If you’re using an iPhone or iPad, you might receive notices from Apple alerting you if your password appears in data leaks. The messages are part of the Security Recommendations feature on iOS devices, and it’s designed to alert iOS users quickly, allowing them to act swiftly and proactively.
But if you’ve received a data leak notice, what should you do about it? In this article, we’ll give an overview of what this message means and how you should react.
What a Data Leak Notice on iPhone Means
Data leaks that generate alerts on iPhone involve the accidental exposure of sensitive information, such as passwords. A data leak can occur without a corresponding attack; just because your password was visible, does not mean cybercriminals stole it and used it.
However, the alert does signal that you’re at a heightened risk of having your accounts compromised. The sensitive data – in this case, your password – is potentially accessible to cybercriminals. As a result, cybercriminals looking to gain entry to your accounts and who review the leaked information can use the compromised password to get into your accounts.
Why You Received the Data Leak Notice from Apple
As part of the Security Recommendations feature, Apple continuously monitors data leak information for any passwords saved in a user’s iCloud Keychain. In the simplest sense, Apple is comparing your stored credentials to databases that contain leaked login credentials. If Apple detects a password match, it issues the data leak notice and presents it on your iPhone or iPad.
Usually, the alert is triggered the next time you log into a potentially impacted account. That approach ensures you know which password is involved in a data leak, as the one you just used is the password that was matched to the leaked data.
It’s important to note that any detected matching passwords aren’t necessarily connected to one of your accounts. Apple is only looking for password matches, not password and email, password and phone number, or similar combinations used for login credentials. As a result, if another person coincidentally used the same password as you and it was part of the data leak, you’ll still get the notice.
What to Do After Receiving a Data Leak Notice on iPhone
Once the data leak notice pops up, you’ll want to take immediate action to secure your account. Delaying means that your compromised password is accessible to others, increasing the odds that someone else may log into your account. By taking the right steps quickly, a data breach involving your accounts is less likely. Here’s what you need to do.
Use the “Change Password on Website Option”
When the data leak notice appears on your iPhone, it contains two choices: “Change password on website” and “Not now.” Tap the “Change password on website” option. By doing so, you’re routed to the appropriate site and can immediately change your password.
When you select a password, make sure it’s a strong one. Strong passwords include a mix of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols. They should not contain any numbers or words that are clearly connected to your personal information, such as your date of birth or address. Finally, a strong password shouldn’t consist solely of dictionary words with conventional spellings.
You also want to ensure that any password you enter is entirely new to you. Repeating a password across several sites increases your risk. Cybercriminals commonly use compromised passwords on multiple sites attempting to gain entry, particularly if your email address, Apple ID, or other types of login ID is also part of the data leak.
When you use this approach, iCloud Keychain can recommend strong passwords that are randomly generated. If you go this route, the new password is automatically stored in iCloud Keychain. Just keep in mind that memorizing these passwords so that you can access the accounts on other devices is potentially tricky. However, if you’re solely using your iPhone to log in, it’s worth considering.
Go to the Website Directly
If you tapped “Not now” when you received the data leak notice on your iPhone, you can still take quick action. Head to the website to update your login information for that account immediately. Once you arrive, log into your account and navigate to the Change Password option.
Precisely where you’ll need to go on the site varies depending on the account. However, most password-changing features are in a “My Account” or similar section of the website – at times in a “Security” subsection or one along those lines – making that the best place to start.
Once you initiate a password change, use the information above to make sure it’s strong and unique. Using that approach offers you the best security moving forward.
Head to the Security Recommendations Feature
After receiving a data leak notice on an iPhone, it’s wise to go into the Security Recommendations section of your device. Open Settings, tap Passwords, and tap Security Recommendations. Then, enter your passcode to gain entry.
Once there, you’ll be able to see if Apple detected any other compromised password that you may need to change. This section includes listings that were covered in past data leak notices, as well as those that haven’t triggered an alert yet since you haven’t used the password since the leak was detected.
The leak-related passwords are in the High Priority section. With each entry, you’ll also see a “Change Password on Website” option you can tap to immediately update the associated password.
Within the Other Recommendations section within Security Recommendations, you’ll also see notifications for other risky passwords. That includes passwords you’ve reused on multiple sites or passwords that are easy to guess, both of which leave you vulnerable. As a result, it’s wise to update any password in the list as a precaution.
Review Your Login Credentials for Other Accounts
After reviewing any information in the Security Recommendations section of your iPhone, you’ll want to check your login credentials for other accounts that you don’t log into using your iPhone or iCloud Keychain. Any account you access using an alternative mechanism won’t appear in the Security Recommendations section.
Check to see if you’re using the compromised password elsewhere and if so, update it. Additionally, consider whether you’re reusing a password across other accounts or if they don’t meet the criteria of a strong password. If you have any doubts about a password, update it using the previously discussed strategy, ensuring it’s strong and unique.
Set Up Two-Step Authentication (Where Available)
An increasing number of websites are offering two-step authentication options to users. With two-step authentication, your password alone isn’t enough to gain access to an account. Instead, the password is coupled with another code – typically a series of numbers – that’s delivered via email or text message.
The benefit of two-factor authentication is that a cybercriminal would need access to both the password and two-factor authentication code to get into your account. That makes your accounts far less susceptible to hacking.
You can also explore authenticator apps when you set up two-factor security. Not all accounts are compatible with authenticator apps, but they’re a strong alternative when they’re supported. As with the email or text message options, the authenticator app presents a random numeric code that you use to prove who you are, with the code changing automatically every 30 to 60 seconds in most cases. Since the code shifts rapidly and it’s required to log in, it significantly boosts your security.