Apple’s iOS operating system (OS) is considered to be pretty secure, especially when compared to Android, and the OS’s in-built security features provide enough safety for the vast majority of users, when they’re fully enabled at least. But recent years hackers have shown that hackers will find any flaws that provide an entry point to both Apple iPhones and iPads, and exploit these accordingly.
As reported by Wired, many of these exploits are zero-click (interaction less) attacks that may infect devices without users needing to click a link, download a malware-infected file, or visit a compromised website. Often, the native application that provides the entry point is iMessage, something Apple has taken steps to fix with the release of iOS 14 in September 2020.
But there are other threats at work, even if iMessage has now been successfully locked down, for the time being, anyway. Below we cover some of the most pressing security concerns before moving on to ways to secure your iPhone.
Security threats facing iPhone users in 2021
Phishing and smishing
Phishing is a type of social engineering, an attack form that plays upon human emotions to hit its target. For example, an email that is ostensibly from your mortgage provider that asks you to click a link to log in to fix an account issue could be a phishing attack. These suspicious emails generally convey a sense of urgency and ask you to follow a link to “fix” something.
Smishing is akin to phishing in that the attack form is the same, but smishing is any type of phishing delivered via SMS instead of email.
Adware and PUPs
More commonly than malware, iPhones can suffer from adware infections (tedious and annoying codes that deliver pop-up ads to your screen and/or divert you to other websites) and PUPs. The latter may sound cute, but potentially unwanted programs can run amok in your device’s systems and even collect your personal information.
In 2021, users should be on the lookout for COVID-19 scams. These phishing and smishing attacks may warn users that they’ve come into close contact with a known case, or request that users log in to a website to set up a vaccination appointment, or any other number of nefarious tactics. This threat is so prevalent that the Financial Times called the global pandemic “a gift to cyber criminals.”
How to secure your iPhone in 2021
Now that we’ve looked at some of the key threats facing iPhone users, here’s how you can go about securing your device.
Enable biometric login
Use Apple’s in-built biometric login feature to access your device. While passcodes are useful, they won’t stop a thief, for example, who has watched you punch in your code over your shoulder. While newer iPhones have done away with the fingerprint scan, they offer facial recognition login functionality instead.
Use a VPN
Protect your online traffic and ensure that you stay safe on open WiFi networks by encrypting your data transmissions with a VPN for your iOS device. Virtual Private Networks do as the name suggests, they create a private browsing network, and in the process, encrypt all your traffic. These handy tools can keep your safe on open access networks and shield your activity from any would-be hackers.
Turn on Find My iPhone
Granted, it might be a little tedious to set up, but once you’ve got Apple’s Find My iPhone feature enabled, you can stress less about accidentally leaving your device somewhere.
Use two-factor authentication
Whenever possible, enable two-factor or multi-factor authentication on all your accounts, but especially your Apple iCloud. Two-factor authentication provides an added layer of security all iOS devices need.
Don’t use or buy jailbroken iPhones
Sometimes, people jailbreak iPhones to allow and run other third-party applications that iOS doesn’t allow. However, jailbreaking (or rooting) iPhones makes them more susceptible to threats.
Keep your iOS updated
Keeping your operating system up to date is one of the best things you can do to ensure your device’s security. Apple releases updates to patch known issues and vulnerabilities.
Threats may be on the rise, but if you follow the steps above, your iPhone should be safe and secure in 2021 and beyond.