FCC panel issues recommendations on smartphone theft prevention, cites Apple's Activation Lock

Posted:
in iPhone edited December 2014
A U.S. Federal Communications Commission group tasked with developing government, industry and consumer recommendations to mitigate device theft issued a report on Thursday lauding Apple's iOS Activation Lock feature as model deterrent.

Activation Lock


The FCC's Report of Technological Advisory Council (TAC) Subcommittee on Mobile Device Theft Prevention (MDTP) (PDF link) is a step toward developing possible solutions to stop smartphone theft in America, which the MDTP Working Group found to exceed well over one million handsets a year. Apple is a current TAC IV council member along with numerous tech companies and wireless carriers.

Much of the information disclosed in the MDTP report -- at least concerning Apple -- is not new and comes from the SOS initiative, an effort to thwart smartphone thefts on the part of law enforcement agencies in New York City, San Francisco and London. AppleInsider first reported SOS findings in June, and the FCC's report reprints the highlights (PDF link).

Six months after implementing Activation Lock in iOS 7, iPhone thefts in San Francisco dropped by 38 percent, while New York City saw robberies and grand larcenies involving iPhones fall a respective 19 percent and 29 percent, the SOS report found. In London, Apple product thefts were down by 24 percent. The statistics were cited by the MDTP group as an effective example of industry-sourced security technology alongside solutions from wireless carriers and other manufacturers.

Apple's Activation Lock was introduced as part of Find My iPhone in iOS 7. When switched on, the system requires the original Apple ID and password used to activate the device to turn off Find My iPhone, wipe the phone's data, or re-activate it after being deactivated.

As for moving forward with a cohesive national plan, the MDTP panel recommends the FCC "establish a common national framework for smartphone anti-theft measures and explore the basis for preemption." To achieve that goal, it is recommended that the FCC apply Part I of the CTIA "Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment," which Apple supports, and current California and Minnesota state laws as a basis for the framework.

It is also suggested that the FCC remain technology neutral in establishing a framework, leaving security solutions up to industry players so as not to stifle innovation. Other recommendations include creating databases of stolen device IMEIs, carrier-side prevention, adequate law enforcement practices and, for tech companies, ongoing research into anti-theft systems and consumer outreach.

The group could not conclusively say where stolen smartphones end up, but anecdotal evidence suggests at least a portion is being exported out of the country. As such, the report expressed the need for urgency in rolling out changes. According to The Wall Street Journal, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler on Thursday said he plans to send out copies of the MDTP report to cellular carrier CEOs, expecting responses within 30 days as to how they plan to implement the commission's recommendations.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 7
    "Find my iPhone" has the two-fold effect of making iPhone the most valuable (for the user) AND least valuable (for the criminal) phone!
  • Reply 2 of 7
    philboogiephilboogie Posts: 7,438member
    Activation Lock is indeed a useful feature. And when one is shopping around for a 2nd hand iPhone you should ask the seller to turn it off and then back on. If they don't know the AppleID/password then don't buy the phone. Easy.
  • Reply 3 of 7
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,007member

    So the FCC is happy with Apple's security methods. Maybe they should go talk to the NSA and tell them to grow up.

  • Reply 4 of 7
    matrix07matrix07 Posts: 1,993member

    I just re-watched The Net (1995). Not only it was full of Apple computers, but the malicious program was called Gate Keeper and in the last scene Sandra Bullock fought the bad guy in Moscone Centre. :cool:

    Too bad not a single word about "Cloud". :)

  • Reply 5 of 7

    Activation lock is a nice steps for Apple and I hope in future they will provide much more sophisticated method to prevent phone theft. Few days ago, women found here stolen iPhone in Starbucks but sadly could not reclaim it. We do not want these types of incidents happens any more.

  • Reply 6 of 7
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,793member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post



    Activation Lock is indeed a useful feature. And when one is shopping around for a 2nd hand iPhone you should ask the seller to turn it off and then back on. If they don't know the AppleID/password then don't buy the phone. Easy.



    Yep, and you should see the posts in the Apple Discussion forums from “users” wanting to know how to circumvent Activation Lock. They come up with some pretty sad stories of how they “forgot” their Apple ID and password and have a legit reason to get around it. They probably bought a stolen iPhone from some shady character but of course they claim they bought one from a friend who didn’t turn off Find My iPhone first and now they are stuck. When told they are S.O.L. they get all righteously indignant, labeling Apple evil and greedy and forcing them to buy a new device just to make money. It can get quite hilarious.

  • Reply 7 of 7
    lkrupp wrote: »
    philboogie wrote: »
    Activation Lock is indeed a useful feature. And when one is shopping around for a 2nd hand iPhone you should ask the seller to turn it off and then back on. If they don't know the AppleID/password then don't buy the phone. Easy.


    Yep, and you should see the posts in the Apple Discussion forums from “users” wanting to know how to circumvent Activation Lock. They come up with some pretty sad stories of how they “forgot” their Apple ID and password and have a legit reason to get around it. They probably bought a stolen iPhone from some shady character but of course they claim they bought one from a friend who didn’t turn off Find My iPhone first and now they are stuck. When told they are S.O.L. they get all righteously indignant, labeling Apple evil and greedy and forcing them to buy a new device just to make money. It can get quite hilarious.

    I think the Apple Discussion Forums are ridiculous and preposterous. So I guess I agree, it can indeed get quite hilarious.
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