Clever trick will safeguard Apple Watch from thieves

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A special sensor on the back uses infrared, visible-light LEDs and photodiodes to detect your heart rate. Photo: Robert Baldwin/The Next Web
A special sensor on the back of the Apple Watch uses infrared, visible-light LEDs and photodiodes to detect your heart rate. Photo: Robert Baldwin/The Next Web

CUPERTINO, Calif. — One of the big questions about the Apple Watch is how Apple will prevent thieves from ripping it off your wrist and using it to clear your bank account.

Because the Apple Watch is connected to Apple Pay — making purchases as easy as a quick swipe — what’s to stop miscreants from abusing it?

The answer wasn’t addressed at Tuesday’s unveiling, but an Apple staffer at the hands-on demo told me how the watch will be protected against fraud.

Thanks to sensors on the Apple Watch’s back, the device can tell when it’s being worn and when it has been taken off. When you first put the watch on, you must enter a code. When the watch is removed from your wrist, the watch locks itself and can’t be used for payments unless the code is entered again.

Pretty simple right? Unless the thief chops your arm off, of course, but that’s a different story.

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  • Gamzhtod

    Isn’t there some way that biometric data could be used to tie the watch exclusively to its owner? As we have seen recently, codes, aka passwords, are all too easily hacked.

    • Nathanael

      You ever heard of the Nymi? getnymi.com

    • Dan Gee

      Needs a DNA sequencer too, that would be l33t! :-P

    • T_Will

      I’m guessing it’s a one-time use random code that your iPhone instructs you to enter on the watch to pair it. The next time you take it off and put it back on it requests a different random code.

      I had a similar thought though, could they do a Touch ID type sensor to map the veins or something on your wrist that can be used as a biometric identifier?

  • Hildebrand

    I guess you will be able to prevent the device from being used at all unless the code is entered.

  • testaburger

    Thief chops off arm, Apple sends you notifications that you need to move more.

  • Shawn

    Arm chopped off = no more heartbeat. Still secure.

  • aardman

    Well, if your wrist continues pulsing even after it’s been chopped off, then sure an axe will be required for would-be Pay fraudsters.

  • Jonny

    I understood that the watch has to be connected with your phone to make payments – so an arm chopped off still wouldn’t do it.

    • Guest

      I would imagine if someone had the balls to chop your arm off, they would have no problem taking your phone out of your lifeless body.

      • I also suspect that anyone who’s willing hack your body to pieces isn’t terribly interested in either your Apple Watch or your iPhone (though your bank account is another matter) because if they were to apply all that effort to a more non-choppy pursuit they could have an Apple Watch and an iPhone of their own..

  • adam

    people didn’t find it hard to hack Iphones though did they

    • tjwolf

      yes they did. thus only 0.1% of malware targets iOS devices and 99.9% targets Android devices.

      • Barchiel

        YOU PWNED HIM GOOD!

    • Barchiel

      YOU GOT OWNED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • tjwolf

    “…unless the code is entered again…” – are you telling me that not only do I have to take off the watch every night because it needs charging, but I have to also enter a code every morning after I put it on? That’s it – after hearing that the “sport” edition can’t even be worn in the pool, the nightly charging, and now this code! If true, I’m not getting this watch. What a bummer!

    • tjwolf has no logic

      Don’t you already have to enter a passcode EVERY time you unlock your phone……
      What’s entering a code once a day gonna do that’s not worth saving your personal info and bank accounts. Please….

      • tjwolf

        Uh, actually, no – I don’t . You’ve heard of TouchId, right? Seems my absent logic is only exceeded by your ignorance.

  • baf2099

    I still see this as a major shortcoming, the phone will allow me to protect EACH transaction via Touch ID, but the watch will essentially just give my money away, there must be more to it than that, I could easily see ways of circumventing the removed from a wrist detection…

  • GaryNY

    Hacking passwords… Hacking off arms… You have to be adept at code breaking, as well as the use of an axe, to get someone’s mobile payments to work with a stolen Watch.

  • max

    I can just imagine someone at Walmart trying to pay using the watch attached to a severed arm they brought in a plastic bag. No problem, have a nice day sir….

  • James G

    If the arm is chopped off, there won’t be a pulse or other data the sensors would need to indicate it’s being worn.

  • jbelkin

    Apparently the writer does not realize that chopping off your arm cuts ff your blood flow.

  • williambaranowski

    “In other news, 27 arms were found today in a trash dump behind a convenience store…”

  • Raymond_in_DC

    OK, now imagine this scenario: You’re mugged, and the mugger demands your money… and your watch… and your code.

  • TheWild Webster

    Typical of those who would stand in line for iCrap. Because typing in a code everytime you make a purchase (as opposed to say, pulling out your billfold, pulling out your credit card, swiping it, punching in a pin or signing, showing id, etc.) would be inconvenient.