For iPhone, iPad privacy, here's how to turn on encryption in just one minute
If the feds ever come looking for your iPhone or iPad data, they won't go knocking on Apple's door. They'll be coming straight to you.
Since the introduction of iOS 8 almost a year ago, Apple has included a new device encryption feature, aimed at securing device data from hackers, thieves, and government agencies, while at the same time removing itself from the equation. After the company was (wrongly) accused of cooperating with the US government's PRISM surveillance program, Apple wanted to ensure that it couldn't be forced to hand over data stored on its customers' devices. In doing so, it gave its customers the encryption keys to their device's data.
How? A simple lock-screen passcode.
The reality is that most iPhones and iPads, running the latest iOS 8 software, are probably already protected. But reports show that about one-third of all smartphone owners have never set a four-digit passcode to lock their phones.
Even if you have a four-digit passcode, it can be manually bypassed in hours (if you found a hacker or government agent who is determined enough). If you set a longer numerical passcode, it greatly reduces the odds of you losing control of your data.
Turning on device encryption is easy. Here's how you do it.
1. Go to your iPhone or iPad's settings
The first step is to gain access to your device settings. Usually, you can find "Settings" on your iPhone or iPad home screen. From there, go to Touch ID & Passcode. (Older devices without a fingerprint scanner will just say "Passcode.")
2. Make sure your passcode is turned on
Once you get into your passcode area, make sure the simple passcode option is turned off. Then, tap the button that says "Turn Passcode On." From here, you will be able to set either a strong four-digit or longer numerical passcode, or alphanumeric password.
3. Set a strong passcode
From this screen, you can set a simple or longer passcode. You have a great deal of flexibility. Remember: the stronger the user passcode is, the stronger the encryption key becomes.
Setting a numerical password is easy: simply type in a memorable passcode of four numbers or longer. Alternatively, you can add letters to your passcode, which significantly improves your device's security. According to Apple, setting a six-digit alphanumeric passcode with lower-case letters and numbers would take about five years to break if every combination was tried.
4. Ensure data protection is enabled
Once your passcode is set, you will return back to the Settings menu. By scrolling down to the bottom of the page, you should see written: "Data protection is enabled." That means your device is now encrypted, and nobody except you can access the data on that device.
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Zack Whittaker is a writer-editor for ZDNet, and sister sites CNET and CBS News. He is based in the New York newsroom. His PGP key is: EB6CEEA5.
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