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Summary:

If you’re security conscious, or you just want your personal data to be safer, you can encrypt the backups iTunes creates of your iOS devices. You may just be hearing about this following Apple’s location troubles last week, so here’s how to do it.

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If you’re security conscious, or you just want your personal data to be safer, you can encrypt the backups iTunes creates of your iOS devices. You may have heard about this for the first time in the wake of the location info storage debacle Apple faced this past week. When your backups are encrypted, to access them, a password will need to be entered, hopefully keeping your info secure.

Why You Should Encrypt

Encrypting your backups means that you’re taking security of your personal information such as email account passwords or contact information one step further. It won’t be enough for someone to simply get hold of your computer and look through your iPhone or iPad backups, since they’ll need a password to use them.

Encrypting your backup also protects other people from accessing the location data which is stored on your iPhone. The log of location info is backed up along with everything else, so encrypting your backup is a way to stop anyone from looking at the data. Of course, the location data probably isn’t going to help anyone much, but if you’re worried about it, this will help.

There are other, non-security related reasons to encrypt your backups, too. If you restore a new iOS device from a backup of an old one, usually passwords such as mail account passwords aren’t stored, and you’ll have to enter them again on the new device. However, if your backup was encrypted, the passwords will be kept, making the transition to a new device that much easier.

How to Encrypt Your Backups

It’s incredibly simple to start encrypting your iOS backups. Connect your device to iTunes, then click its name in the sidebar. Navigate to the Summary tab and at the bottom find the section called Options.

The last checkbox in this section is labelled Encrypt iPhone (or iPad) Backup. Check that box, and a dialog will appear asking for a password for the backup. Enter a password and click Set Password. I don’t suggest ticking “Remember this password in my keychain”, since that defeats the purpose of setting a password in the first place. (Saving the password in the keychain means that it is saved on your Mac and will be entered automatically). Of course, you may wish to tick this anyway, since to access the keychain, you have to enter your computer’s password.

Now if you try to restore a device from the backup, iTunes will ask for the password, meaning only you can use the backup for anything useful. Plus, the data in the backup is encrypted too, meaning it won’t make any sense if someone somehow opens it without using iTunes.

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  1. Nice guide…should help everyone secure their iPhone/iPad data. Cheers

  2. Thanks, much appreciated the story!

  3. Good story but does it help against something like this?
    http://gizmodo.com/#!5796373/watch-how-the-police-raid-your-cellphone

    Does anyone know?

  4. Here we go again about the location data… okay, I’ll just give my own advice: if you are a serial killer, bank robber, or just a lowly guy who knocks off convenience stores for a living, it’s better to LEAVE YOUR IPHONE AT HOME.

  5. NotTellinYou Sunday, May 1, 2011

    huh? So wait..let me get this straight…follow me here. I am using MobileMe or iTunes to sync my phone and my computer. So to prevent someone from getting to my iOS back-up, and as you say, my “personal information such as email account passwords or contact information…it won’t be enough for someone to simply get hold of your computer…”

    But wait THAT is the REAL issue…if they have my computer, and can access the backup in the default iTunes location, then again by default they can access my address book, my email, my bookmarks, browser history, in short EVERYTHING that’s on my phone. So given that I’m not sure, other than the location data, why would anyone take the time to rummage through my iOS backup for any of the reasons you’ve listed. Now, I’ll be fair and say that IF you use another drive to backup your iTunes this is a good idea but the author doesn’t even discuss this.

    How about this one!

    If you are truly concerned about the issues outlined by the author just use FileVault and take care of the WHOLE thing! Anything other suggestion is just more sensational garbage.

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