Lookout Features New Smartphone Security App. While Apple's Phones Are Held For Ransom
Most recent smartphones come with access to free software that can report their location, remotely lock themselves and erase all their content. You can use these programs, like Apple's free Find My iPhone, to track a phone thief in real time as he moves across town.
Lookout isn't the first app to take photos of thieves, but the company integrated it into a wider set of alerts. You get a theftie when Lookout spots any of the common steps criminals take when they steal a phone.
In my tests, I caught snaps of a colleague who snatched my phone and was able to track him to a block in downtown San Francisco. But it wasn't perfect: The location information wouldn't have been good enough for me to isolate him if he'd been a stranger. And Lookout's "scream" feature, which turns the phone into a police siren, wasn't loud enough for me to hear half a block away. (The company says scream was designed more to help people find phones lost in couches than to spook thieves.)
Lookout does more on Android phones, including firing off a theftie after an incorrect passcode. Its protections are more limited on an iPhone. Lookout can never take thefties, as Apple's privacy protections restrict remote access to the camera.
The restrictions raise a good question: Does Lookout violate privacy by taking covert photos? Lookout says it limits photography to suspicious situations, and I agree that somebody trespassing on my device can't expect privacy.
Another key question: Why shouldn't the industry provide better smartphone security?Lawmakers, cellphone makers and carriers are squabbling over the idea of a universal kill switch to turn stolen phones into bricks. Carriers, which profit from selling insurance policies and replacement phones, claim hackers could wreak havoc by exploiting a switch—a weak excuse for an industry with deep security expertise.
If you have an iPhone, just turn on Find My iPhone. If you have an Android phone and are worried about theft, $30 a year for Lookout's services would be well spent. A theftie alert was the first sign I had in some of my tests that my phone had been snatched.
Moreover, Lookout's real-time reports can help you make important decisions, like whether to wipe its data or call it while it is in someone's hands.
Then there's the real-life test: Earlier this month, a beta user of the Lookout software in Dyersburg, Tenn., had her phone stolen while shopping at Wal-Mart, according to local police. When the suspected thieves mistyped her passcode, Lookout snapped thefties and sent them to her. She gave the photos to the police and posted them on Facebook.
A few days later, a friend of the victim identified the suspects by name. Police say after that the suspects turned themselves in and returned the phone.
"Pictures don't lie," says Captain Mark Moody, a spokesman for Dyersburg police. Now that's digital justice.
Apple's iPhones, iPads And Macs Are Held For Ransom
Meanwhile, Apple has confirmed a breach of iCloud security was not the reason iPhone and iPad users had devices locked and held for ransom.
Following multiple reports earlier this week from iPhone, iPad and Mac users in Australia, New Zealand and even the UK that devices connected to their iCloud account were being locked, Apple has finally acknowledged the issue but denied it was the result of a breach of iCloud security.
However the company has urged users who have been affected to change their Apple ID password whenever they can.
In a short statement , Apple said:
Apple takes security very seriously and iCloud was not compromised during this incident. Impacted users should change their Apple ID password as soon as possible and avoid using the same user name and password for multiple services. Any users who need additional help can contact AppleCare or visit their local Apple Retail Store.
The incident came to light on Monday when numerous Apple customers in Australia reported finding themselves locked out of their iPhone, iPad or Mac computers and a message demanding a $100 (£60) ransom be paid to a hacker only known as Oleg Pliss.
With Apple ruling out an iCloud server attack, then the attacker is likely making use of another database of usernames and passwords compromised from another service.
As many people use the same username/password across multiple accounts, it is no surprise that a cybercriminal would be able to use credentials exposed in one breach (such as the high profile attacks on eBay and Target recently) to attack other accounts.
Once the attacker gained access to a users' Apple ID, they could use the Find my Device feature for iPhone, iPad and Mac to remotely lock the devices.
While the vast majority of the incidents have taken place in Australia, there have also been reports on Apple's Customer Support Forum from users in New Zealand, the US and the UK who have been affected, though these claims have not been verified.
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