Apple’s new stolen device protection has a major vulnerability. Here’s exactly how

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Creative illustration of a passcode

Getty Images/Boris Zhitkov

Last week, Apple released iOS 17.3 with many anticipated updates such as collaborative Apple Music playlists and AirPlay Hotel support. One of the biggest highlights was a new stolen device protection; However, it is not as safe as we first thought.

Stolen Device Protection in iOS 17.3 means adding an extra layer of protection to prevent bad actors who have your passcode from completing critical operations like changing your Apple ID password, which would prevent you from being able to track or identify your iPhone. . theft

Also: This new iPhone app fuses AI with web search, saving you time and energy

With the feature enabled, performing important actions on your phone when your phone is away from a known location, such as the office or home, requires additional security requirements, including biometric authentication, such as Face ID or Touch ID, or a security delay, which requires You can verify your biometrics a second time after one hour.

In theory, this is a perfect solution since being in a known location — like your home — usually means the device is in your possession However, who determines whether a location is known and it’s worth putting your phone under security guard?

As spotted by 9 to 5 Mac, Apple uses it to determine how often you visit a place that’s an important — in other words, “familiar” — location. This can become a security issue when you frequent less secure places like your favorite grocery store, bar, or cafe, and Apple, therefore, flags any of these as important locations.

To see how many notable locations you have, you can see Settings > Privacy & Security > Location Services > System Services > Significant Locations.

Also: How to use iPhone’s Security Key feature to protect your Apple ID

I was surprised that Apple detected 197 records of significant locations on my phone between December 4, 2023 and January 28, 2024, including a pizzeria where I ate for an hour yesterday and a deli that I never entered but was nearby.

As you’ve probably guessed, I don’t have 197 locations that I frequent every day; Therefore, having the feature enabled will do more harm than good. The good news is that you can turn off important locations by following the instructions above and only by toggling off important locations

Notable location

Screenshot by Sabrina Ortiz/ZDNET

It’s important to note that once you turn off the important location feature, your phone will still need Face ID for important operations even when you’re in an actual known location like your home. Therefore, if you prefer not to employ biometric verification from frequent locations, this may not be the ideal solution.

Also: Super secure your iPhone. This app shows you how

If you don’t want to fully deal with anti-theft device protection, you can take a look Settings > Face ID and passcode, and then enter your passcode and turn stolen device protection on or off.

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