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A complex but concerning method of gaining control over a user’s iPhone and permanently locking them out the device appears to be on the rise.
Some iPhone thieves are exploiting a security setting, called the recovery key, that makes it nearly impossible for owners to access their photos, messages, data and more, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report. Some victims also told the publication their bank accounts were drained after the thieves gained access to their financial apps.
It’s important to note, however, this type of takeover is hard to pull off. It requires a criminal essentially watching an iPhone user enter the device’s passcode – for example, by looking over their shoulder at a bar or sporting event – or manipulating the device’s owner so they’ll share their passcode. And that’s all before they physically steal the device.
From there, a thief could use the passcode to change the device’s Apple ID, turn off “Find my iPhone” so their location can’t be tracked, and then reset the recovery key, a complex 28-digit code intended to protect its owners from online hackers.
Apple requires this key to help reset or regain access to an Apple ID in an effort to bolster the user’s security, but if a thief changes it, the original owner will not have the new code and will be locked out of the account.