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Summary:

The thought of your iPhone or iPod touch falling into the wrong hands is enough to scare anyone. The iPhone does have the passcode function to keep prying eyes out, but what if that’s not enough? In a corporate environment, the loss of a device like […]

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The thought of your iPhone or iPod touch falling into the wrong hands is enough to scare anyone. The iPhone does have the passcode function to keep prying eyes out, but what if that’s not enough?

In a corporate environment, the loss of a device like this is a major ordeal. Apple has touted the MobileMe remote wiping capabilities, but what if you don’t use MobileMe? If you are in a corporate environment, you probably connect to an exchange server for mail. Using OWA (Outlook Web Access) you can remotely wipe your lost or stolen iPhone/iPod touch and breath easy knowing your data is safe.

As I stated, this relies on using the Exchange email push functionality in the iPhone OS. I have only tested this with Exchange 2007 so I can’t verify how or if this works in older versions of Exchange. OWA is Microsoft’s fancy name for web mail so the first thing you need to do is access your company’s web mail.

  1. After you successfully login, click on the Options button in the top right.
  2. Now click on the Mobile Devices option in the left-hand menu.
  3. You should now see your iPhone or iPod touch device listed. Click the radio button next to your device and the click Wipe All Data from Device…
  4. You will get a confirmation dialog to confirm you really want to do this. After you confirm, the Status will change to Pending Wipe.
  5. The next time your iPhone/iPod touch has an internet connection and checks in with Exchange, a secure wipe is initiated. This is what the screen looks like to the user.
  6. After the wipe has been started, the status for the device in OWA will change to Wipe Successful and you can remove the device from the list.

You can give this a try on your own device if you want to see the magic. Be advised that it will take about an hour to wipe the device so you can’t use it during that time. After the wipe, you can restore from a backup in iTunes. Since this is done in OWA, you don’t even have to bother your Network Admin. Maybe you are a little embarrassed that you lost your iPhone. This way no one has to know. Your secret will be safe with me.

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  1. I knew already, I accidentally activated this option once and I can tell you guys, it works :)

  2. Thanks for the information. Didn’t know it works.

  3. This does not appear to work in Exchange 2003.

  4. This option does not appear for Exchange 2003 – I have just looked.

  5. Google Sync Gains Remote Data Wipe, Admin Functions. Goodbye Exchange? – jkOnTheRun Thursday, February 4, 2010

    [...] if you’re an iPhone and Exchange 2007 user in the enterprise and don’t use Google Sync, The Apple Blog has a how-to that might interest you. They have a step-by-step tutorial showing how to remotely wipe an iPhone using Microsoft’s [...]

  6. Andrew Flocchini Thursday, February 4, 2010

    For Exchange 2003 with SP2, a friend pointed me to this process. Only Admins can accomplish this. http://msexchangeteam.com/archive/2005/07/07/407416.aspx

  7. How can I disable remote wipe functionality on my iPhone?

    1. dont connect it to Exchange server…

    2. Sounds Like someones got a stolen I Phone

  8. Is this secured to the point where I’m the only one who can initiate it, or can a disgruntled IT guy wipe my phone?

    1. Andrew Flocchini Mike Friday, February 5, 2010

      IT admins can wipe your phone if they have admin privileges throughout exchange. Normally they do.

  9. When traveling to Europe this past Thanksgiving, I was concerned that having my iPhone lost/stolen would be a big crisis, especially since I have such sensitive information stored in my Exchange account. Before leaving, I looked into remote wipe on Exchange 2003, but didn’t have a chance to thoroughly test it.

    That’s when I discovered Settings – General – Passcode Lock. You can set iPhone to require a passcode to unlock after xx minutes of inactivity. There is also an option to “Erase all data on this iPhone after xx failed passcode attempts.” So what I ended up doing was just turning on passcode lock. Now losing my iPhone would be a big annoyance rather than a big crisis.

    Thanks for this article, because when we move over to Exchange 2007, it will be nice to know that I can easily force a remote wipe if necessary.

    1. I would still use the passcode lock and the “wipe after 10 attempts” option. The Exchange remote wipe is a third and final barrier.

  10. If you have a MobileMe account you can lock or wipe your phone, or send messages or play noises on it from there.

    1. David, read the second sentence of the second paragraph.

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