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Protecting Sensitive iPhone and iPad Data

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If you use your Apple iPhone or iPad to handle sensitive or classified information, you need to protect your device's contents, as well as the hardware itself. Jason R. Rich suggests multiple levels of protection, including taking advantage of Apple's free Find My iPhone/iPad service, activating password protection on your device, and using several methods for protecting your data and hardware if your device gets lost, stolen, or damaged.
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Once most people begin using an Apple iPhone or iPad, it becomes an indispensable communications and information-management tool. The more we rely on these devices for storing, organizing, and managing data, the more we entrust our most sensitive data to them.

Whether it's personal credit card information, online banking data, passwords, classified work information, sensitive email messages, or even a family photo album, you need to plan in advance for what will happen if your iPhone or iPad gets stolen, lost, damaged, or somehow compromised.

This article outlines a handful of ways in which you can protect your Apple mobile device hardware and the information you store on it, starting with Apple's own Find My iPhone/iPad service.

Locating Your iPhone/iPad with MobileMe

To utilize Find My iPhone/iPad (now a free service), the iPhone or iPad must be running iOS 4.2 or later, and you must set up the feature on your device before it gets lost or stolen. Follow these steps:

  1. Access the Home screen and tap on the Settings icon.
  2. Select the Mail, Contacts, Calendars option.
  3. Create a free MobileMe account (using your Apple ID), or access your existing account.
  4. From the MobileMe account screen, scroll down and turn on the Find My iPhone (or Find My iPad) feature. Confirm this option by tapping on the Allow icon when prompted. This feature gives Apple the ability to locate your iPhone or iPad whenever it's turned on (and not in Airplane mode).

Once the feature is activated, if your iPhone or iPad is misplaced or stolen, here's what to do:

  1. From any computer or wireless Internet device, go to the MobileMe website (https://me.com/find) and sign in with your username and password.
  2. Have the Find My iPhone/iPad service quickly pinpoint the exact location of your device and display its location on a map. It's an automatic process.
  3. Depending on what happened to your device, you can choose among several options for what to do next:
    • Type a message that will appear on your device's screen; for example, asking for the device to be returned and telling the person who found it how to contact you.
    • Force the device to emit a sound (so you can find it more easily if it's lost).
    • Lock the device by using a password (see the next section).
    • Wipe out and delete the contents of your iPhone/iPad, ensuring that your sensitive data doesn't fall into the wrong hands.

For more suggestions, see Apple's description of the various options.

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