Take care when sharing your iPad with your family, or face a monster bill…

Bob covello
Bob Covello

Jurassic world

How many times have you been out to a restaurant and witnessed a parent handing their child an iPhone or iPad to keep them occupied?

Whether you agree or disagree with this particular parenting style is not the issue, as there are more pressing matters to be addressed when you hand over your device to someone else.

Recently, it was reported that a seven-year-old British boy managed to spend an eye-watering £4,000 (almost US $6,000) playing the game “Jurassic World” on his dad’s iPad.

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You won’t be surprised to hear that 32-year-old Mohamed Shugaa, from Crawley, was less than impressed with his young son’s antics – which saw 65 transactions had been made to Apple between December 13 and December 18.

The purchases were approved not only because the child was given an unlocked iPad, but because he had memorised his father’s Apple ID password to make purchases within the App Store.

The story has a happy ending, as Shugaa was able to convince Apple that a 32-year old man was unlikely to spend that much money collecting dinosaur models, and pleading to the company’s better nature by saying that he needed the money to buy Christmas presents.

“I was so mad. I’m 32 years old, why would Apple think I would be spending thousands of pounds on buying dinosaurs and upgrading a game? Why didn’t they email me to check I knew these payments were being made? I got nothing from them. How much longer would it have gone on for?”

But there are some other lessons for all of us from this event.

Firstly, protect your device with a password that is stronger than the standard minimal character requirement. If you can enable fingerprint authentication, do that as well.

Be wary of thinking that simply placing your device in “Airplane mode” (which disables internet access) will protect your device from unwanted purchases. The reality is that most activity that requires a data connection will not only present an alert that the device is in Airplane mode, but it will take a person directly to the settings to turn Airplane mode off!

Airplane mode

That’s not going to present too much of a challenge to the typical youngster familiar with how an iPhone or iPad works.

A better solution is to set restrictions on the device before handing it over.

These settings have been around for quite some time, but many people are still not aware of them.

On an iOS device, the Restrictions settings are found under the General settingsarea, and are protected with a *sigh* 4-digit passcode. Please be sure that it is not the same as the lock code you might use to protect your device.

Once you are in the Restrictions section of settings, a few quick adjustments can protect you from a bunch of potential problems and prevent – for instance – in-app purchases.


Of course, you should always think carefully before you let anyone touch your device. Remember that a person can inadvertently perform any action on your unlocked device that you can. This includes sending embarrassing photos or messages to someone in your address book.

Finally, if your seven-year-old can memorize the password to an account linked to your credit card, you need to seriously rethink your password strategy. Have you considered making 2016 the year you finally get serious about passwords and invest in a decent password manager?

Bob Covello (@BobCovello) is a 20-year technology veteran and InfoSec analyst with a passion for security topics. He is also a volunteer for various organizations focused on advocating for and advising others about staying safe and secure online.

4 comments on “Take care when sharing your iPad with your family, or face a monster bill…”

  1. Phil

    Alternatively… set up your itunes account without a credit card, and fund it with gift cards.
    If my kids manage to bypass the restrictions and manage to observe my account password or fake my finger, the most I can get stung for is the £20-something credit currently on the account.

    Not my idea – was given it by the chap in the Apple store. (Not sure "Yeah, you don't want to trust us with your credit card" is in the Apple sales manual…)

  2. Cheryl

    @phil. That's what I do as well, besides iTunes cards are often sold at discount so in the end your purchases are cheaper than direct from your credit card. If I want to use my credit card for a purchase I can enter the details and straight away after the purchase set it back to no credit card.

    I usually budget a certain amount for app and music purchases per quarter and buy that in iTunes cards (on special) and redeem them to the account at once, so no chance of losing them. This way iTunes amnesia can't catch me out and I don't spend too much.

  3. Simon

    I have the kids iPad always prompt for the App Store password and no, they don't know (never will) know what it is as I input it without their peeps peering at me…

  4. coyote

    'Whether you agree or disagree with this particular parenting style is not the issue …'

    Or table manners… or social etiquette that even asocial people understand… Spending time with your phone/tablet/whatever when you're eating with someone shows just how much ('little') you respect your company.

    Otherwise, this of course is not at all the first time this has happened – and it won't by any means be the last. Whether it is the first to have the transactions cancelled I don't know but what I do know is I'm surprised Apple was willing to do this; but good on them.

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