How to Control iPhone Safari Settings and Security

man using his iphone

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Everyone does a lot of important personal business on the web, which means that taking control of your web browser's settings and security is crucial. That's especially true on a mobile device like the iPhone. Safari, the web browser that comes with the iPhone, gives you the power to change its settings and take control of its security. We'll show you how to use these features (this was written using iOS 11, but the instructions are fairly similar for older versions, too).

How to Change the Default iPhone Browser Search Engine

Searching for content in Safari is simple: just tap the menu bar at the top of the browser and enter your search terms. By default, all iOS devices—the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch—use Google for your searches, but you can change that by following these steps:

  1. Tap the Settings app to open it.
  2. Tap Safari.
  3. Tap Search Engine.
  4. On this screen, tap the search engine you want to use as your default. Your options are Google, Yahoo, Bing, and DuckDuckGo. Your setting is automatically saved, so you can start searching using your new default search engine right away.

TIP: You can also use Safari to search for content on a web page.

How to Use Safari AutoFill to Fill Out Forms Faster

Just like with a desktop browser, Safari can automatically fill in online forms for you. It grabs information from your address book to save time filling out the same forms over and over. To use this feature, do the following:

  1. Tap on the Settings app.
  2. Tap Safari.
  3. Tap AutoFill.
  4. Move the Use Contact Info slider to on/green.
  5. Your information should appear in the My Info field. If it doesn't, tap that and browse your address book to find yourself.
  6. If you want to save the usernames and passwords you use to log into various websites, slide the Names & Passwords slider to on/green.
  7. If you want to save frequently used credit cards to make online purchases quicker, move the Credit Cards slider to on/green. If you don't already have a credit card saved on your iPhone, tap Saved Credit Cards and add a card.

How to View Saved Passwords in Safari

Saving all of your usernames and password in Safari is great: when you come to a site you need to log into, your iPhone knows just what to do you and you don't have to remember anything. Because this sort of data is very sensitive, the iPhone protects it. But, if you need to look up a username or password you can do it by following these steps:

  1. Tap Settings.
  2. Tap Accounts & Passwords.
  3. Tap App & Website Passwords.
  4. You'll be asked to authorize access to this information via Touch ID, Face ID, or your passcode. Do so.
  5. A list of all websites that you've got a saved username and password for appears. Search or browse and then tap the one you want to see all of your login info for.

Control How Links Open in iPhone Safari

You can choose where new links open by default—either in a new window that immediately goes to the front or in the background by following these steps:

  1. Tap Settings.
  2. Tap Safari.
  3. Tap Open Links.
  4. Choose In New Tab if you want the links you tap to open in a new window in Safari and to have that window immediately come to the front.
  5. Choose In Background if you want that new window to go to the background and leave the page you're currently looking at on top.

How to Cover Your Online Tracks Using Private Browsing

Browsing the web leaves a lot of digital footprints behind. From your browsing history to cookies and more, you may not want to leave those tracks behind you. If so, you should use Safari's Private Browsing feature. It prevents Safari from saving any information about your web browsing—history, cookies, other files—while it's turned on.

How to Clear Your iPhone Browser History and Cookies

If you don't want to use Private Browsing, but still want to delete your browsing history or cookies, do the following:

  1. Tap Settings.
  2. Tap Safari.
  3. Tap Clear History and Website Data.
  4. A menu pops up from the bottom of the screen. In it, tap Clear History and Data.

Prevent Advertisers From Tracking You on Your iPhone

One of the things that cookies do is allow advertisers to track you across the web. This lets them build a profile of your interests and behavior so they can better target ads to you. This is good for them, but you may not want them to have this information. If not, there are a few features you should enable.

  1. Tap Settings.
  2. Tap Safari.
  3. Move the Prevent Cross-Site Tracking slider to on/green.
  4. Move the Ask Websites Not to Track Me slider to on/green. This is a voluntary feature, so not all websites will respect it, but some is better than none.

How to Get Warnings About Potentially Malicious Websites

Setting up fake websites that look like ones you normally use is a common method of stealing data from users and using it for things like identity theft. Avoiding those sites is a topic for its own article, but Safari does have a feature to help. Here's how you enable it:

  1. Tap Settings.
  2. Tap Safari.
  3. Move the Fraudulent Website Warning slider to on/green.

How to Block Websites, Ads, Cookies, and Pop Ups Using Safari

You can speed up your browsing, maintain your privacy, and avoid ads and certain sites by blocking them. To block cookies:

  1. Tap Settings.
  2. Tap Safari.
  3. Move Block All Cookies to on/green.

You can also block pop-up ads from the Safari settings screen. Just move the Block Pop-ups slider to on/green.

How to Use Apple Pay for Online Purchases

If you've set up Apple Pay to use when making purchases, you can use Apple Pay at some online stores. In order to make sure you can use it at those stores, you need to enable Apple Pay for the web. Here's how:

  1. Tap Settings.
  2. Tap Safari.
  3. Move the Check for Apple Pay slider to on/green.

Take Control of Your iPhone Security and Privacy Settings

While this article has focused specifically on privacy and security settings for the Safari web browser, the iPhone has a bunch of other security and privacy settings that can be used with other apps and features. Learn how to protect private info stored on your iPhone.