Even if you don't think about it often — or at all — you benefit from encryption every day. It protects your identity, your family photos, your home Wi-Fi network and your finances. If you're one of the world's 700 million iPhone users, it's very likely that encryption protects everything on your smartphone, as 95 percent of Apple's phones are encrypted when their screens are locked.

That default protection ensures your phone keeps your data safe from intruders. This is especially important when you're traveling, but your phone could go missing at any time. It's vital to make use of the encryption when you aren't using your phone. Fortunately, it's easy to encrypt an iPhone with a few simple steps.

Determine iOS Version

The process of encrypting an iPhone changed with iOS 8. Before you start, check your iOS version by opening your phone's Settings app, selecting General from the menu and tapping About. The installed version of iOS appears next to Version. This is also a good time to check on the latest software updates in the General menu to make sure your phone has the most current version available for the model. Keeping software up to date is an important practice for phone security.

Encryption in Seconds

Personal data on Apple phones is encrypted by default whenever the phone is locked with a passcode or Touch ID. The menu option to activate this feature is in a different place, depending on the iOS version.

In iOS 8 and later versions, the option is in the Touch ID & Passcode menu in the Settings application. In iPhones running versions older than iOS 8, the Passcode option is under the General menu in the Settings application. If you don't have a passcode or Touch ID activated, the application walks you through the process of making your phone secure.

The iPhone offers a few options during passcode setup that determine how difficult it is for someone to break into your phone. Some versions allow you to access the phone using a fingerprint, which is called Touch ID. However, security professionals are experimenting with ways to fool Touch ID using modeling clay or 3-D printers, meaning this method may not be as secure as originally believed.

In terms of a numerical passcode, longer and more complicated codes are harder to guess. You may need to enable Custom Numeric Code or Custom Alphanumeric Code and disable the Simple Passcode option. The setup utility should warn you if your passcode is easy to guess.

Depending on the importance of the data on your phone, you can set your iPhone to automatically wipe itself after a certain number of failed access attempts. This is a good idea for business phones and personal phones loaded with sensitive health or financial information. However, the auto-wipe feature is an extreme measure that should be used carefully, especially if you're an adult who allows small children to play with your phone. A safer option may be to remotely wipe your iPhone through your iCloud account if you lose it.

Don't Forget the Backup

Now that your data is safe on your phone, make sure the backup you store on iCloud or iTunes is also encrypted. An encrypted iPhone backup includes saved passwords, Wi-Fi credentials and other sensitive data that you need in the event of a lost, broken or stolen phone. Encrypted backups are automatic on iCloud. On iTunes, choose the Encrypt iPhone Backup option under the Backup settings for the specific device. This requires you to choose a new password for the iTunes backup.

Your phone's data is now secure. To keep important information safe, regularly back your phone up and check for iOS and application updates. Even an encrypted iPhone is vulnerable to software flaws and ransomware. With some proactive steps, including using a mobile security solution, you can ensure you don't lose anything important to cybercriminals and phone thieves.

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