Nicole Nguyen and Joanna Stern recently published an article in The Wall Street Journal that delves into the potential consequences of having your iPhone stolen, particularly if the thieves can bypass the phone’s security settings. Even if you haven’t experienced this firsthand, you can probably imagine how disruptive it would be to lose your phone in this way. The article explores a specific security setting on iPhones that could actually make it easier for thieves to gain access to your personal information.
Inappropriate iPhone setup
Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal reported on a disturbing trend of thieves stealing iPhones by watching owners type in their passcodes. This tactic allows the thieves to wreak havoc by using Apple Pay and accessing sensitive data stored on the phone. While victims may eventually recover their funds, retrieving lost files and contacts is much harder, especially if the thief generates a recovery key and locks the owner out of their Apple account.
Apple introduced recovery keys in 2020 to bolster the security of Apple accounts. These 28-character codes turn off account recovery and must be provided to regain access to an account. However, generating a recovery key is a double-edged sword: it enhances security while increasing the risk of losing account access to thieves.
Apple acknowledges that account recovery is a helpful process when users forget their passwords, but this also means that thieves can use the process to lock owners out of their accounts by generating a recovery key using a stolen iPhone and passcode. Even if the owner has already generated a recovery key, thieves can still generate a new one, rendering the old one useless.
Apple takes the security of its users seriously and is constantly working to improve it. Unfortunately, there is no clear solution to this problem. Using Face ID as often as possible or using a more complex alphanumeric passcode are the best options. To set up a custom passcode, go to Settings > Face ID & Passcode > Change Passcode > Passcode Options. While there is no foolproof way to prevent theft, these measures can help minimize the damage.