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An illustration of different phone unlocking methods.

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The Lengths Thieves Will Go to Unlock iPhones

In iOS 7, Apple introduced Activation Lock, which prevents an iPhone from being activated while it’s registered to an iCloud account (see “What You Need to Know about Activation Lock,” 8 October 2014). It has undoubtedly reduced the number of iPhone thefts, but as Joseph Cox and Jason Koebler explain at Motherboard, thieves have come up with ways to get around Activation Lock. The simplest is a mugging that includes the knifepoint instructions “Disable Find My iPhone, log out of iCloud, and give me your iPhone,” much as the online comic xkcd noted years ago in relation to password security. But less violent thieves are using approaches like phishing the original owner, tricking Apple Store managers into overriding Activation Lock, and even going so far as removing the CPU and reprogramming it. Unfortunately, Activation Lock’s major liability is simply human error: enough people lock themselves out of their iCloud accounts that there has to be a way to disable it.

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