iPhones get Stolen Device Protection to guard vital data

23 Jan 2024

Image: © H_Ko/Stock.adobe.com

The update adds security measures when an iPhone is away from familiar locations to prevent thieves from accessing important data or changing settings on the device.

iPhone users are getting a new security feature in the latest iOS update, which aims to protect personal data in the event of the device being stolen.

The iOS 17.3 update introduces the Stolen Device Protection feature, which adds additional security requirements for some features and actions on the iPhone. This protective measure is designed to be activated when a user’s iPhone is away from familiar locations such as home or work.

Apple said the additional security requirements aim to prevent someone who has stolen an iPhone and knows the passcode from making “critical changes” to the victim’s account or device.

For example, when Stolen Device Protection is enabled, actions such as accessing stored passwords and credit cards require biometric authentication by using Face ID or Touch ID. Alternative sign-in methods such as passcodes don’t work, so that only the user of the iPhone can access these features.

The feature also comes with a “security delay”, which means certain actions – such as changing the iPhone’s password – require the user to wait an hour and then perform a second biometric identification.

“In the event that your iPhone is stolen, the security delay is designed to prevent a thief from performing critical operations so that you can mark your device as lost and make sure your Apple account is secure,” Apple said in a blogpost.

“When your iPhone is in a familiar location, these additional steps are not required, and you can use your device passcode like usual. Familiar locations typically include your home, work and certain other locations where you regularly use your iPhone.”

Michael Covington, strategy VP of software company Jamf, said features like Stolen Device Protection are important as “increasing amounts of personal and business data are processed by mobile devices”.

“Without multiple layers of protection, thieves would be able to access a user’s entire digital life, from personal photos to bank accounts and emails, just with a PIN code, which is easily observed when the phone is used in public spaces,” Covington said.

Last month, Apple issued an emergency update for two software flaws that could be exploited to give sensitive information to hackers.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic