SF District Attorney puts iOS 7 Activation Lock to the test, shares thoughts

SF District Attorney iOS 7 puts Activation Lock to the test, shares thoughts

Last week San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón and New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced they would be putting Apple's recently announced Activation Lock feature to test. Details of the tests remain private, but for now Gascón is saying that "clear improvements" have been made.

With the number of thefts involving mobile devices on the rise across the US, Gascón and Schneiderman's Secure Our Smartphones initiative is calling on device manufacturers and carriers to implement "kill switch" solutions that would render stolen devices useless, deterring criminals from stealing them. Alongside the announcement of iOS 7 at its developer conference last month, Apple unveiled the upcoming Activation Lock feature that seems to be exactly what Gascón and Schneiderman's coalition is looking for. Activation Lock works in conjunction with the already-present Find My iPhone feature. If an iPhone has Find My iPhone enabled when it gets wiped or reset, Activation Lock will require the Apple ID and password that were used to enable Find My iPhone before activating the phone. Such a feature should make iPhones less attractive to criminals looking to make a quick buck off of stolen devices.

Last Thursday, Apple and Samsung attended a meeting with Gascón and Schneiderman to demonstrate their upcoming theft deterrent technologies. A group of technical experts also present were asked to do their best to circumvent the anti-theft technology on the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S4. Since Activation Lock is still in beta and under Apple's NDA (non-disclosure agreement), Gascón is unable to share the details of the tests, but did tell SF Examiner, "I'm very optimistic that they came and were willing to share their technology with us."

How attractive will the Activation Lock feature be to you? Have you been the victim of an iPhone theft?

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Nick Arnott

Security editor, breaker of things, and caffeine savant. QA at POSSIBLE Mobile. Writes on neglectedpotential.com about QA & security, and as @noir on Twitter about nothing in particular.

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Reader comments

SF District Attorney puts iOS 7 Activation Lock to the test, shares thoughts


Please proofread your title; I did not know there is a SF district attorney that is actually named "iOS7". George's parents must be true die-hard Apple fanatics.

Sounds good I have had phone taken from people close to me but I have for them back. I hope this gets a lot if press so people just back off the iPhones.

I'm more interested in Plants vs. Zombies 2 being available in places other than Australia and New Zealand... ;-)

I am looking forward to it a member of our family misplaced his iPhone whilst waiting in a store and it disappeared witin minutes. Chances are if people knew that iPhones are truly unbreakable they would bring them to lost and found. And even if they didnt it would feel way better to know that the thief can go stuff themselves and use it as a dead paperweight at best;)

Plenty of money can be made selling the phone for parts so i dont think it will be much of a deterrent. Sending photos and location might help.

I just find it interesting that smartphone manufacturers are being blamed for the theft of their products. No other product that I can think of has been singled out by law enforcement as defective because they are popular. Automobiles are stolen every minute of the day but we don't hear calls to "brick" them on command, do we? I guess the fact that they are small and expensive? What about rings and watches then?

It happens. All you need in an expensive, in-demand item that is easy to steal and easy to sell. Car stereos used to be the big target of thieves until pressure was placed on the manufacturers to implement anti-theft features (removable face plates, etc).

As for automobiles vs smartphones, far more smartphones are stolen then automobiles (last stat I saw was 50 to 1). Once automobiles get stolen as much, you would see a cry for standard devices like LoJack or OnStar.

No one is blaming manufacturers, that's an overly defensive argument.

The fact is that whenever there is a stimulus to theft, there is also a stimulus to deter theft. We have cars with alarms, homes with complex security systems, computers with firewalls, credit cards with pin numbers, and so on. There is cheap available technology to make cell phone theft a lot less rewarding, so there is no reason to implement it.