Since the implementation of the “kill switch” last year, iPhone robbery related crimes have dropped significantly across the world. In a report released by the New York Times, iPhone theft in London has fallen 24%, San Francisco by 38%, and New York by 19%.
When compared against last year these are great improvements and all signs point to the addition of the kill switch. Especially when you consider that other mobile related thefts are still in the rise or have remained the same. Even as the number of iPhones in use continue to rise, the number of thefts have dropped thanks to the remote kill switch feature.
How to Setup and Use the Kill Switch
The Apple kill switch or activation lock was a feature added to iOS 7 which lets users remotely lock and wipe their iPhones in the event that their phones are stolen or lost. To enable this feature you must first enable “Find my iPhone.” Go to Settings -> iCloud -> Sign in with your Apple ID -> Turn on Find My iPhone.
If your phone is lost or stolen, to activate the kill switch:
- Visit icloud.com/find
- Log in with your Apple ID and set your phone to “lost mode”. You will have the option to display a phone number and a message in case the phone was lost and found by someone nice enough to return it to you. You can otherwise remotely wipe all your data and it will be locked.
With iCloud Activation, as a deterrent for thieves, if the iPhone is remotely wiped and locked then the original owner's username and password are required to reactivate the phone for use with a wireless carrier. Without these credentials the iPhone remains encrypted and locked preventing anyone from using it.
The feature however isn't perfect; security experts explain that there are ways to circumnavigate the Apple kill switch. For example, in order to activate the lock a signal must be sent to your iPhone, if the thief manages to place your iPhone on airplane mode blocking all incoming data before you implement the kill switch then your phone won’t receive the signal to wipe and lock itself. We also reported on a bug allowing you to bypass required iCloud password.
Microsoft, Samsung and Google will follow
These problems however don't take away from the huge success the kill switch has brought to the market. So much so that Google and Microsoft are now working to implement a kill switch of their own for their devices. As theft of Samsung's Android based devices which don’t include a kill switch rose by 51% in New York, Samsung has implemented for their top tier device, the S5, their own version of the kill switch. The reactivation lock requires users to create an account directly with Samsung and authenticate their phone via a second setup similar to that of the iOS 7's lock Microsoft is working with the CTIA to improve their “Find My Phone” feature allowing users to remotely lock and wipe their phones if lost or stolen and preventing reactivation without the proper credentials. However, there is no deadline for when these new features will be made available.