Could A PIN On Shutdown Deter iPhone Thieves?

Could A PIN On Shutdown Deter iPhone Thieves?

Cabel proves once again what a smart guy he is

Sasser, co-founder of Panic software, has had a fantastic idea to make stealing iPhones pretty useless. Most savvy thieves know that when you find or steal a smartphone, you shut it down immediately. This stops it being tracked by the carrier and – in the case of the iPhone – it stops the user from tracking it, or wiping it from afar.

Cabel’s incredibly simple idea would stop this from happening.

When my phone was stolen in SF last year, they immediately powered it down to stop Find My iPhone. Settings idea: “Shutdown Requires PIN”?

Neat, huh? You need to input your PIN to shut down the iPhone. This actually makes the oft-whined-about non-removable battery into a feature, making it much harder to just whip it out and kill the phone.

There are workarounds, though. Popping the SIM would render it unreachable unless the hapless thief stumbled on one of your known Wi-Fi networks. And simply sticking the thing into a radio-proof bag or box would achieve the same thing.

Still, it would make the iPhone slightly less easy to steal cleanly, and would only require a software tweak.

  • Samoel

    Some troubleshooting tricks would be useless if you had to enter a pin code, if it was implemented changes would have to be made to change troubleshooting methods, but it could be done i reckon.

  • Mark Harman

    Asurion’s Mobile Locate service is free for all AT&T iPhone users in the App Store. It will update the iPhone’s location as often as the user chooses and saves the location on the service’s website. That is helpful in this scenario, so that if the phone is stolen and immediately turned off, SIM swapped, or the phone just dies while its lying in the parking lot of Target, the user can see the last few known locations on a map.

  • Sigurd Bøe

    I have never complained about the stupidity of the writers before.
    But now you have gone to far, you look at your self as tech savvy iPhone users,

    and out of ignorance or deceit you exclude to write that you could just hold the home and power button for a few seconds and it will shut down. I think it would be illegal to sell the phone in a lot of countries without this function.

  • Brad Sevy

    This needs to be real life.

  • Unigalipo

    The thief could wait for the battery to run out in a no-signal area … Its better, but no fool-proof !

  • avonord

    Or the smart thief can put it in a Faraday’s cage (aka a metal box).

  • stevenglass

    It’s an interesting idea (I think you mean PIN on shutOFF?), but unless you want to disable the hard-shutdown (home + off button) too, and that’s needed for a bunch of things that are functionality-related which probably trump this corner of security.

  • Oskar Zhang

    they can still pull our the sim..

  • technochick

    This is no good if the person can turn off wifi and cell data until the phone shuts itself down. Or knows how to force it into recovery mode and wipes it.

    or just opens the back and unhooks the battery connector and forces the phone off that way

  • Ichinisan

    @Mark Harman:
    Google Latitude does it too. For any iOS or Android phone, on any provider. Probably does a better job than AT&T’s Mobile Locate app. You can track everything through

    @Sigurd Bøe:
    You think the average thief knows how any other way to turn-off the device? The shutdown PIN would is only meant to delay the thief from turning the device off. It’s not perfect, but it would work MOST of the time against opportunistic thieves who don’t know any other way to turn it off. The Home+Lock method is tricky if you don’t know exactly what to do, and your typical user has never had to do that. Your attack was not warranted. I think there’s something wrong with you.

    @Oskar Zhang / @Charlie Sorrel:
    If the thief has a small pin handy, he/she could pop the SIM out…but many iPhones are CDMA and don’t have a SIM at all. Even for phones with a SIM, the thief will probably try to turn it off before he / she can find a tool. The shutdown PIN would almost always delay that and might give you time to locate the device or make it generate a sound.

    Think about this: The opportunistic thief can’t disassemble the phone or force recovery/restore before getting out of the store. You can already prevent a the thief from disabling WiFi / data by requiring a PIN for that.

    Me? I don’t have a PIN on my device, but I PIN-protect certain functions (like location, WiFi, etc). I want to encourage a stupid thief to use my device, even if the thief turns it off and later boots it up at another location. The thief is less likely to do a restore and I’m more likely to recover my device.

  • technochick

    Think about this: The opportunistic thief can’t disassemble the phone or force recovery/restore before getting out of the store. You can already prevent a the thief from disabling WiFi / data by requiring a PIN for that.

    Don’t bet your iPhone on that. It takes perhaps 3 seconds to force a phone into recovery mode. In many stores there is plenty of chances to have that much time to do it.

About the author

Charlie Sorrel Charlie Sorrel is the Reviews Editor here on Cult of Mac. Follow Charlie  on Twitter at @mistercharlie.

(sorry, you need Javascript to see this e-mail address) | Read more posts by .

Posted in iPhone | Tagged: , , , , , , |