How To Remotely Wipe Your iPhone Data When Stolen [iOS Tips]

Splash FMi

This poor soul on the Apple discussion forums has just lost his iPhone, in Bangladesh of all places. He’s asking how to block the thieves from accessing his personal data.

Unfortunately for him, he didn’t have Find My Phone enabled on the device. He’s out of luck, in Bangladesh of all places.

You, though, you’re lucky and now have warning: iPhones are among the most stolen items in urban areas. Here’s how to keep your personal data safe on a stolen iPhone or iPad.

Find my iPhone

First off, you’ll need to enable Find My iPhone (or iPad, or Mac) on your iOS device of choice. Tap into Settings, then tap iCloud. Scroll to the bottom and toggle Find My iPhone to ON.

Now, either on a different device, or at icloud.com, login with your Apple ID credentials. I used my iPad to demo this.

all devices list

Once in Find My iPhone on the non-lost device, you’ll see your device on a map at its current location (provided the iPhone is on and online). You can tap on the My Devices button in the upper left if you’re using the iPad app to see a list of all Find My… devices that are enabled.

Tap (or click, if you’re on the web) on the lost device, and you’ll have several options. Tap on the Car icon to get mapped directions to your device. Tap on the Play Sound button to have your lost device beep loudly. I use this more times than I care to admit to find my iPhone in my own home.

Turn on Lost mode

If your device is truly lost or stolen, you can place it into Lost Mode. There’s some logic to not enabling Lost mode if the device is truly stolen, so you’ll have decide whether alerting potential thieves is what you want to do.

Message

If you decide to enable Lost Mode, you’ll have the option to add a phone number and message that appears on the lost device’s lock screen, giving nice people a chance to call and arrange a return of your device. Once you get it back, it will unlock with your regular passcode (which you enabled already, right?).

Erase

If you truly believe it’s stolen, and don’t plan on recovering it, you can Erase your stolen device. Tap on the Erase iPhone trash can icon (in the lower right corner if you’re on an iPad), and then confirm with a tap to the red Erase iPhone… text there. You cannot undo this, so it should probably be a last resort.

Note that if you do not have a passcode assigned to your iPhone or iPad in the first place, potential thieves already have access to your device and can restore it with a fresh install of iOS, after having pulled all the data they want off of it. Passcode (or Touch ID) that iPhone, please!

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  • dcj001

    This is a good tip, Rob.

    “Note that if you do not have a passcode assigned to your iPhone or iPad in the first place, potential thieves already have access to your device and can restore it with a fresh install of iOS”

    However, my understanding is that, if Find My iPhone” is enabled, restoring an iPhone with a fresh install of iOS 7 is not possible unless the thief has access to the user’s Apple ID password. Right?

    If so, you might want to consider clarifying this benefit of Find My iPhone in this article.

    “You can’t restore the device using iTunes. iTunes will inform you that the device cannot be restored as Find my iPhone is on. So you need to first turn off Find my iPhone, which as we mentioned earlier, will prompt you to enter the Apple ID password, and then restore the device using iTunes.”

    http://www.iphonehacks.com/2013/09/ios-7-protect-iphone-against-theft-with-activation-lock.html

  • sjordi

    Would remotely erasing the iphone actually allow the thief to then reformat it and reinstall?
    Keeping it as lost without erasing should avoid this.

About the author

Rob LeFebvreAnchorage, Alaska-based freelance writer and editor Rob LeFebvre is Cult of Mac's Games and Tips Editor. He has contributed to various tech, gaming and iOS sites, including 148Apps, VentureBeat, and Paste Magazine. Feel free to find Rob on Twitter @roblef

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