How Apple plans to ramp up iOS security for stolen iPhones


Stolen Device Protection in iOS 17.3 beta
Your iPhone can better protect itself from data thieves with a new iOS 17.3 feature.
Image: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

The just-released iOS 17.3 beta 1 includes a surprise feature: Stolen Device Protection. The option makes it harder to reset the passcode on a stolen device if the thief already knows the current passcode. There are also new password protections.

Apple also seeded the initial betas of macOS 14.3, iPadOS 17.3, watchOS 10.3 and tvOS 17.3.

Stolen Device Protection should be a highlight of iOS 17.3

If a password-protected iPhone gets stolen, it’s essentially a brick. It’s usable for parts but nothing else. But if the thief knows the Apple ID passcode, they have a very valuable device — and potentially access to the legitimate owner’s personal and financial info.

Apple’s answer is Stolen Device Protection. The iPhone-maker says, “This new feature adds an additional layer of security in the unlikely case that someone has stolen your phone and also obtained your passcode.”

Changing the Apple ID passcode requires Face ID/Touch ID and a wait. It can’t be changed quickly. To keep that restriction from being burdensome, it’s only in effect when the iPhone is away from home or work.

And the feature requires Face ID to access saved passwords. The same reportedly goes for erasing the device, accessing saved credit card info in Safari, applying for an Apple Card and more.

As noted, Stolen Device Protection is optional and must be activated by the user. (Update: Stolen Device Protection is now live in iOS 17.3 — here’s how to set it up.)

Apple moves ahead with all OS versions

iOS 17.2 just launched Monday, but it’s not surprising the first beta of version of iOS 17.3 is already out. That’s in line with Apple’s usual habits.

Developers also can begin testing macOS 14.3 beta 1, iPadOS 17.3 beta 1, watchOS 10.3 beta 1 and tvOS 17.3 beta 1. Previous versions of these reached consumers Monday, too.

The general public does not yet have access to these prerelease versions of Apple’s operating systems. And developers should not expect Apple to introduce the second betas of these OSs before January. (The development process traditionally slows down during the holidays.)

As testing only just started, the wait for the final release of any of these versions likely will stretch into February.


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