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Officials 'Stress Test' Smartphone Anti-Theft Solutions

Officials 'Stress Test' Smartphone Anti-Theft Solutions
By Seth Fitzgerald

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Apple's iOS7 activation lock will work by requiring the original Apple ID and password in order for a user to disable Find My iPhone, wipe data, or re-activate the device once it has been deactivated. LoJack for Android is capable of remotely locking a phone and deleting personal data. Both will be stress-tested for weaknesses.
 


State and federal officials have decided to stress-test the latest Apple and Samsung smartphones in order to find weaknesses in their security.

This decision comes as part of the Secure Our Smartphone Initiative, which is being led by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Security experts will test the iPhone 5's activation lock, while the LoJack for Android application will be tested on the Samsung Galaxy S4.

The Tests

Apple is introducing the new activation lock feature with iOS 7 to try and prevent thieves from wiping a device completely clean and then selling it. Without activation lock, anyone is able to take an iPhone and restore it to factory settings simply by opening iTunes, which has led to many unrecoverable iPhones.

These thefts are so common with iPhones that they are actually called "Apple picking." Just in San Francisco and Oakland alone there were more than 2,000 smartphone thefts throughout 2012, and in New York, smartphones now make up 40 percent of all robberies.

Activation lock will work by requiring the original Apple ID and password in order for a user to disable Find My iPhone, wipe data, or re-activate the device once it has been deactivated. Gascon and Schneiderman hope to reduce the value of stolen smartphones.

"Finding technical solutions that will remove the economic value of stolen smartphones is critical to ending the national epidemic of violent street crimes commonly known as 'Apple Picking,' " the two said in a joint statement.

One of the original statistics provided when the duo was starting the Secure Our Smartphones Initiative was that 113 smartphones are stolen every minute in the U.S., with 70 percent of them iPhones. This statistic alone makes the stress tests worth it and increase the overall importance of a feature like activation lock.

LoJack for Android will also be tested for slightly different reasons. The $30-per-year LoJack application is capable of remotely locking a phone and deleting personal data. Experts will attempt to break past the security features present in LoJack as if they were a thief that was attempting to wipe a phone prior to selling it.

Preventing Thefts

Although these tests will undoubtedly be beneficial for iOS 7 devices and current LoJack users, smartphone thefts are still very common and testing just two devices will not prevent all thefts. This has resulted in some measures already being put in place to try and inhibit the ability for thieves to be successful with any smartphone.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have announced that all of the major U.S. cell phone carriers have agreed to help set up a database that will track reported stolen phones. Along with setting up a database, Schumer has also introduced legislation in the U.S. Senate, the Mobile Device Theft Deterrence Act, which proposes a five-year prison sentence for tampering with any identification numbers on a cell phone.
 

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Posted: 2014-03-24 @ 12:48pm PT
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