Apple is making it harder for iPhone thieves to access your personal information if they get ahold of your device’s passcode. As reported by The Wall Street Journal, Apple includes new Stolen Device Protection in its iOS 17.3 beta that, when enabled, would require authentication through Face ID or Touch ID to perform certain actions.
The new feature appears to come in response to the concerns raised in previous reports by The Wall Street Journal describing how thieves watch their victims type in their iPhone passcodes and then steal their devices. This gives thieves access to a trove of personal and financial information stored on the device, allowing them to lock victims out of their iCloud accounts and spend thousands of dollars using saved payment information.
If you opt in to the feature, you would have to verify your identity with face or fingerprint biometrics when doing things like viewing your saved passwords in iCloud Keychain, applying for a new Apple Card, factory resetting your device, using saved payment methods in Safari, and turning off Lost Mode. This way, thieves wouldn’t be able to steal your information even if they have your phone and the passcode.
For even more sensitive actions, like changing your Apple ID password, changing your iPhone passcode, or turning off Find My, the new Stolen Device Protection feature adds an additional hurdle if the device is somewhere other than locations you often frequent, like at home or in the office. It requires you to not only verify your identity with Face ID or Touch ID but also wait one hour and then repeat the authentication process again.
“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,” Apple spokesperson Scott Radcliffe says in a statement to The Verge. “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.”
The solution should at least make stealing iPhones less enticing for thieves — and much more difficult to carry out actions that could upend users’ digital lives.
Update December 12th, 3:31PM ET: Added a statement from Apple.