Apple Releases New Stolen Device Protection Feature to Combat iPhone Theft

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Apple has released a new update to its iPhone operating system aimed at protecting users from password theft if devices are stolen.

The new “Stolen Device Protection” feature was released in the beta version of iOS 17.3 on Dec. 12, meaning it is available for developers to download.

The opt-in feature effectively adds a second layer of security for iPhone users by making it harder for thieves to access important information including passwords from Apple mobile devices that have been stolen.

Apple has not yet publicly announced the new feature, however, a spokesperson for the tech giant confirmed the new security protections in a statement to The Epoch Times.

“As threats to user devices continue to evolve, we work tirelessly to develop powerful new protections for our users and their data,” the spokesperson said. “iPhone data encryption has long led the industry, and a thief can’t access data on a stolen iPhone without knowing the user’s passcode.”

“In the rare cases where a thief can observe the user entering the passcode and then steal the device, Stolen Device Protection adds a sophisticated new layer of protection,” the spokesperson added.

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Users can activate the new feature by going to Face ID and Passcode under the Settings menu in iOS 17.3 beta.

When enabled, Stolen Device Protection will turn on when the device is away from trusted locations like home or work, and make it harder for users to perform various actions such as changing their Apple ID password or passcode, viewing iCloud keychain, passwords, erasing their iPhone, or applying for a new Apple Card, according to The Verge.

How the New Feature Works

To perform such actions, users will have to verify their identity via their Face ID or Touch ID before entering a password, the publication reports. Those who are not able to do so will not have the option to enter a passcode.

Additionally, the new feature requires users to not only verify their identity using biometric scans but also wait one hour and repeat the authentication process again if they are away from trusted locations and attempt to carry out more sensitive actions, such as turning off Find My, which is used to help located lost devices, according to reports.

It is not clear when the new feature will be available to all iPhone users, although CNBC reported it will be rolled out to the public in the coming weeks.

The latest security update comes after The Wall Street Journal reported in February that a security vulnerability in iPhones was allowing thieves to take over customers’ accounts, access their saved passwords, and lock users out of their devices completely.

According to the publication, criminals across multiple states including Chicago, Minneapolis, New Orleans, and New York were befriending victims while they were out at bars or clubs socializing and then watching the iPhone owners enter their passcodes into their devices before stealing the phone and accessing all of the user’s personal information stored in the phone, including financial information like saved payment information.

 Customers look at iPhone models at Apple Store in Sydney, Australia, on Sept. 20, 2019. (Jason McCawley/Getty Images)
Customers look at iPhone models at Apple Store in Sydney, Australia, on Sept. 20, 2019. (Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

NameDrop Update Sparks Concern

In some cases, iPhone users were being drugged or physically intimidated or assaulted by the criminals, according to the publication.

At the time, an Apple spokesperson told the publication that the company believes such incidents are rare and that security researchers “agree that iPhone is the most secure consumer mobile device” and the company works “tirelessly every day to protect all our users from new and emerging threats.”

“We sympathize with users who have had this experience and we take all attacks on our users very seriously, no matter how rare,” the spokesperson said. “We will continue to advance the protections to help keep user accounts secure.”

Last month, law enforcement officials across multiple states issued a warning to parents following an update to the iPhone and other Apple devices, known as NameDrop.

That update allows users to share contact details, including their phone number, email address, and images by holding two devices together, which officials said could be exploited by predators and posed a potential risk to children.

In response to the warnings, an Apple spokesperson told USA Today that the new feature is designed to share details “with only intended recipients” and that no contact information is automatically shared when two devices are held close together as the user must first accept the information swap.

“There is no way for anyone to get your information without it first popping up on your screen and you or them physically tapping the ‘accept’ prompt,” a spokesperson said at the time.

However, officials warned that children or the elderly may overlook the risk posed by the feature.

The Epoch Times has contacted Apple for further comment.

Naveen Athrappully contributed to this report.

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