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How does Apple’s new Stolen Device Protection feature work?

iPhone thieves can wreak havoc in the first few minutes after the theft. The new Stolen Device Protection feature aims to prevent that.

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iPhones double as gateways to our digital lives, so securing them is more crucial than ever. Knowing this, Apple has introduced a new feature named Stolen Device Protection.

This feature is a decisive response to a gaping security vulnerability that enabled iPhone thieves to hijack customer accounts, access personal and financial information, and lock users out of their digital lives.

Imagine a scenario where thieves, having watched you input your iPhone passcode, steal your device and wreak havoc on your digital existence.

It’s a modern nightmare that can become a reality for many: hackers can access your saved passwords, steal money from your accounts, and lock you out of precious digital memories.

Apple’s countermeasure: Stolen Device Protection

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Stolen Device Protection is designed to thwart such attacks, safeguarding your digital persona.

It adds an extra layer of security, preventing unauthorized setting changes when the device is not in familiar locations like home or workplace.

Here’s how it enhances the security of key actions:

  • Apple ID Password Changes: Previously, a thief could use your passcode to change your Apple ID password, effectively locking you out.

    With the new feature, changing the password away from a familiar location requires Face ID or Touch ID, followed by an hour-long delay and a second biometric confirmation.
  • Recovery Key and Trusted Phone Number Updates: Similar to password changes, updating these critical recovery elements will also necessitate two biometric confirmations separated by an hour-long delay.
  • Accessing Keychain Passwords: The iCloud Keychain is a treasure trove of passwords. With Stolen Device Protection, the passcode alone can’t unlock the Keychain; biometric authentication is mandatory.

What’s still at risk?

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Even with Stolen Device Protection activated, any app not secured with an additional password or PIN remains vulnerable.

Apple Pay can still be accessed with a passcode if biometrics fail, which is why Apple recommends:

  • Creating Complex Alphanumeric Passcodes: A mix of letters and numbers is tougher to crack than a simple numeric code.
  • Adding PINs to Financial Apps: Bolster apps like Venom, Cash App, Coinbase, and Robinhood with additional PINs or biometric locks.
  • Acting Swiftly with Remote Wipe: If your iPhone is stolen, quickly navigate to icloud.com/find on any device to erase your iPhone’s data remotely.
FeatureOld SecurityNew Stolen Device Protection
Apple ID Password ChangePasscode could unlock the iCloud KeychainRequires Face ID or Touch ID, plus an hour delay and a second biometric confirmation
Recovery Key UpdatesPasscode alone could be used to establish a Recovery KeyTwo biometric confirmations an hour apart are now required
Access to KeychainPasscode could unlock iCloud KeychainFace ID or Touch ID is mandatory to access Keychain; passcode is not sufficient
Apple Pay AccessPasscode could be used if biometrics failedNo information provided; presumably remains the same
Device EraseCould be initiated with a passcodeRequires biometric authentication and a delay period
Find My iPhoneThieves could disable with passcodeAdditional biometric checks and time delays make disabling more difficult

Stolen Device Protection is still baking in the oven

Currently, Stolen Device Protection is still in the beta testing phase. However, if you want to benefit from this enhanced security, you can join the Apple Beta Software Program.

Participating in the beta not only gives you early access to new features but also allows you to provide feedback directly to Apple, helping shape the final product.

Remember that beta versions may still have some kinks to iron out, so proceed with caution if you’re using your primary device.

To join the beta, visit Apple’s Beta Software Program page and sign in with your Apple ID, then follow the provided instructions to enroll your device.

Final Thoughts

The Stolen Device Protection feature, debuting in a forthcoming iOS 17.3 update, requires user activation. It’s a significant step towards protecting users against physical thefts that escalate into digital disasters.

As Apple continues to innovate in security, users must remain vigilant and proactive in securing their devices with the tools available.

Apple’s message is clear: the safety of your digital life rests not just in their hands but in yours, too.

If you’re interested in learning more about Stolen Device Protection and how to enable it for your iPhone, our guide on how to enable Apple’s Stolen Device Protection should answer any questions you may have.

Have any thoughts on this? Drop us a line below in the comments, or carry the discussion to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Kevin is KnowTechie's founder and executive editor. With over 15 years of blogging experience in the tech industry, Kevin has transformed what was once a passion project into a full-blown tech news publication. Shoot him an email at kevin@knowtechie.com or find him on Mastodon or Post.

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