Your iPhone can hold a lot of information, and if you take advantage of the built-in Contacts and Notes apps to record the names, addresses, and birthdays of friends and family or your online account numbers, log-in names and passwords, your iPhone could be a veritable gold mine for someone who wants to commit a little identity theft or just make a little mischief. Rest assured that there are steps you can take to secure your iPhone from prying eyes. Here are some tips on how to keep the nosy nellies out of your business!

Hold on to that iPhone!

The first line of defense to keep information on your iPhone secure is to prevent physical access to it from the start. This may sound like a no-brainer but it can be easy to leave your iPhone lying around in a work environment where you feel safe or even when visiting with friends and family.

So, keep your iPhone with you as much as possible when you’re away from home. Put it in a pocket or invest in a pouch case with a belt clip for it or a strict holster case. If neither of these types of cases sound appealing to you, there are even a handful of cases available with wrist straps that provide an alternative method to carrying it with you.

Lock it down

The iPhone has a couple of built-in settings that can make it hard for someone else to get at the information that’s on your iPhone even if they manage to get their hands on it. The first is the Passcode Lock, which can be found in Settings under General. This feature allows you to set a 4-digit code that must be entered to access the iPhone. You can also choose how quickly the passcode is required after your iPhone was last locked, all the way from immediately to 4 hours.

Passcode lock

As the note at the bottom of Passcode Lock timing selection screen (below) indicates, choosing a shorter interval in this menu makes your iPhone more secure. If you choose the longest setting of 4 hours, your iPhone can be accessed by a stranger for up to 4 hours if you happen to forget it in a plane or cab. If you set it to Immediately, that wouldn’t be an issue. Well, aside from the fact that you’ve already lost your iPhone, that is.

Passcode time to secure

Another feature you should enable in conjunction with the Passcode Lock is Auto-Lock, which is also in Settings in the General section. This will automatically turn off your iPhone’s screen after a defined period of time, from after 1 minute to 5 minutes or Never. If you set Auto-Lock to Never, your iPhone’s screen can remain on if you forget to press the sleep/wake button until the battery dies, during which time someone can access your iPhone even if you have the Passcode Lock enabled.

Use Touch ID

And while a passcode applies to all iOS devices, newer models will support Touch ID. This is used in conjunction with a passcode. When your iOS device is restarted, you must use your passcode. After the initial entry, you can access your iPhone using your fingerprint. Once you setup Touch ID, placing your finger on the home button is all it takes to open your phone. With Touch ID, you can set up to five fingers.

Setup Touch ID on iPhone 5s

Use Secure Apps

If you want another layer of security for the private information you store on your iPhone, finding a secure, encrypted 3rd-party app to store it is an excellent idea. These apps can hold birthdays, passwords to your online accounts, Social Security Numbers, and other confidential data you don’t want anyone else to see. They will require a password to open (it would be best to use something different than your Passcode Lock for this in case that’s been been compromised or can be easily guessed) and the apps worth their salt will have additional encryption so that the information thdey store can’t be accessed even if someone hacks your iPhone’s software.

Many of the apps out there also have a desktop companion to allow you to sync your confidential information with your computer so you don’t lose everything in case you misplace your iPhone. There are other great options like DashLane, eWallet by Ilium Software, 1Password by Agile Web Solutions, along with many more.

Enable Find My iPhone

Securing your iPhone will help protect your data. It doesn’t however help you with the recovery of your phone and possible data that hasn’t yet been backed up. That’s why it’s vitally important that you setup and enable Find My iPhone. This free service provides a number of useful options. For one, it can track your iPhone, which can help you if it was lost. There are other options that include enabling lost mode and remotely wiping your data, should it fall in the wrong hands.

Find My iPhone

Go forth and keep that iPhone safe! If you have any other suggestions for safeguarding your iPhone and its contents, we’d love to hear them in the comments below.

Original article published on November 17th, 2009. Updated by Christopher Meinck on March 20th, 2015.