Apple’s Activation Lock Feature May Be Partial Answer to Growing Theft Problem

by Istvan Fekete on June 17, 2013

As smartphone theft is on the rise, New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco district attorney George Gascón announced an initiative to push the tech industry to develop technologies to discourage theft and restrict the market for stolen handsets and tablets.

They have created a new group, the Secure Our Smartphones Initiative (S.O.S), which includes prosecutors, political officials, law enforcement officials and consumer advocates over a dozen states. The group will be co-chaired by Schneiderman and Gascón.

S.O.S aims to take action against the rising number of smartphone thefts, which has triggered both Gascón and Schneiderman to get it touch with leading tech companies and pressure them to implement a “kill switch” that would help to dry up the market for stolen devices.

To put that trend into numbers, Gascón brought up several sets of data during the Thursday meeting between the newly formed group and tech company representatives: about 1.6 million Americans had their smartphones stolen last year, and abut 40% of robberies in major cities now involve handsets, the Federal Communications Commission’s data shows. In addition to the above data, police across the country say Apple’s iDevices are the most popular target for thieves, because they hold the highest value on the secondary market.

As we previously pointed out, there was another initiative, a database of stolen devices, which required the rightful owner to contact the carrier in case of theft (after reporting to the police) and report its serial and IMEI or MEID number. But that didn’t work out, as the majority of handsets end up overseas, which makes the database useless.

With iOS 7, however, Apple has taken a step forward in the fight against iPhone/iPad theft. The mobile OS, which comes out this fall, presumably with a new-generation iPhone, includes a very useful feature called Activation lock. During the WWDC 2013 keynote, Craig Frederighi suggested that the new feature would prevent thieves from turning off Find My iPhone (Apple’s previous feature for theft victims) and then reactivating the device, as it prompts anyone who tries that to supply their iCloud username and password.

Both Scheiderman and Gascón have saluted the feature, but given the lack of further details, we can only assume there is a tremendous amount of work still to be done before the feature will become what both victims and federal regulators imagine.

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Written by: Istvan Fekete. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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