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Apple fortifies iPhones, thwarting thieves

ABOVE & BELOW: Apple store in Beijing, Amazon logo in Paris, France; and Meta logo outside office in United States. PHOTO: AP & AFP

BLOOMBERG – Apple Inc is adding a feature to iPhones to prevent thieves from gaining access to critical device data in the event that they know a user’s passcode.

On Tuesday, the company released the first beta-test version of iOS 17.3, which includes a new Stolen Device Protection feature.

The enhancement will require Face ID or Touch ID – with no option to use a passcode – when accessing stored passwords, changing Apple ID settings, looking at payment information and disabling Find My iPhone.

In some cases, thieves have been able to access personal data on iPhones, steal money and upend a person’s digital life by knowing the device passcode.

For instance, a thief could watch users input their passcode into their iPhone in a public place before stealing the device.

By requiring Face ID or Touch ID for accessing critical parts of the iPhone, a thief wouldn’t be able to cause as much damage.

In particular, it would be harder to wipe the device and resell it. Apple didn’t say when the new feature will roll out to all customers, but the company is planning to release iOS 17.3 publicly early next year.

“As threats to user devices continue to evolve, we work tirelessly to develop powerful new protections for our users and their data,” Apple said in a statement.

“In the rare cases where a thief can observe the user entering the passcode and then steal the device, Stolen Device Protection adds a sophisticated new layer of protection.”

The enhancement will add a one-hour delay and require a second Face ID or Touch ID scan for the most sensitive tasks, including changing an Apple ID password, turning off the Stolen Device Protection feature, creating a new passcode, and disabling Touch ID or Face ID.

There will be no delay, however, if users are at a known location – like their home or work.