I recently had my iPad stolen. I immediately marked it as lost in case it ever connected to the internet again (it is cellular enabled, so there is a favorably good chance). I clicked "erase iPad" but stopped when the prompt said "An erased iPad cannot be located or tracked any longer."

I began to wonder: how secure is my iPad's data? Is there any risk that the device may be hacked and its contents exposed? Passwords, credit cards, emails, etc.?

A simple google search found that iPads are very secure by virtue of the passcode (https://www.macworld.com/article/1160313/iPad_security.html). So, if left unerased, what risk remains? Certainly, I want to be able to track the iPad if it does ever come back online. But by not opting to erase the iPad, am I leaving myself potentially exposed?

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  • Story update: the ipad was, indeed, found. The iPad was turned on with SIM card still in it -> cellular connection triggered lost mode -> device was deposited into an ecoATM -> ecoATM initiated the process to re-unite the device with its owner. So, +1 for Apple's security mechanisms.
    – ryvantage
    Mar 21 '20 at 18:49

In short, you erase it if - & only if - the data on it would be more costly to lose than the price of a new iDevice. Some businesses consider their data to be worth far more to a 'spy' than the device itself.

If you're a 'regular guy' your best bet would probably be to leave it locked & registered actively with FindMy, just in case it ever shows up again. To all intents & purposes, any other 'regular guy' who took it now owns a very shiny brick.

If you're an international terrorist, business owner with a new patent, scientist with the formula to a cure for the common cold, or a government employee with national secrets on there - then you may consider total deletion a better bet - just in case another business/government agency considers it worth half a million bucks to hack into it.

iDevices are very secure - but nothing is impenetrable.

  • 1
    It may be as simple as company policy because the insurance policy they have to indemnify against data theft requires that devices be erased and the policy implemented company wide to ensure coverage. But...yes to all of this in this answer.
    – Allan
    Feb 3 '20 at 19:06

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