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Apple cracks down on iPhone thieves with new security setting

Apple is launching a new security feature to protect iPhone users' passcodes from being stolen and used by thieves to break into phones.

Imagine this scenario. You are out and about in public, and someone snoops over your shoulder and sees you enter your password into your phone. Then they snatch your iPhone at some point.

Now that the thief knows your passcode and has your iPhone, they have access to virtually everything in your phone. They can even lock you out of your iCloud and erase your photos and files.

Fortunately, Apple is aware of this security vulnerability and is rolling out a new feature to defend against these attacks. It is called Stolen Device Protection. We contacted Apple to learn more about this new security setting, and here is what a company spokesperson tells us:

"As threats to user devices continue to evolve, we work tirelessly to develop powerful new protections for our users and their data. iPhone data encryption has long led the industry, and a thief can’t access data on a stolen iPhone without knowing the user’s passcode. 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."

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What is Stolen Device Protection?

Stolen Device Protection is a new setting that you can enable on your iPhone if you have the latest developer beta of iOS 17.3. Others will receive the opt-in feature in the coming weeks when iOS 17.3 is launched to the public. It uses your iPhone’s location to determine whether you are in a familiar place, such as your home or work.

If you are in an unfamiliar place, then the setting will require Face ID or Touch ID in addition to your passcode to perform sensitive actions, such as changing your Apple ID password, updating your security settings or accessing your passwords in Keychain.

It will also implement an hour-long delay before you can perform these actions and require you to reconfirm with another biometric scan. This way, even if a thief knows your passcode, they won’t be able to access your data or lock you out of your account without your face or fingerprint.

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Why do you need Stolen Device Protection?

You might think that your passcode is enough to protect your iPhone, but it is not. Your passcode, which is typically four or six digits, has a powerful reach. It can unlock your device, access your Apple account and view your passwords in Keychain. And when Face ID or Touch ID fails, the passcode serves as a fallback.

This means that if a thief gets hold of your passcode, they can do a lot of damage to your personal and financial information by:

These are not hypothetical scenarios. They have happened to real people, and they could happen to you, too.

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How to enable Stolen Device Protection

If you want to enable Stolen Device Protection, you need to have an iPhone running iOS 17.3 or later. Again, iOS 17.3 is in the beta testing phase and not yet available to the public. You also need to have Face ID or Touch ID enabled on your device. To enable the setting, follow these steps:

You will see a message that says, "Stolen Device Protection is on. This iPhone will require Face ID or Touch ID in addition to your passcode to perform sensitive actions when you are away from familiar locations." You can also view and edit your familiar locations by tapping on them.

MORE: HOW TO PROTECT YOUR IPHONE FROM CYBERATTACKS WITH LOCKDOWN MODE

How to enhance your iPhone security beyond Stolen Device Protection

Stolen Device Protection is a welcome addition to the iPhone’s security features. It can help you protect your data and account from thieves who know your passcode. However, it is not a foolproof solution. It won’t cover all the threats to your personal and financial information on your iPhone.

Kurt's key takeaways

Stolen Device Protection is a smart and innovative way to prevent thieves from accessing your data and account if they know your passcode. It adds an extra layer of security that is based on your location and biometrics. It is easy to enable and customize, and it can give you peace of mind when you are out and about with your iPhone. We recommend that you update your device to iOS 17.3 and turn on this feature as soon as it is available to you. You never know when you might need it.

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Have you ever had your iPhone or data stolen by someone who knew your passcode? If so, what did you do, and what advice would you give others? Let us know by writing us at Cyberguy.com/Contact.

For more of my tech tips & security alerts, subscribe to my free CyberGuy Report Newsletter by heading to Cyberguy.com/Newsletter.

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