iPhone Update: 5 iOS 12 Security Features to Use Now

Take advantage of improved privacy and security features

A photo illustration of a finger touching a lock on a screen

Yuichiro Chino / Getty Images

If you're running iOS 12 on your iPhone, you've got a better set of security features available to you then ever before. And that's important since so much of our lives and personal data is on our phones. From bank account information to medical records to *ahem* personal photos, our iPhones are packed full of data that it's crucial we protect.

Apple's long been committed to providing great security and privacy on its devices, but iOS 12 adds a number of security features that respond to ever-evolving threats and new ways that we interact with the world. While there are lots of other useful security settings and tools in iOS 12, these are the 5 you should turn on right now.

Choose the Features Available From Your Lockscreen

We recommend that all iPhone users protect their devices with a passcode, but depending on your settings, a lot of information can be accessed even when the device is locked. That's because the iPhone lock screen can give you access to text messages, phone calls, Siri, and more. That means that someone who has your phone — a thief, for instance — can get do a lot of things more things with your phone than you'd want.

Luckily, iOS 12 lets you control what features are available from the lock screen. Change those settings by following these steps:

  1. Tap Settings.

  2. Tap Face ID & Passcode (or Touch ID & Passcode, depending on your model).

  3. Enter your passcode.

  4. Scroll down to the Allow Access When Locked section.

    Face ID & Passcode, then Allow Access When Locked Section in iOS Settings
  5. In this section, your options are:

    • Today View: This screen, related to Notification Center, could give access to favorite contacts, your calendar, and other Notification Center widgets.
    • Notification Center: This provides access to all of the push notifications that have recently been sent by your apps.
    • Control Center: You can use AirPlay, the Home app, the Remote app, and more via Control Center.
    • Siri: Anything Siri can do — from making calls, sending texts, and more — could be done from the lock screen.
    • Reply with Message: This allows someone who has your phone to send text messages to people who are messaging you.
    • Home Control: Control Homekit-compatible smart-home devices with this option.
    • Return Missed Calls: This would allow a thief to return any missed phone call from any family member, business contact, or other person who calls you.
    • USB Accessories: More on this important setting later in the article.
  6. For any feature you want to block access to from the lock screen, move the slider to off/white.

Did you know that, even before these iOS 12 security features were added, the iPhone was much more secure than Android? It's true.

Set Autofill Passwords to Require Face ID or Touch ID

If you've saved your website usernames and password in Safari, someone who has your phone — and has been able to unlock it — will be able to log into any website account you have. That's a pretty big security threat. Luckily, there's another setting that can make accessing saved usernames and passwords even more secure. Here's what to do:

  1. Tap Settings.

  2. Tap Face ID & Passcode (or Touch ID & Passcode, depending on your model).

  3. Enter your passcode.

  4. Move the Password Autofill slider to on/green.

    Face ID & Passcode, Password AutoFill toggled to ON in iOS Settings

With this setting enabled, the saved usernames and passwords can only be accessed by someone who can authorize themselves using Face ID or Touch ID. And, since those are biometric security measures that are extremely secure, your online accounts will be safe.

Check and Change Your Commonly Used Passwords

One of the biggest security risks when using the internet is to use the same username and password on multiple websites. That's a problem because it means that a security breach on one of these websites (and we know how common security breaches are) opens up access to every site where you used the same login.

If you save your usernames and passwords in Safari, iOS 12 lets you see what passwords you've used many times and gives you an easy way to change them. Just follow these steps:

  1. Tap Settings.

  2. Tap Passwords & Accounts.

  3. Tap Website & App Passwords.

  4. Enter your passcode (or authorize with Face ID or Touch ID).

  5. Any password that has a security warning on it — such as that you've used it on multiple sites — has a small icon next to it. Tap one of those to fix it.

  6. On the screen for that account, a message shows you what other sites you use the same password on.

  7. Tap Change Password on Website to be taken directly to the website where you can change the password.

    Website & App Passwords, website, Change Password on Website link in iOS Settings
  8. Repeat steps 5-7 for as many passwords as you have warnings for. Consider using iOS' suggested password feature to generate unique, very secure passwords for each site.

Enable USB Restricted Mode

Over the past few years, devices have popped up that are designed to break the very secure encryption Apple uses on the iPhone. These devices are sometimes used by law enforcement to crack iPhones, but really could be used by anyone with access to your phone. These devices connect to the iPhone using USB. In iOS 12, Apple has added a feature to block them. Here's how to turn it on:

  1. Tap Settings.

  2. Tap Face ID & Passcode (or Touch ID & Passcode, depending on your model).

  3. Enter your passcode.

  4. Scroll down to the Allow Access When Locked section.

  5. Move the USB Accessories slider to off/white.

    Face ID & Passcode, USB Accessories toggled to OFF in iOS Settings

Set Your iPhone to Automatically Update the iOS

In iOS 12, you can set your iPhone to automatically install updates to the iOS any time they're released. In the past, updating iOS was only a manual task. So, this setting at least saves some time and attention, but how is it a security feature, you may be wondering. Well, one of the most important things that come with iOS updates are new security features and bug fixes. By enabling automatic iOS updates, not only can you be sure that you'll always have the latest security features, they'll be installed on your iPhone as soon as they're available. Here's what to do:

  1. Tap Settings.

  2. Tap General.

  3. Tap Software Update.

  4. Tap Automatic Updates.

  5. Move the Automatic Updates slider to on/green.

    Software Update, Automatic Updates, toggle ON in iOS Settings

Other Important iPhone Security Features

These iOS 12 security features are far from the only security settings you should have turned on. To really protect your phone and your data, learn about some other key security features from these articles: