iPhone display units are preloaded with a software kill switch to discourage theft

By , Oct 17, 2016

apple store canada iphone-security-tethers-removed

Apple’s long preloaded special OS images on display devices in stores. When news broke that it’s started removing security tethers from iPhone display units at flagship stores to let users try how the iPhone fits in their pocket, I thought the move would encourage thieves to lift untethered devices.

That could prove easier said than done due to a software kill switch that automatically disables the device if a customer goes out of range of the store Wi-Fi.

Ben Lovejoy, writing for 9to5Mac:

A source tells us that the current special OS images on demo devices include a software ‘kill switch’ which disables them when they go out of range of the store Wi-Fi. This means that Apple no longer has to use Find My iPhone to disable them manually.

It’s also possible that Apple is using Bluetooth-driven indoor positioning iBeacon technology to sense when a customer is leaving the store with a stolen device. Devices used for workshops also protected with a software kill switch, the report claims.

Apple’s Regent Street store in London, which re-opened this past Saturday after more than a year of refurbishment, no longer has security tethers on display iPhone units. Apple has also removed security tethers from display devices at the Yorkdale store in Toronto and one of its stores in Canada.

Now, Apple Stores have security cameras (even if you cannot see them) and display devices probably use Find My iPhone and Activation Lock to render any stolen devices useless.

The problem with these methods is that theft of display units could easily go undetected provided a thief has powered down the device to prevent services like Find My iPhone that require network connection from functioning properly.

Although Activation Lock makes stolen devices inoperable, stolen devices could still b sold on the black market to shady repair shops for parts.

Source: 9to5Mac

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  • n0ahcruz3

    Uhm.. duh?

  • Jamessmooth

    Wait… so Apple had another way to prevent theft after taking off the tethers? Unbelievable. (sarcasm).

  • Michael Walker

    Honestly though, even if the device is bricked, you can still make $400-$500 parting it out.

    • Ninja Ass

      Can tell me which part they can sell because I am ninja n I am going to sell it

      • Michael Walker

        The screen for a iPhone 7/7+ is upwards over $200

      • Screen, battery, the gloss black housing would be a great seller..

  • Favna

    Huh.. I actually approve of this. Good move Apple!

  • Virus

    People will put the iPhone to see if it fits in their pocket and replace it with a Chinese knock off walk out and sell it for spear parts easy $200-400

  • Giacomo Castellucci

    what could happen if you enable Airplane Mode (or turn off any connection)? would they even let you do that?

    • Ninja Ass

      Did you read article?

      • Giacomo Castellucci

        ehmm… yes, and it doesn’t mention if enabling Airplane mode or disabling bluetooth or turning the device off entirely will be permitted or disabled via software restrictions

  • Michael Walker

    Imagine if the power goes out and the wifi router turns off. 30+ bricked iPhones here we come!

    • Presumably they also have the key to the activation lock, so in the event of a power loss, they could just re-activate the units.

  • Jose Rivera

    I have actually checked the IMEI of the devices in the stores and all of them come up clean on “Activation Lock”. Meaning you can wipe the device using iTunes and it should not show up as activation locked. I was curious to see if they really were protected by that since there isn’t a reset switch in their custom display OS.

    • RustyShackleford716

      You do know that IMEI is for carrier locks and not for an iCloud lock right…

      • Jose Rivera

        You do know that you can use the IMEI to find out every bit of information about an iPhone and it doesn’t pretrain to just carriers and blacklists right??? Apple themselves uses the IMEI on iPhones to identify them way more than the serial number that comes with them. You know you can use the IMEI on many websites to find out the carrier, capacity, blacklist, iCloud status, warranty status, manufacture date, country of purchase, and things like that right? Nope because everyone only assumes that IMEI’s are for your carrier only.

    • They cannot be restored to a regular OS, the software installed on them is connected to a separate sever rendering them useless after a restore… it will just tell you the device cannot be activated.

  • Mike M. Powell

    We got a mini black friday going on here. And They better lock the Apple Retail Stores on those dates or slap em back on the cables ._.”

  • :D

    I hope an alarm is set off too since it doesn’t become worthless even when bricked

  • Of course there will probably be lots of failed attempts at theft.

  • Gethro

    That’s actually a pretty good idea I wish I could’ve done that from my personal phone when it’s not near me the Kill switch would activate

  • siddique

    apple is bitch when comes to security terms , cant they put password require system when turning off the phone ..!!