iPhones Get Extra Security Measure

John Lister's picture

Apple is beefing up security measures to reduce the damage caused by iPhone thefts. The new "Stolen Device Protection" feature is opt-in, possibly because it comes at the expense of convenience.

The feature is designed for cases when somebody steals a device and successfully enters the passcode. That could happen when a thief spots somebody typing in the passcode before they steal the handset. It could also happen if the thief knows some details about the victim and they have a predictable passcode such as a birth date.

Anyone who unlocks a phone will still be able to use it and access apps and files. (Changing that would make the phone effectively unusable for the owner).

Feature Kicks In Away From Home

However, there will now be two restrictions that apply whenever the phone is away from a "familiar location." That's anywhere the phone has spent a lot of time before, such as the user's home or workplace.

The restrictions will kick in when somebody wants to make significant changes involving security measures. This includes changing the Apple ID password, turning off the Find My iPhone feature, and changing the face or fingerprint settings. It also includes switching off Stolen Device Protection itself.

The restrictions also apply whenever the user wants to view particularly sensitive data such as stored credit card numbers or passwords.

To do any of these things, the person with the phone will first have to successfully pass a biometric check with either a face or fingerprint scan. They will then have to wait one hour and repeat the biometric check scan before they can make the security changes or access the data. (Source: wsj.com)

This level of security should be effective against instances where the owner of the phone has been drugged (usually at a bar), the phone stolen, and bank accounts are drained, for example

Opt-In Only

Apple's reasoning is that although this process is a little unwieldy for legitimate users, it shouldn't be so off-putting as to outweigh the benefits of the security process. That sounds sensible in theory, though some users might be unhappy having to wait an hour to access a stored password when away from home.

To give users choice about this tradeoff, Stolen Device Protection will be added to a future version of iOS as an opt-in feature, rather than enabled by default. (Source: cnn.com)

What's Your Opinion?

Is this a useful feature? Will it reduce the damage from theft or even act as a deterrent? Would you enable it given the one-hour delay it would cause?

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