The most important iPhone security settings you need to know

The iPhone is regarded as one of the most secure phones, but this is only true if it is correctly configured. Here are the iPhone security settings you need to check, and maybe change, too.

Each new version of iOS for the iPhone brings new security features. This is true not only of major operating system releases, but also minor ones too. Although there is one big update once a year, there are many point increments throughout the year and sometimes they add new security features or improve existing ones.

Here I take a look at some of the recent additions and changes to iPhone security settings. All the security settings are not in one place, which makes them hard to find or easy to miss and you have to jump around the settings app changing this and that in different places. Hopefully this guide will simplify things.

It is not difficult to make security changes, but you do need to know where to look to find them. Let’s take a quick tour of the most important settings. Some settings apply to iPadOS too.

Use a passkey to log in to websites

Only a few websites and services support passkeys, but they are sure to become more common in the future, and not just on iOS, but everywhere we have to log in. They make it easier to log in by getting rid of the username and password requirement.

There isn’t a single way to set up passkeys and it depends on the website or app. Here is an example using eBay. Other websites may be different.

Set up a passkey to use with eBay logins on the iPhone
Save a passkey for eBay logins
  1. Go to to the eBay website in Safari on the iPhone and log in if necessary.
  2. Tap the My eBay icon at the top (it looks like a person).
  3. Press Account in the list of items.
  4. Press Sign-in and security.
  5. Press Turn on next to Face/fingerprint/PIN sign-in.
  6. On the Tired of passwords? screen, Press Turn on.
  7. You are asked if you want to save a passkey.
  8. Press the Continue button.
  9. It says Done and now uses your iPhone, like Face ID.


CAPTCHAs are those annoying security features used to verify that you are a real human being and not a bot. They often pop up on websites and they show a grid overlaid on a photo and you have to select all the squares that contain cars, traffic lights, or something else.

The iPhone can bypass CAPTCHAs so you never have to see them and waste time dealing with them again.

Bypass CAPTCHAs when browsing the web on the iPhone
Bypass CAPTCHAs on the iPhone
  1. Go to the Settings app.
  2. Press your name at the top.
  3. Press Password & Security
  4. Go right to the bottom and turn on Automatic Verification. You’ll see below that it says “Bypass Captchas…”

AirdDrop timeout

AirDrop is a useful way to transfer files between the iPhone and other iPhones, iPads and Macs. However, it could be misused by troublemakers and if AirDrop is turned on in a public place, anyone could send you photos, videos and other things. In a crowded place, you would not know who it was.

One solution is to limit AirDrop to contacts only, so people you do not know cannot send you things. The other solution is to set a time limit.

Limit how long AirDrop can be used for on the iPhone
AirDrop for 10 minutes only on the iPhone
  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Press General.
  3. Press AirDrop.
  4. Select Everyone for 10 Minutes.

This means that you do not need to remember to turn off AirDrop if you leave home or work and don’t want unsolicited photos, videos and other things sent to you by nearby strangers.

Lock hidden photos

The Photos app has a useful feature that enables you to hide photos. Open Photos, tap a photo to view it, press the three dots in the top right corner and then press Hide on the menu. Photos that are hidden are moved to a special album called Hidden. This can be locked with Face ID so that only you can view the hidden photos. It’s handy if you lend your phone to someone.

Lock hidden photos with Face ID on the iPhone
Photos settings on the iPhone
  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Press Photos to open its settings.
  3. In the Albums section, turn on Use Face ID.
  4. Optional: Turn on Show Hidden Album.

If you try to open the Hidden album or Recently Deleted albums, the iPhone checks it is you by using Face ID.

Use Advanced Data Protection

A lot pf personal information is stored in iCloud by the iPhone and other Apple devices. Advanced Data Protection uses end-to-end encryption, meaning that your iCloud data is encrypted before being uploaded and decrypted when downloaded.

No-one but you can access your iCloud data. This makes it more secure, but it means Apple cannot help if you lose the encryption/decryption key. Your iCloud account is gone forever. Weigh up the convenience of a normal iCloud account with one with Advanced Data Protection.

Advanced Data Protection setting on the iPhone
Advanced Data Protection in iOS
  1. Open the Settings app on the iPhone.
  2. Press your account name at the top.
  3. Press iCloud.
  4. Press Advanced Data Protection.
  5. Press Turn on Advanced Data Protection.
  6. Follow the instructions, it’s a multi-step process in which you need to set up recovery options.

Use Lockdown Mode

If you worry about cyberattacks, if you think you are being spied upon, if you are worried that someone is trying to hack into your phone, you can put it in the super secure Lockdown Mode.

Lockdown Mode applies very strict iPhone security settings and this limits what can be done on the iPhone. It affects Messages, Safari, FaceTime, Apple services, shares, device connections and more, limiting their functions and features. For this reason, it should not be used normally and it is only useful in extreme situations where your security and privacy is threatened.

Enable Lockdown Mode in the iPhone security settings
Lockdown is a last resort on the iPhone
  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Press Privacy & Security.
  3. Press Lockdown Mode at the bottom.
  4. Press Turn on Lockdown Mode.

Improved SOS emerency calls

To call emergency services automatically, press and hold the sleep/wake button on right side of the iPhone and one of the volume buttons on the left side. The problem with this is that it was too easy to activate by accident if you gripped your iPhone too hard or in the the wrong places.

Now you can specify that you must release the buttons to call emergency services. It is harder to do without noticing.

Emergency SOS settings on the iPhone
Emergency SOS on the iPhone
  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Press Emergency SOS.
  3. Turn on the switch, Call with Hold and Release.

You might want to set up emergency contacts in the Health app, like a close friend or a relative.

Lock notes with Face ID

I am not sure that locking notes with Face ID is any more secure than using a password, but it is certainly more convenient. You just have to look at a locked note in the Notes app and it unlocks. Now that unlocking notes is easier, you might find that you use the feature more often, so it does improve security in a way.

Use Face ID to unlock notes in the Notes app on the iPhone
Unlock notes with Face ID
  1. Go to the Settings app.
  2. Press Notes to open the app’s settings.
  3. Press Password to see the security options
  4. Turn on the switch, Use Face ID.

Auto-install security updates

Apple takes security flaws seriously and as soon as possible after one is discovered, an update to iOS is made available. Installing updates on your iPhone as soon as you can is therefore important to the device’s security and any delay could mean that hackers or malware could gain access to your device.

You could check every day for updates, but that is a tedious task and you might forget. With the latest version of iOS you can automatically download and install security updates. Let the iPhone do the checking for you.

Enable automatic security updates on the iPhone
Set automatic updates in iOS
  • Open the Settings app on the iPhone.
  • Press General.
  • Press Software Update.
  • Press Automatic Updates.
  • Turn on all the switches, especially Security Responses & System Files.

Leave a Reply