How To Make It More Difficult for a Thief To Turn Off Location Services on the iPad

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Over the last few years there have been numerous happy ending stories about lost / stolen iPads and iPhones recovered thanks to Location Services and the Find My iPhone app within MobileMe. The app is now free as well, so it’s a great tool to have just in case your iPad or iPhone is ever misplaced or stolen.

In order for Find My iPhone to work, Location Services must be turned on on the missing device; and many people have pointed out that a tech-savvy thief might quickly turn off the service once they get their hands on your iDevice.

Luckily, there’s a way to make that a much bigger challenge for a thief, and it’s simple to implement.

To make life a whole bunch harder for a thief who wants to turn off Location Services, you can use Restrictions from within the Settings app. Here’s how:

— Launch the Settings app.

— Go to the General section and look for Restrictions on the right hand side. Turn Restrictions On if you haven’t already done so. (these can be useful in a number of areas, take a browse around the available restrictions)

— Once you enable restrictions, look at the second section listed – Allow Changes. Tap on Location and choose ‘Don’t Allow Changes’.

Now if your iPad ever does end up in the wrong hands the thief would have to crack your passcode to be able to turn off Location Services.

There are of course ways round this, but just as with opportunistic thieves and home break-ins, the more difficult you make it, the better your chances are.

One downside to be aware of when making this change is that once it’s made when you install a new app that wants to use your location, you’ll need to go back and allow changes, allow that app to use the services, and then turn the restriction back on.

Patrick Jordan

Founder and Editor in Chief of iPad Insight. Husband, father to a lovely daughter, Commander of the Armies of the North, dog lover (especially Labs), Austinite, former Londoner, IT consultant, huge sports nut, iPad and mobile tech blogger, mobile apps junkie.

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16 thoughts on “How To Make It More Difficult for a Thief To Turn Off Location Services on the iPad”

  1. Is there a way to only apply this restriction to the Find My iPhone app only so that you don’t have to continue to update the restriction for each new app you install later?

  2. Nice tip but a thief would simply delete your Mobile Me account. So to complete this strategy, while in Restrictions tap Accounts then select Don’t Allow Changes.

    To reiterate, go to Settings > Restrictions and set both Location and Accounts so that no changes can be made.

    1. Good suggestion, though again I think the number of potential thieves who know about both location services and that it’s based on a MobileMe account is probably quite low.

      Also, since Find My iPhone became a free feature it does not have to be tied to a MobileMe account, but just to an Apple ID.

  3. Fantastic tip! Easy to apply and good first protection even if there are of course ways round this. Thanks a lot!

  4. If you’re slightly savvy, you can use the iPhone Configuration Utility (free from Apple) to create a policy that will allow you to set an actual password for the iPhone (works on iPad too) instead of a four-digit PIN.

    1. That’s a must for companies rolling out iPads. For individual users, you can just turn off Simple Passcode under Settings – and it will let you enter a longer, stronger passphrase.

  5. A thief can delete the app “find iphone” on your ipad so after you enabled the restriction Disable “deleting apps”.

  6. Or simply set a passcode and set the screen to lock in 2 minutes and require the passcode immediately. That way, short of doing a recovery mode restore using a computer, a thief can’t do anything.

    Besides a tech savy thief would simply turn off the device and then place it in a shielded container which GPS and/or Wifi/3G can’t penetrate.

  7. Bad news for Jailbreak phone users whi use SBSettings – it allows to turn off location services anyway. Even on lockscreen.

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