June 10, 2013 at 6:11 PM
Apple’s Activation Lock feature a potential victory for law enforcement
Nothing is truly foolproof when it comes to securing your phone.
But device manufacturers are working on it.
Apple today announced a new feature in its iOS mobile software at its Worldwide Developers Conference that appears to represent a big step toward law enforcement’s dream — a remote “kill switch” on smartphones. The feature, called Activation Lock, requires an Apple ID and password to reactivate a phone that’s been wiped, deactivated or had its homing beacon feature, Find My Phone, turned off. That would protect users’ data and render the device potentially worthless on the lucrative smartphone resale market.
It’s a victory for the two officials who’ve been pressuring device manufacturers to better secure smartphones, district attorney George Gascón of San Francisco and New York state attorney general Eric Schneiderman.
“I would like to know what Apple is doing to combat this growing public safety problem,” Schneiderman wrote in a public letter to Apple in May. As I mentioned in my Sunday column, smartphone thefts account for a growing chunk of robberies and street crime in cities across the country. Apple smartphones are particularly tempting targets for phone thieves. Schneiderman’s press office refers to the crime trend as “Apple pickings.”
The Activation Lock announcement is sure to come up June 13 when Gascón and Schneiderman meet with representatives from Apple, Google’s Motorola Mobility, Samsung and Microsoft to talk about phone security.
Even if Apple’s new feature is not the theft deterrent officials have been waiting for (something tells me savvy device hackers already know 10 ways around this thing), it should give iPhone users some peace of mind. If their device is gone, the keys to their digital life might not go with it.