lab
18 minutes
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Settings may differ on an iPad

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Apple tablet computers run the iPadOS operating system.

The following instructions are applicable to iOS, which is used on iPhones. The interface of iPadOS differs from iOS. For example, the menu may contain more or fewer menu items, they may be named differently, or they may be missing entirely. You can find the relevant settings on an iPad by using the approximate names in equivalent sections of the menu.

How to hide your data from prying eyes

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Configure unlock settings

What for: So that only you can unlock your phone.

The safest way to lock your iPhone is to use an alphanumeric password or a fingerprint scanner. A four- or six-digit PIN code is easy to crack, and in some cases a Face ID can be spoofed by a photo or 3D mask.

A strong password complies with the following requirements:

  • Is at least 8 characters long;
  • Contains lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, and special characters ($, @, etc.);
  • Is not too simple, such as 12345678 or qwerty;
  • Is not the same as for any other account, including your Apple ID password;
  • Is not an actual word or easy-to-guess phrase;
  • Does not consist of information that strangers could easily find out (your name, date of birth, pet's name, and so forth — or those of your friends or relatives).

To set a password:

  1. Open Settings;
  2. Go to Touch ID & Passcode, or Face ID & Passcode if your device supports Face ID;
  3. Select Turn Passcode On;
  4. Tap Passcode Options;
  5. From the available options, select Custom Alphanumeric Code;
  6. Create a new password;
  7. Confirm it.

Important. Use a strong password even if you decide to sign in with your Touch ID. This strong combination will remain a backup method for unlocking your phone.

To configure sign-in by fingerprint:

  1. Open Settings;
  2. Go to Touch ID & Passcode;
  3. Enter your password;
  4. Tap Add a Fingerprint;
  5. Follow the on-screen instructions;
  6. If you want to use your Touch ID to confirm purchases and sign in to websites, also turn on the following features in this section:
  • iTunes & App Store;
  • Apple Pay;
  • Password AutoFill;

Set the screen lock time

What for: To prevent strangers from accessing the system if you leave your device unattended.

The system can lock your iPhone when you are not using it. This will prevent strangers from accessing your confidential information in your absence.

To select the amount of time to wait before the device is locked:

  1. Open Settings;
  2. Go to Display & Brightness;
  3. Tap Auto-Lock and select a length of time that is convenient for you.

Important. Do not select the Never option; otherwise anyone will be able to access your personal information on the smartphone if you ever lose your device.

Turn off lock-screen notifications

What for: To not expose your private data.

By default, all notifications are displayed on your device screen even if it is locked. For example, strangers could see text messages containing a one-time code from your bank, or a private message in a social network. To prevent this, disable the display of notifications on your locked screen:

  1. Open Settings;
  2. Go to the Notifications section;
  3. Tap Show Previews;
  4. Select Never instead of Always.

You can also configure the appearance of notifications on the lock screen and in the Notification Center for specific apps:

  1. In the Notifications section, select the app for which you want to change the appearance of notifications;
  2. Clear the Lock Screen and Notification Center check boxes;
  3. Tap Banner Style and make sure that the parameter is set to Temporary. Otherwise, notifications will be permanently displayed in the upper part of the screen.

Downside: You have to unlock your phone every time you want to read a notification.

How to protect your data

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Turn on the Find My iPhone service

What for: To find your iPhone if it is lost or stolen.

The Find My iPhone service will help you find your smartphone in case it is lost. You can use it to determine the location of your device and sound its alarm, and remotely lock it or wipe its memory. This will protect your data from prying eyes even if you are unable to find your iPhone.

The device search feature works even without Internet access and if location services are turned off. In this case, your lost phone sends a special signal over Bluetooth that is received by other nearby Apple devices. After receiving the signal, these devices send their location to Apple and the company forwards this data to your account. Using this feature, you will be able to see the approximate location of your iPhone in the Find My app.

To turn on the search service:

  1. Open Settings;
  2. Tap your Apple ID;
  3. Open Find My menu;
  4. Go to Find My iPhone;
  5. Turn on the following features:
  • Find My iPhone;
  • Find My network;
  • Send Last Location.

You can find or lock a lost device by using the Find My app on any Apple device or at

Activation Lock is also enabled when the Find My iPhone service is turned on. This feature prevents someone from signing in to your system with a different Apple ID, turning off the Find My iPhone feature, or wiping the memory without password confirmation. That means if your gadget ends up in someone else's hands, they will not be able to use it or sell it, except maybe for spare parts. They will not be able to disable the capability to search for it or lock it.

Please note: If you wipe the memory of your phone, the Apple ID data is also deleted together with your files. In this case, the location of the iPhone will no longer be visible on the map. Therefore, only use this option in extreme cases.

However, when the lock is enabled, your Apple ID data is saved on Apple servers linked to your device ID. This means that even after wiping all data, you can unlock your phone if you find it and enter the user name and password for your Apple ID.

How to protect your Apple ID and other accounts

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Create a strong password

What for: To prevent your data and devices from being hacked.

An Apple ID account lets you synchronize music, photos, and other data across devices. However, if your account is hacked, criminals will gain access to all this data. In addition, access to your Apple ID will enable someone to remotely lock your device and format its hard drive.

Make sure that your account is protected by a strong password that complies with the following requirements:

  • Is at least 8 characters long;
  • Contains lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, and special characters ($, @, etc.);
  • Is not an actual word or easy-to-guess phrase;
  • Is not the same as your passwords for any other accounts;
  • Does not consist of information that strangers could easily find out (your name, date of birth, pet's name, and so forth — or those of your friends or relatives).

To change your Apple ID password on your iPhone:

  1. Open Settings;
  2. Tap your Apple ID;
  3. Go to the Password & Security section;
  4. Tap Change password;
  5. Enter your current passcode;
  6. Create a new password and confirm it;
  7. Tap Change.

You can also change or reset the password for your Apple ID on the Apple website.

Use two-factor authentication for your Apple ID

What for: To prevent your account from being hacked.

You should enable two-factor authentication to improve the protection of your Apple ID. When this is enabled, the system will additionally require a one-time code any time you or someone else attempts to sign in to your account from a new device. In addition, it will send notifications to all the gadgets where you have already signed in to your account. If a different person has entered your user name and password, you can block the sign-in.

If you have already signed in to your Apple ID from a device and then signed out, you will not be prompted for a code the next time you sign in. In iOS 13.4 and later versions, two-factor authentication is automatically enabled when an Apple ID is created. Otherwise you can manually enable it as follows:

  1. Open Settings;
  2. Tap your Apple ID;
  3. Go to the Password & Security section;
  4. Turn On Two-factor authentication;
  5. Specify the phone number where you want to receive a text message or phone call. This can be your primary number or a backup number. This number is required in case you do not have a trusted device nearby or if it is broken.

There are two ways you can receive a code on a trusted device. View it in a notification (after you tap Allow) or request it:

  1. Open Settings;
  2. Tap your Apple ID;
  3. Go to the Password & Security section;
  4. Tap Get verification code.

On a Mac computer:

  1. Open the Apple menu by clicking the Apple emblem in the upper-left corner of the screen;
  2. In the drop-down list, select System Preferences;
  3. Click the Apple ID button in the upper-right corner of the screen;
  4. Go to the Password & Security section;
  5. Click Get a verification code.

If you do not have a trusted device on hand, you can receive the code in a text message or in an incoming call to the phone number you specified:

  1. Click Didn't get a verification code;
  2. Choose to have the code sent to your phone number. You will receive a text message or phone call with the code.

Automatically save data in iCloud

What for: To safeguard your data.

You can configure your iPhone to automatically save important information in iCloud. If you do so and your device is lost or stolen, you can easily restore your passwords, settings, documents, and photos.

To enable iCloud Backup:

  1. Open Settings;
  2. Tap your Apple ID;
  3. Select the iCloud section;
  4. Turn on iCloud Backup;
  5. If you want to immediately save data on the server, tap Back Up Now.

Downside: With a free account, you cannot upload more than 5GB of data to iCloud.

Check your passwords in Keychain or delete them

What for: To ensure all your accounts are securely protected.

The built-in iCloud Keychain app lets you store and automatically insert account credentials and payment card details. Because of synchronization, this data is available on Mac, iPhone and iPad.

If you are using identical passwords on different websites, theft or leak of one of them may result in several of your accounts being hacked. You can use the iCloud Keychain service to check whether your passwords match:

  1. Open Settings;
  2. Go to the Passwords section;
  3. Enter your passcode or use your Touch ID/Face ID;
  4. Select Security Recommendations;
  5. Make sure that Detect Compromised Passwords parameter is enabled;
  6. You will see a list of resources with duplicate, weak or leaked passwords;
  7. Change the vulnerable passwords:
  8. Tap the website name;
  9. Select Change Password on Website.

Although this service is considered secure, there is always a risk that any electronic data can be leaked. To reduce this risk, you can delete your passwords from your account:

  1. Open Settings;
  2. Tap your Apple ID;
  3. Go to the iCloud section;
  4. Tap Keychain;
  5. Turn off iCloud Keychain.

Please note that data deleted from iCloud Keychain may remain in other storage, such as the Safari AutoFill list.

Downside: You will have to manually enter your password on websites and in apps each time. You can eliminate this downside by installing a password manager with a reliable data encryption and security system.

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How to keep your account from getting hacked

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Enable automatic update of iOS

What for: To keep your protection up to date.

Even the most advanced system may contain flaws that enable it to be hacked. iOS developers regularly fix vulnerabilities and add new security functions, so it is important to install the latest patches as soon as possible.

You can configure your system to automatically install updates as they are released:

  1. Open Settings;
  2. Go to the General section;
  3. Select Software Update;
  4. Tap Automatic Updates;
  5. Turn on Download iOS Updates and Install iOS Updates.

Please note that the device will be updated only if it is connected to Wi-Fi and its battery has at least a 50% charge (or if it is plugged in to a power source).

Check your third-party keyboard settings

What for: To not be spied on.

You can replace the standard iOS keyboard with a third-party app. By default, a third-party keyboard has no Internet access. This is to prevent the information you enter from being intercepted. However, many apps prompt you to grant them this permission to improve their operation.

You can check whether your keyboard app has permission to access the Internet and revoke permission:

  1. Open Settings;
  2. Go to the General section;
  3. Select Keyboards;
  4. Tap Keyboards;
  5. Choose and tap a third-party keyboard;
  6. Turn off Allow Full Access;
  7. In the opened window, tap Don't Allow;
  8. Repeat this with all third-party keyboards.

Block other devices from connecting to your locked phone

What for: To prevent hacks that use the Lightning connector.

The Lightning connector can be used to connect various accessories to your iPhone or to transfer files from a computer. To enable devices to exchange data, you must first unlock your smartphone.

You can configure your system to allow the connection even without unlocking your iPhone. This is very convenient. However, if your smartphone is stolen, a criminal can connect hacking equipment to it.

To protect yourself, disable USB access to your locked device:

  1. Open Settings;
  2. Go to Touch ID & Passcode, or Face ID & Passcode if your device supports Face ID;
  3. Scroll down the page until you get to the Allow Access When Locked section;
  4. Turn off USB Accessories.

Note that access through the Lightning connector is blocked an hour after the phone goes to sleep, not immediately.

Downside: You will need to unlock your device each time you want to connect USB accessories to it.

How to avoid irritation

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Block unwanted contacts

What for: To avoid communicating with unpleasant people.

You can block any contact: a useful reaction to spam calls or phone fraud, or in case you simply want to restrict calls and messages from a specific person:

  1. Open the Phone app;
  2. Find the relevant number or name on the Recent or Contacts tab;
  3. Tap the icon containing the letter i;
  4. Tap Block this Caller at the bottom of the screen;
  5. In the opened window, tap Block this Caller.

The blocked caller will not receive any notifications about being added to your denylist. You will no longer receive notifications regarding the person's messages, phone calls, or FaceTime.

To unblock a user:

  1. Open Settings;
  2. Go to the Phone section;
  3. Select Blocked Contacts;
  4. Swipe left the name of the caller that you want to remove from the denylist.

Enable call and message filtering

What for: To avoid distractions from mass messaging and spam.

To avoid distractions from messages and calls from spammers without having to block each number individually, you can enable a special filter. If you do so, you will no longer receive notifications about messages and calls from strangers, or see them in the incoming list. In addition, you will not be able to follow a link from a person's message until you add the sender to your contact list. That helps protect you from phishing scams.

To enable the filter for messages:

  1. Open Settings;
  2. Go to the Messages section;
  3. Tap Unknown & Spam;
  4. Turn on Filter Unknown Senders.

To view blocked messages, locate them on the Unknown Senders tab in the Messages app.

To not receive calls from unknown numbers:

  1. Open Settings;
  2. Go to the Phone section;
  3. Turn on Silence Unknown Callers.

After you do so, only people in your contacts will be able to call you. Note that this feature will be disabled for 24 hours if you make an emergency call, so that rescue services can reach you.

Downside: You may miss an important message or call from people who you forgot or did not have time to add to your contacts. In addition, if a friend changes their phone number and tries to notify you from a new SIM card, their messages and calls will also be blocked.

Turn on Do Not Disturb

What for: To block out notifications.

If notifications tend to ruin your concentration, you can enable Do Not Disturb mode. In this mode, you will not receive sound notifications.

To turn on Do Not Disturb:

  1. Open Settings;
  2. Select Focus;
  3. Tap Do Not Disturb and enable it.

Important. After you manually enable Do Not Disturb mode, you will not receive sound notifications until you disable it in the settings.

You can configure the system to turn on Do Not Disturb automatically, for example, when you are sleeping. To do so, on the Do Not Disturb screen:

  1. Select Add Schedule or Automation;
  2. Select the Time, Location or App when you do not want to receive sound notifications;
  3. You can also configure Allowed Notifications:
  4. People — calls and notifications from people you allow will be delivered immediately when Do Not Disturb is turned on;
  5. Apps — calls and notifications from apps you allow will be delivered immediately when Do Not Disturb is turned on.

How to protect yourself from snooping

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Stop apps from tracking your activity

What for: To prevent developers from collecting or sharing your data.

Apps and services on Apple devices can track your activity on websites and in other developers' apps. For instance, Facebook can find out your Google search queries and then use that information for displaying targeted ads.

To provide users with greater control over their data, Apple has introduced the App Tracking Transparency policy. It enables you to stop developers from collecting information about your activities in other apps.

If your device is running iOS, iPadOS or tvOS 14.5 or above, each application, when launched for the first time, should request permission for collecting this data. You can decline by tapping Ask App Not to Track. You can also block tracking in the system settings:

  1. Open Settings;
  2. Go to the Privacy section;
  3. Select Tracking;
  4. Turn off Allow Apps to Request to Track;
  5. You can turn off permissions for individual apps here, too.

The restriction will not affect the performance of the application. You will keep seeing adds in the app, but they will not be based on your interests any longer.

If you have not been receiving any requests of this kind, you must have turned off the Personalized Ads feature, that controls activity tracking.

Turn off location services

What for: To prevent Apple from knowing where you go.

Mobile Apple devices continually collect information about your location. The information is used to improve their operation and for targeted ads. You can check which apps have access to your location, and block all services or individual services.

If you want to block access for all services:

  1. Open Settings;
  2. Go to the Privacy section;
  3. To block all apps from accessing your device location information, disable the Location Services option.

If you want to block individual apps from working with GPS:

  1. Find the relevant application in the overall list;
  2. Select Never;
  3. Select System Services;
  4. Disable the services that you want to block from accessing your location, such as Location-Based Suggestions.

To prevent Apple from remembering locations that you frequently visit:

  1. Tap Significant Locations;
  2. Enter your Apple ID password or use your Touch ID/Face ID;
  3. Turn off Significant Locations.

To delete the data that was collected by the system, tap Clear History. This will also delete the entire location history on other devices where you signed in with this Apple ID.

If you rarely use a specific app, you can grant it one-time access if necessary. When you open the app and see a request to access your location, tap Allow Once.

Downside: By preventing all apps and services from accessing your location, you will not be able to use Navigation and some other features. For example, the Photos app will not group photos by location in Memories.

Block applications from accessing the microphone and camera

What for: To not get spied on.

Apps for iOS may obtain access to your device camera and microphone. Some malicious applications exploit this access to track users. You can check which services and apps have this access, and revoke it if necessary:

  1. Open Settings;
  2. Go to the Privacy section;
  3. Select Microphone;
  4. Revoke the access permission for apps that do not need it;
  5. Return to the Privacy section;
  6. Select Camera;
  7. Revoke the access permission for apps that do not need it.

If you mistakenly block access to the camera or microphone for an app that requires it to work properly, you can return the permission in the same menu.

You can also grant one-time access to the app. When you open the app and see a request to access your camera or microphone, tap Allow Once.

Restrict data collection for advertising

What for: To prevent advertisers from knowing too much about you.

Apple collects information about your behavior to fine-tune the ads you see in the App Store and Apple News. Although you cannot completely disable the collection of this information, you can limit it.

To limit the collection of marketing information:

  1. Open Settings;
  2. Go to the Privacy section;
  3. Select Apple Advertising;
  4. Turn off Personalised Ads.

Note that location-based ads are turned off in a different section of the iOS settings.

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What are we setting up here?