Security experts contracted to attempt to bypass iOS 7’s Activation Lock feature

iOS 7 activation lock

Earlier this year, San Francisco’s district attorney George Gascón met with Apple’s government rep Michael Foulkes to discuss the rising number of iPhone thefts. He felt like the company could be doing more, on a technological level, to thwart these would-be thieves.

Apple responded in a major way. In June, the company introduced a new feature in iOS 7 called Activation Lock, which can prevent thieves from activating a stolen handset without the proper credentials. But while Gascón says he appreciates the effort, he’s not convinced…

CNET has the statement:

“While we are appreciative of the efforts made by Apple and Samsung to improve security of the devices they sell, we are not going to take them at their word,” Schneiderman and Gascón said in a joint statement. “Today we will assess the solutions they are proposing and see if they stand up to the tactics commonly employed by thieves.”

The assessment involves them bringing in experts from the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center to try and bypass the security measures—on both an iPhone 5 and Galaxy S4—and gain access to the devices as if they were someone who had stolen the phone.

From their press release:

“During a meeting today in San Francisco, technical experts – including representatives from the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC) – will be given an Apple iPhone 5 with a new anti-theft security feature known as “Activation Lock” enabled and a Samsung Galaxy s4 with a new anti-theft security feature known as “Lojack for Android” enabled.  The smartphones will be treated as if they were stolen by thieves, and attempts will be made to circumvent the anti-theft features. “

Today’s experiment was announced as part of Schneiderman and Gascón’s Secure Our Smartphone (S.O.S.) initiative. It’s an attempt to protect US smartphone owners from violent theft and thievery referred to as ‘Apple picking,’ which has been on the rise in recent years.

In June, Schneiderman and Gascón said that they were optimistic about Apple’s anti-theft initiative, but warned that they would “reserve judgment on the activation lock feature” until they could prove it worked. Today’s test is an obvious effort to alleviate their concerns.

For what it’s worth, Apple’s upcoming iPhone 5S smartphone, which is expected to launch this fall, is said to have a built-in fingerprint sensor. If true, that would surely add a number of other security features to Apple’s handset that would further help prevent theft.