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A new report from The Wall Street Journal’s Nicole Nguyen and Joanna Stern highlights how thieves are using Apple’s optional recovery key security option to permanently lock iPhone users out of their Apple ID accounts. This news follows a report in February that revealed that thieves were stealing iPhones after spying on passcodes in public places. With knowledge of the passcode, thieves could easily reset the victim’s Apple ID password in the Settings app and disable Find My iPhone, preventing the owner from tracking its location or remotely erasing it via iCloud.
However, the new report places more focus on an additional step that thieves can take: using the stolen device to set or reset a recovery key, a randomly generated 28-character code that is required to regain access to an Apple ID once enabled. “Apple’s policy gives users virtually no way back into their accounts without that recovery key”, the report states. With access to the stolen iPhone, the device’s passcode, and the Apple ID password, thieves can potentially steal money via Apple Pay and other banking apps, view sensitive information like photos and emails, and more.
Apple’s website does warn that losing access to both your trusted devices and recovery key means that “you could be locked out of your account permanently”. However, thieves spying on iPhone passcodes before stealing the devices means that victims only need to lose their device in order to potentially be permanently locked out. This serves as a valuable reminder to protect your iPhone’s passcode in public.
In response to the previous report, Apple said it is “always investigating additional protections against emerging threats like this one”. “We sympathize with people who have had this experience and we take all attacks on our users very seriously, no matter how rare”, an Apple spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal. “We work tirelessly every day to protect our users’ accounts and data, and are always investigating additional protections against emerging threats like this one”.
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As Apple continues to investigate additional protections, it is important for iPhone users to remain vigilant in protecting their passcodes and devices, especially in public places. With the potential for thieves to gain access to sensitive information and steal money, it is crucial to take steps to prevent such incidents from occurring.