Activation Lock has slashed iPhone thefts in major cities

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Ericsson wants to stop Apple selling iPhones in the United States. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
Drop in crime rate? There's an app for that. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

As highly-desirable and premium-priced tech goodies, it’s no surprise that iPhones have previously been among the most stolen items we carry around on a regular basis. In fact, police have even correlated spikes in crime rate to the launch of new iPhone models — suggesting that it’s not just upstanding citizens who keep an eye on the blogosphere.

That all changed when Apple added its Activation Lock feature with iOS 7, allowing users to locate, lock and even wipe their iPhones remotely in the event that they are stolen. Based on that, a new report claims that the number of stolen iPhones fell significantly in major cities around the world between September 2013, when Activation Lock was introduced, and one year later.

Take that, iCriminals!

Apple Store employees stole $700,000 in gift cards

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iCrime doesn't pay. Photo: Apple

In my experience, Apple Store employees are some of the hardest-working, most reasonable and (despite the fact they’re employed to sell you things) trustworthy people in retail. According to Manhattan district attorney, however, that description isn’t universal.

The DA is indicting four former Apple Store employees, plus a dental office receptionist, for an Apple-related scam that ultimately defrauded Barclays Bank of $700,000, using ill-gotten Apple gift cards.

Here’s how it happened.

The smartphone as personal security guard

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STOP-ATTACK is an app that can quickly activated to record audio and video and instantly sends out alerts to emergency contacts if there is threat of assault. Illustration: STOP-ATTACK
The STOP-ATTACK app can be quickly activated to record audio and video, and instantly sends out alerts to emergency contacts if there is threat of assault. Illustration: STOP-ATTACK

With the number of smartphone muggings high enough to earn the crime its own category in the police stats, holding a pricey little computer in your hands is like toting a big target.

However, you could also be holding a layer of security: Several apps have emerged that sound an alarm to family, friends and law enforcement in the event a smartphone owner feels threatened, faces an assault or suddenly gets nervous about their surroundings.

Thieves use iPod nano to try and steal cash from ATM

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Would Apple be more upset at the use of its products in a crime, or the general shoddiness of the execution? Photo:
Would Apple be more upset at the use of its products in a crime, or the general shoddiness of the execution? Photo:Greater Manchester Police

Looking for a use for that old iPod nano you’ve got lying around the house, gathering dust? Why not become a credit card thief?

Okay, so that’s probably the worst piece of advice you’ve received today, but it was still good enough for a pair of ne’er-do-wells from Stockport, England.

Using an iPod nano, a bit of duct tape, and a plastic contraption which attaches to the card slot of ATMs, the duo discovered a way to record videos of people entering their PIN numbers to withdraw money — using Apple’s one-time music players as a makeshift spy camera.

iPod touch used to control war veteran’s prosthetic hand is stolen

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Staff Sgt. Ben Eberle's prosthetic hand is controlled using his iPod touch.

Normally a story about a stolen iPod touch wouldn’t be worthy of major news coverage. That changes, however, when the iPod touch in question is used to control its war veteran owner’s prosthetic hand.

The iPod touch belongs to Afghanistan vet Staff Sgt. Ben Eberle, 27, who lost both his right hand and two legs in a bomb explosion three years ago while on a tour of duty. The device features an app called i-limb, which allows Eberle to use his prosthetic hand.