iPad Security – Don’t Worry About Your iPad (Really!)

By Corbin Links

Editor’s update: Due to the number of questions, inquiries, and comments on this original article, I wrote a follow up. Check out the followup article: “Still Worried About Your iPad? My Final Thoughts (…and answers to your questions…)” if you’d like to know more.

I recently lost my “iPad Mini,” [hint: this was before the actual mini/mini was released] officially known as the iPod Touch. After the initial agony, frustration, worry, and upset, I realized — wait a minute! Why worry? Didn’t I take all the right precautions? Can’t I “remotely data wipe” on top of the “local data wipe” that is set up in my device configuration? Can’t I just use another device or computer to change any account passwords I may be concerned about?

Once I took a deep breath and realized that the answer was “YES!” my heart rate returned to (mostly) normal. In today’s post, I’ll share some “must do” iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch security measures so you can lose your device worry free.


I was traveling from coast to coast in late October 2011, when I lost my iPod Touch. This article covers the details and what I did both before and after losing it. When sharing my story with some colleagues, they all wanted to know more about protecting their own devices from loss or theft. This article is a summary of those discussions coupled with action steps. It is my hope and intent that this article will be of use to anyone with iPhone / iPod Touch / iPad devices.

Device loss and six types of worry

When I first realized my iPod Touch was no longer with me, I worried about:

  1. Data – Could someone get a hold of my data and do something with it?
  2. Cost – Ouch to the wallet! What will I have to pay to replace it?
  3. Functionality/Productivity – Will I be OK without it, at least for this trip? If relying on the device for productivity (fortunately, for this trip, and this device, I was not) could I do my work on something else?
  4. Will I get it back – Related to cost, one of my worries was “what if I get something else to replace it, and it turns up found?”
  5. Will someone else use it for nefarious purposes? – The thought of my device being used for nefarious skullduggery made me apprehensive. But, I suppose that anyone actually stealing someone else’s personal property is not in it for wholesome goodness.
  6. Will I spend too much time trying to find something I probably won’t find? – As a traveling Business IT Consultant, I had to do some rapid “time spent looking vs. economic return” calculations.

Note that the question of whether the device was “lost” or “stolen” was not on the list. Here’s why…

But is there really any practical difference between “lost” and “stolen?”

Mostly a semantic question, especially when hurriedly traveling between multiple airports and terminals. To my mind, the question is binary. “I have it / I don’t have it.” The “stolen” categorization matters to me only if other items were stolen at the same time. I had all my other belongings with me, including ID’s, wallets, other devices, keys, etc.

In my case, I chalked it up to the device simply being “lost.” Lost, as in “not likely to see it again.” Having a “protect it well before something happens” mindset was well worth its weight in mental happiness. “A pound of prevention is worth…” and such like that.

As a public service, I need to burst any bubbles about stolen iPad _recovery — just in case you’re hopeful that your stolen or lost device will be found and returned. According to _Avon and Somerset Constabulary (just one of many such sources available on the Internet — I’m not picking on the UK), the odds are extremely LOW that you will see your device again. From Avon and Somerset’s Website, http://www.avonandsomerset.police.uk/information/foi/QandA_Question.aspx?qid=1443 target=”_blank”, during the period of 1 January 2010 through 31 August 2011, 11 out of 141 stolen iPad/Tablet computers were recovered.

Put another way, approximately 93% of all lost/stolen iPad or tablet computers are NEVER found. (Special thanks to Avon and Somerset Constabulary for publishing this link.) Not an encouraging number! This percentage may be higher or lower in other jurisdictions, but any way you slice it, the numbers are not encouraging.

In short, not much need to worry about getting your device back. Yes, it’s great if it happens — and you should make reasonable attempts to find it — but don’t count on it. Instead, prevent worry in the first place. Here’s how…

9 steps to living “worry free” with your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch

  1. Realize before you get your iPhone / iPad / iPod Touch, it can be protected. Plan to do so the moment it arrives.
  2. When you get your new device, perform the following steps before you take your device out of the house (or store where you got it) for the first time:
    • Enable “Find my iPad” location services and registration. Your device setup will walk you through this the first time you set it up.
    • Set up “Auto-Lock” (General/Settings.) I have my devices set to 10 minutes, but you may prefer more or less. Whatever you do, don’t select the “Never” option.* Set up a simple passcode and make it required.
    • Set “Erase Data” to “ON”
    • In iCloud Settings, turn “Find My iPad” to “ON”
    • Use strong passwords for data-sharing / storage service accounts. – Examples include things like your Dropbox, Evernote, Wunderlist, Apple ID and Gmail accounts – to name just a few. Most of these services have additional security measures you can apply as well.
  3. Order your device engraved if possible. – If you choose this option, I suggest just using your name, company name, and company phone number only. Some forum discussions I’ve seen indicate that there may be a slightly higher likelihood of return for personalized iPads. I’m skeptical given the police data, but it certainly cannot hurt.
  4. Keep your data in secure cloud storage as much as possible. Avoid keeping a lot of physical files on your iPad. I recommend a Dropbox account to store and sync your main files. Only pull down to your iPad what you absolutely MUST keep there.
  5. Practice a “device in depth” strategy. – When traveling, you always want a minimum of two network-capable devices. Besides the possibility of losing a device, it could be damaged, lose its ability to charge, or simply be unable to connect to the particular Wi-Fi access point at your hotel. This goes double for business travel. In an upcoming post, I’ll discuss how to not really care what device you are traveling with as long as it connects to the net. (Stay tuned…)
  6. Don’t turn on “Airplane Mode” – The advantages/disadvantages of “Airplane Mode” are beyond the scope of this post. But…, I recommend that you leave your device open for network connections at all times when traveling. This will help increase the likelihood of a “remote wipe” request being processed. “Remote wipe” is dependent on a device Internet connection, and iPod Touch and non-3G iPads are Wi-Fi only. This means that a “remote wipe” device will be wiped (assuming you have made the request from iCloud or the Find iPhone App) as soon as the device connects to the Internet.
  7. Keep bluetooth mode off when not in use. – One night — very late — I was working alone in my darkened office. Suddenly, a “Mark’s Awesome Apple Keyboard” device pairing request sprang up on my darkened iPad screen. I jumped about about three feet! When I landed back in my chair, I realized that it was probably just a neighbor trying to connect up his first wireless keyboard. But it taught me an important lesson about iPad security: iPad bluetooth is POWERFUL! As in: receive signals through many feet of multiple walls and concrete kind of powerful. Keep this in mind and of course, never answer device pairing requests from strangers 🙂
  8. Keep your iPad’s software and apps up to date. – Enough said.
  9. Encrypt all online traffic, especially when traveling off your home network. Many VPN options abound in the iTunes App Store and around the Internet.

iPad Passcode Configuration

What to do the moment you notice your iPad / iPhone / iPod Touch is missing

  1. Don’t panic. – See tips and information above.
  2. As soon as reasonably possible, log in to your iCloud account and request a remote-wipe of your lost device. – If you follow the “worry free living” steps above, you have already enabled the Find My iPad service and enabled data wipe after 10 unsuccessful access attempts. The next step after that is to request a “remote wipe” via your iCloud account.
  3. Using your other device or computer, change any key passwords. – Technically, this step is not really necessary but it’s a good idea. See the previous section for suggested apps and services to check.
  4. If this is a business iPad connecting to your corporate VPN and mail systems, notify your administrator. Depending on the corporate intranet and mail services running at your company (or client’s company), the administrator may wish to take additional steps such as locking mail accounts.
  5. Return to the scene. – If possible, return to the place you know you last used your device. If at an airport for example, check bathrooms, carry-on luggage, food bags, previous gates. If you cannot directly return, contact someone close to the scene and notify them.
  6. Call the lost and found. – Check in with any establishments you may have visited. Let them know there is a device missing (with reward) if found. Leave a description and offer a reasonable reward. (At least $50 USD, but the actual amount is at your discretion.)
  7. Check in with your iCloud account or Find iPhone App every couple of days. – The app will tell you if:
    • The device was found or can be located on a map.
    • If the device is pending any wipe or lock actions.
    • If a remote wipe is processed successfully, you’ll receive an email at your registered Apple ID

Find My iPad - Configuration

6 tips to keep from losing your iPad in the first place

So far, we’ve talked about how to protect the insides of your iPad and how to not worry yourself to death if the device is lost. But how do you stop yourself from losing your iPad in the first place?

  1. When running your device through the airport security scanner, sandwich it between two other bins. This will give you a time buffer to get to the other end of the x-ray belt before the iPad bin comes out. Yes, even with all those stern-looking security types hanging about at airport security, devices are stolen there all the time. But to be fair, devices are found there all the time as well. Check thoroughly before leaving the security area.
  2. Use a distinctively colored smart cover or case. – Like custom luggage colors, bands and ties, custom iPad covers help your device stand out. If it’s close by, you’re more likely to visually spot it in the increasingly vast see of traveling iPads.
  3. Keep your iPad in its own custom compartment in your carry bag or luggage. – If you form the habit of always taking your device out from the same place and returning it to the same place, you’re less likely to set it down unattended.
  4. Don’t take it out of the bag to use in the restroom. – It’s ok — you can be honest — you’ve done this, right? Even if you haven’t — DON’T. Lots of devices are lost / dropped / stolen / damaged in restrooms. Take care of business; leave the restroom, THEN you can use your iPad.
  5. When traveling or out and about in public with your iPad, don’t use it if you don’t need it. It’s easy to reach for the iPad during nervous moments, or those 30 seconds of downtime between phone calls and gate changes. I do it myself from time to time (as evidenced by my device loss.) But as much as possible, resist. As a general rule, I only bring it out if I’m going to be doing a focused task for 10 minutes or more. This helps keep my “into the bag, out of the bag, back into the bag” flow more consistent.
  6. Whenever possible, Use a good data protection and VPN service. Secure VPN works just like your corporate VPN, and there are many services available just for Mac and iPad. Choose a service that is easy to configure, has no long-term contracts, and with many global access points.

Summary and next steps

In this article, we’ve discussed the real-world issues of:

  • iPad/iPod Touch “lost or stolen”
  • How to set up your device to be “worry free” if/when you lose it
  • Steps to take after you lose your device
  • 5 tips to keep from losing your iPad / iPhone / iPod Touch in the first place

The next step is to check off the device configuration list above and make sure your device(s) is secure right now. Do it now, before reading the Epilogue below. Then come on back, read the Epilogue and sign up for the BIG Results Consulting List.


My device was never “officially” found. It could have ended up in an airport dumpster somewhere, in someone’s bag or pocket, run over by an airport tram or any number of things. The beauty of it is, I no longer care. The device was set up with security in place from the get go, plus I followed all the other steps outlined in this article. A new iPhone 4s is on the way to help fill the small-form productivity device void.

What did I lose, besides the device? The only data I didn’t recover were a few photos on the camera roll. Unfortunately, I had not fully configured the iCloud photo backup option. My iPad and incoming new iPhone 4s will be both configured with that option. Everything else is automatically taken care of between iCloud and Dropbox.

Safe travels!

P.S. More questions about losing iPads? Check out the follow up article.


About the Author

Corbin Links --> Data Security and Enterprise Workflow Automation Specialist, API Integrator, Identity Access Management (IAM / IdM) Consultant and "Other Duties as Required"

Khaled May 19, 2013

I resently lost my iPad and I erase it true find my iPhone later on I find my iPad and am afraid to connect to Internet for the request to take effect there is any other solution to canceled the request I did

    Corbin Links May 20, 2013

    Hi Khaled,

    Thank you for your comment and question about canceling the erase.

    I’m not sure if you’re asking how to cancel the request entirely, and/or what to do about your data? Do you mean that you don’t have any backup of your apps or data and are concerned about losing them both?

    Here are a few quick notes:

    • I know of no way to cancel the remote erase signal. I’m not sure if Apple can do it for you either, but you could check with them.
    • Your apps and purchases are automatically mapped to your Apple ID. If you have no backup at all, you can still re-install your apps, using your Apple ID.
    • If you have “side-loaded” apps and/or data, and they are not backed up either to your local computer or the cloud, you could lose some data. It’s really like losing your computer to an extent. Backups are only as good as your most recent copies.
    • iPad backups on both iCloud and your local Mac include all your screens, icon positions, and settings. Once your system wipes and restores, all these settings will come back identically. (Or, they *should* do so.) When I temporarily lost one a while ago, I sent the remote wipe signal. After wiping and restoring, it pulled all settings, apps, and data right from iCloud. It looked and worked exactly like it did before.
    • You could take your iPad to an area that doesn’t have an access point you’ve used before, and log in. After you log in, cancel the wi-fi connection request. That will get you local access to your apps and data, but it won’t stop the remote wipe signal. For example, if for some reason you had data files that were ONLY on your iPad and no where else, you could at least manually copy them off. Then, connect your iPad back up and do the remote wipe.

    So if it helps, the remote wipe isn’t usually a problem for the original iPad owner. Once the owner retrieves his or her iPad and starts it up, it will wipe first, then give an option to restore from backup. (Your computer or on iCloud.)

    Hope this helps. Thanks for reading and enjoy your returned iPad.

    Best regards,

Patty May 6, 2013

Most helpful – was setting up I-Pad and wondering if lost, and I did a remote wipe – would I lose everything in the I-Cloud from everywhere it is stored. From this article I learned I am prompted that it is just the remote wipe for protecting my data. Great article! Takes some of the trepidation out of being a new user.

    Corbin Links May 6, 2013

    Hi Patty,

    Thank you for commenting on the article. Glad you found it useful.

    To answer your question, iCloud data is never wiped by an automated process, including remote wipe. You always have to log into iCloud and manually remove data yourself.

    When remote wipe is started, one of four things will happen:

    1. If someone stole your iPad/phone and connects up to a wi-fi network (let’s say they somehow cracked your password), the iPad will go into auto-delete mode.

    2. If someone stole your pad, AND somehow managed to crack your password, they would have to hope that:
      a) The device was not connected to wi-fi since it was lost
      b) They were fast enough to get in and disable wi-fi and/or 3G/4G networking (if that was enabled)

    3. If you find it yourself or it is returned to you, it’s best to login, connect to a network and let the auto-wipe happen. After that, connect the device back up to your iCloud account and/or Mac and restore from iCloud backup.

    4. A thief really determined to crack your password has up to 10 tries before the device manually erases itself.

    To be clear, from an intensive security perspective, it is technically possible for someone to crack weak passwords (like a 4-digit pin) on an i-device and gain access to data — for a limited time — before either they have to wipe it, or the remote wipe kicks in. Many data apps, including email and note-taking apps, have the option for an additional PIN code. Fortunately many (but far from all) thieves are far more interested in getting a clean usable/black-market device, than they are about your data.

    As an additional safety measure, I always recommend changing data storage passwords such as email addresses, Dropbox passwords, Evernote passwords, SkyDrive passwords, Apple ID, etc.

    Enjoy your new i-device and thanks for stopping by the blog!

    Best regards,

Erick Cheong April 28, 2013

Thanks a lot Corbin,

Your information has been very helpful. I just lost my iPad on the 26/4/2013. Very sad and lost. But since then , I guess I have to pay some tuition fees which is the cost of purchasing my lost iPad.

Warm regards,

Erick Cheong

    Corbin Links April 29, 2013

    Hi Erick,

    Thanks for your comment. Very sorry to hear about your iPad — very frustrating when that happens. Recently, a good friend also lost his iPad on a subway and was fortunate enough to get it back. The person who found it went as far as visiting an Apple store to have them look up the owner. Kudos to Apple for that, and to the finder who went to so much trouble to return it.

    Regarding your iPad, big money decisions such as supporting one’s family or meeting school obligations are always difficult. Personally though, I think you made the right choice with tuition. That will pay you back many times over in the future.

    Best regards,

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