How to set up your iPhone to be secure in the case of theft

iOS, Security, iPhoneAppdrawn Team | Published 31st October 2023
October 31st - Halloween! It also marks the end of Cybersecurity Awareness Month. So in today’s Tech Tip, we thought we would cover a nightmarish security scenario - losing your phone!

In August of this year, the BBC released an article with a title revealing the scary and astonishing statistic: Mobile phone stolen every six minutes in London, says Met Police . According to the article, ‘In an open letter, mayor Sadiq Khan and Met chief Sir Mark Rowley said software designers must "develop solutions to make this crime less rewarding".’

Well, when it comes to iPhones, the techies over at Apple have already put a few precautions in place. There are settings and apps that users can opt into which not only protect their security and privacy but also help them to locate their device in case of theft. We advise probably leaving the retrieving part to the crime fighting professionals! By supplying the police or law enforcement with details of your phone’s location, you are helping them to solve cases quicker and crack down on crime. So in this blog, we highlight some of these nifty features and how to go about implementing and using them.

Find My iPhone

By switching on Find My on your iPhone, if it becomes lost or stolen, you can use this setting to locate its whereabouts. There are also options to stop others from being able to activate or use your phone and you can even remotely swipe it to prevent criminals having access to any personal data. First things first, how do you opt into Find My on iPhone?

How to switch on Find My on your iPhone

On your iPhone:

  • Go to Settings  > [your name - this is the very top option] > Find My.
  • If required, sign in using your Apple ID.
  • Switch the ‘Find My iPhone’ toggle to ‘On’.

If you opt into Find My on your iPhone, any paired accessories - Airpods, Beats or Apple Watch - will then automatically be set up as items too!

PLEASE NOTE: make sure you know your Apple User ID and password! This is so that you can login to another device to track your stolen one. If you are not very good at remembering passwords, we have a couple of blogs written up already with some practical pointers on How to come up with a really strong password that you can remember? and How to remember all your passwords?

Share your location

Sharing your phone’s - or any of your other Apple devices’ - location with trusted friends and family is a great security measure. You can see whether your family member or friend has returned home safely from a late night out or, in the case of horrendous accidents or attacks you can quickly check whether your family member or friend is in the vicinity to give you peace of mind. In terms of this blog, if your family member or friend is out and about with you when you lose your phone, you can act fast and track its location on their device rather than having to wait to get home to use your desktop to track it down.

How to share your location with contacts using Find My on iPhone

To share your location with family and friends via the Find My app:

  • Go to the ‘People’ tab. (A list of all the people’s phones you already share a location with will be listed here.)
  • Click ‘Share My Location.’
  • Select a contact.
  • Press ‘Send.’
  • Choose a length of time to share your location for. For the purposes of this blog, we recommend choosing ‘Share Indefinitely’ so you are covered.
  • Your friend or family contact will then receive a notification of your shared location. They have the choice whether or not to share their location back with you.

How to share your location via Family Sharing

Family Sharing is a plan that enables up to six family members shared access to various Apple subscriptions and features. You can also use it to share your device location with one another. By sharing your location via the Family Sharing group, all current and future group members will then be able to use the Find My app to see your device’s whereabouts, helping to crack the case quicker in the case of theft. 

For iOS 16 or later:

  • Go to Settings > Family > Location Sharing.
  • Select what family members you would like to share your location with under ‘Share Your Location With.’

For iOS 15 or earlier:

  • Go to Settings > [your name] > Family Sharing > Location Sharing.
  • Click ‘Share My Location’.

Find My Network

If you lose your device but it happens to be offline (has run out of data or Wi-fi is not available), there is still hope in finding it and retrieving it. Find My Network is a crowdsourced method of locating missing Apple tech via Bluetooth. How does it work? Hundreds of millions of Apple products belong to the Find My Network. A little bit like the NHS covid app, it runs permanently and quietly in the background on your phone. If it detects an Apple device that has been declared as missing nearby, it automatically reports its approximate location back to the owner over the internet. Don’t worry, the entire process is anonymous and end-to-end encrypted; not even the techies at Apple or the third-party makers have access to your device’s location or information. Plus, the Find My Network also has some pretty smart features built in to prevent unwanted tracking.

How to opt into Find My Network

  • Go to Settings  > [your name] > Find My.
  • Switch on the ‘Find My Network’ toggle.

Send Last Location

By switching this on, when your device’s battery becomes critically low, it will automatically send details of the phone’s location to Apple before it dies.

How to opt into Send Last Location

  • Go to Settings  > [your name] > Find My.
  • Switch on the ‘Send Last Location’ toggle.

How to locate your device using Find My on iPhone

In order to locate your lost or stolen phone you will need to login into the Find My app on another device using your Apple ID or alternatively, look at the device belonging to a member of your Family Sharing group or login to 

Once in the Find My app:

  • Click Devices
  • Select the device you want to find from the list.
  • If your device can be located, it will appear on the map.
  • If your device fails to be located (not connected to a cellular or Wi-Fi network) a message will appear reading “No location found” below the device’s name. In that case, switch on ‘Notify When Found’ and you will be notified of its location as soon as it regains a connection.

If your device is located, you are provided with various options in which you can proceed. To reveal these options on mobile, just swipe up the handle.

If your phone is just lost and not necessarily stolen:

Play Sound

If you have misplaced your phone in a nearby location i.e. it fell out of your pocket in your garden that spans a casual couple of acres, by hitting ‘Play Sound’ a chiming noise will resound from your phone helping you to locate it.


By selecting this option, you not only see your missing device on the map but are supplied with directions to track it down. 

Notify When Left Behind

This one is perhaps more relevant before the fact. By opting into this you will automatically receive a notification if you accidentally leave one of your devices behind.

If you are pretty sure your phone has been stolen or is irretrievable then:

Mark As Lost

If your device is in a far away or unknown location hit the ‘Activate’ button under ‘Mark as Lost’. What this does is, it will remotely lock your device using the passcode. You can then display a message with your contact information in case someone finds it so that they can return it to you. Your device will need to be connected to the internet in order to do this. Obviously, be wary about what contact information you put out there; in case of theft, let the police take the lead.

Erase Device

If you think your phone is irretrievable, then hit the ‘Erase This Device’ option. All of your personal data will then be deleted and the device reset, protecting all your data from potential foul play. Your device will still be trackable and if returned you can restore it from a backed up version. Please note, the only way to restore your device is from a backup version otherwise, you will need to start again as new. So if you haven’t already back it up now!

Rather than be reactive, you can put preventative measures in place. With iPhones being the desirable items they are, they are top on the stolen goods list. As a response, Apple has already put a lock feature in place when the passcode activity on your phone looks a bit dodgy. There is a grace of 5 successive failed passcode attempts to encounter for instances such as pocket activity or your kids getting hold of your phone. But beyond that, there are consequences:

  • 6 consecutive failed passcode attempts your phone will be disabled for 1 minute.
  • 7 consecutive failed passcode attempts your phone will be disabled for 5 minutes.
  • 8 consecutive failed passcode attempts your phone will be disabled for 15 minutes. 
  • 10 consecutive failed passcode attempts your phone will be disabled for 1 hour.

On the 11th incorrect attempt you will not be allowed any more attempts and your iPhone will be permanently disabled. A message reading “iPhone is disabled, connect to iTunes” will crop up. So don’t worry, if you or your pocket accidentally manages to do this, there is a way round! But if your phone has been stolen, this is a great protective measure that Apple have introduced and they provide the option to go one step further…

How to set up your iPhone to erase data after 10 consecutive failed passcode attempts

As a further measure, you can set up your phone to erase data after 10 successive failed passcodes attempts. This way you are protecting all of your information, media and personal settings if your phone gets into the wrong hands.

  • Go to Settings >  Face ID & Passcode or Touch ID & Passcode (depending on your phone model)
  • At the bottom of the screen, switch on ‘Erase Data’.
Appdrawn Team | Updated 31st January 2024

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