Recently, the NYC police department announced that they have created a special division to deal with iPhone and iPad device theft. It has become such a problem in large cities that police are devoting special teams to cope. Dear Apple, it’s time for you do do something about it.
I’ve known many people that have had iPhones and iPads stolen right from their hands. Criminals often grab the devices out of their victims’ hands and disappear before the victim even knows what happened. This almost happened to me yesterday; I was oblivious to what was going on, and it was pure luck the criminal missed getting a good hold on my device and I got to keep my iPhone. Many others aren’t as lucky.
iPhone snatching is a crime of opportunity and Apple has the ability to eliminate that opportunity or at least make it much less profitable.
Apple devices are hotly sought after, and that will always make them a target for crime. Even so, technology should be able to alleviate much of the resale value and limit the potential for data being lost. The issue is really in two parts: data security and device security.
There are a few things that Apple can do to help with data security. One big issue that seems to be a glaring omission is that an iOS device can be turned off even if it’s locked. This provides the criminal with the opportunity to avoid remote tracking and erase via Find My iPhone by just turning off the device.
If the device couldn’t be turned off when locked, the opportunity would be there to at least track or even wipe the device remotely. The piece of mind the ability to wipe a device would give to victims is immense.
But how about doing something about the actual resale value of devices? Apple tracks every single iOS device. With that ability comes the opportunity to permanently disable devices reported as stolen. Remember that registration screen that pops up when a new iOS device is activated? It shows up either in iTunes or on the device itself. That information all goes into a database at Apple. If your device is re-registered to someone else, or even connected to a network, Apple knows about it.
Apple, how about giving the registered owner the ability to report a device stolen? And if it’s seen on the Internet after being reported as stolen, deactivate it permanently. Something like this would make iOS devices, without some sophisticated and very expensive modifications, worthless for resale.
Wouldn’t that help reduce crime, if criminals knew that a stolen device would be unusable and therefore nearly worthless?
Interim steps could be taken as well. For instance, with prompts for configuration, turn on Find my iPhone by default when the device is registered. Getting users to verify their registrations and giving them tips on protecting their device and what to do if it is lost or stolen would also help.
iPhone and iPad theft it a huge deal around the world. I think it’s time that Apple stepped up and helped users keep their devices secure. The technology and the need is most certainly there, will Apple help?
Editors note: I know that open letters are pretentious and stupid. It’s really just a method to get ideas out there. They maybe ignored, but at least I got this off my chest.
[ Image credit: By Poulpy (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons ]