New York Mulls New Anti-Theft Measures as Smartphone Thefts Continue to Surge

The New York City Council is considering a new measure to help fight iPhone and other smartphone thefts, in the form of a pawn shop bill that would require second hand dealers and pawn brokers to maintain easily accessible electronic records of purchased items, including photographs and serial numbers. Current law mandates non-electronic inventory records.

According to the New York Daily News, police believe such a measure would make it easier to search for stolen smartphones, Apple products, and other items, though pawn shop owners have opposed the bill, declaring it an invasion of customer privacy.

iPhone and iPad thefts continue to be a major issue for law enforcement, despite ongoing efforts to implement various theft deterrent programs. As noted earlier this year, in 2012 there were 16,000 "Apple picking" thefts in New York city, which accounted for 14 percent of all crime. As of last week, 45 percent of robberies involved cell phones, and half of those stolen devices were iPhones.

ios7_activation_lock
While Apple introduced Activation Lock with iOS 7, preventing stolen phones from being reactivated without an iCloud password, theft of Apple products continues to be an issue for users who have not activated iCloud or upgraded to iOS 7.

Both San Francisco district attorney George Gascón and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who have spearheaded anti-theft efforts, have praised Activation Lock, calling it the "world's first attempt to implement a technological solution to the global smartphone theft epidemic."

The two have also been pushing other cellphone makers to implement kill switches, allowing for the remote deactivation of a stolen phone. Yesterday, The New York Times reported Gascón had been working with Samsung on such an antitheft feature, but was running into trouble getting wireless carriers to cooperate.

While Apple has struck a deal with carriers that disallows them from controlling the software on iOS devices, other carriers, which ship with the Android operating system, do not have similar deals. Carriers are able to install proprietary software and have some measure of control over what manufacturers install on the phones as well.

Mr. Gascón said that, based on e-mails he had reviewed between a Samsung executive and a software developer, it appeared that the carriers were unwilling to allow Samsung to load the antitheft software. The emails, he said, suggest that the carriers are concerned that the software would eat into the profit they make from the insurance programs many consumers buy to cover lost or stolen phones.

According to the CTIA, an industry trade group that represents carriers, kill switches are not an acceptable anti-theft solution, as it introduces a method for hackers to remotely disable phones. The CTIA and the four major wireless carriers in the United States have instead backed a centralized database designed to track stolen phones, but it has reportedly been largely ineffectual.

Gascón has said that he is evaluating what actions to take against the carriers for refusing to allow Samsung to implement a kill switch on its phones, and has said that he will force them to "prioritize the safety of their customers over additional money in their pockets."

As for the pawn shop bill, it remains under consideration. New York City lawmakers have also recently introduced legislation that would make it illegal for businesses to sell used smartphones without obtaining proof of ownership.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
89 months ago

The thief can just restore, unlock, jailbreak the phone. Then it can be "safely" connected to the internet again.

Actually he doesn't have to go to China to do that. Given the pathetic cellular signal in the US, he just need a basement.

Advice: I think you need to read up on Activation Lock before posting again.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
89 months ago
Catch them..cut off their hands.

Worked in the past...would work now.

No real deterrence for crime nowadays.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
89 months ago
I can attest to this - my iPhone 5 just got stolen off a table I was seated outside on the patio of the restaurant.

Guy took off with it. Two dudes running - I chase in a full suit. They diverge, I go after the one who stole my phone. Catch him - he says he has my phone (the other kid is across the street and takes off). I focus my attention on the taker, check his pockets, no phone. Gone and will never see it again.

Spoke with the detective who said next time don't do that unless it's your wife/children/family - what if he had knife or a gun?
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
89 months ago

What if the thief shuts off the phone the minute he steals it, then takes the stolen phone to China where there is no US cellular signal at all, and of course without wifi, then turns on the phone. Your phone would have totally no idea that it has been stolen. It will happily tell the thief whatever information you have in it.

... Activation Lock would still be in place. The thief wouldn't be able to wipe the device and use it for themselves without the icloud login info of the rightful owner.

I'm hoping they have a passcode lock in place as well.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
89 months ago
Is there no such thing as IMEI blocking in the US ?

In Europe, your operator can block your IMEI number so your phone becomes useless right across Europe.

People don't really bother stealing phones as they know they'll get blocked.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
89 months ago
I have found a foolproof way of avoiding getting my stuff stolen in NYC: don't go to NYC!
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

iOS 14 Widgets Offer iPhone Users Creative Home Screen Ideas

Sunday September 20, 2020 8:43 pm PDT by
In iOS 14, Apple introduced ‌the concept of Home Screen‌ widgets, which provide information from apps at a glance. Widgets can be pinned to the Home Screen in various spots and sizes, allowing for many different layouts. Despite the relative lack of 3rd party widgets at launch, iOS users around the...

iPhone 12 Lineup Rumored to Be Named 'iPhone 12 mini,' 'iPhone 12,' 'iPhone 12 Pro,' and 'iPhone 12 Pro Max'

Monday September 21, 2020 5:24 am PDT by
Leaker known as "L0vetodream" has today shared the alleged naming for the upcoming iPhone 12 lineup on Twitter. The tweet proposes that the upcoming iPhone 12 models will be titled "iPhone 12 mini," "iPhone 12," "iPhone 12 Pro," and "iPhone 12 Pro Max." The names likely correspond to the three expected sizes of iPhone 12, with the 5.4-inch model being the iPhone 12 mini, the 6.7-inch model ...

Hands-On With the New Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE

Friday September 18, 2020 1:19 pm PDT by
Today's the official launch date for the Apple Watch Series 6 and the Apple Watch SE, both of which Apple announced on Tuesday. We picked up a couple of the new models and thought we'd give them a quick look for MacRumors readers thinking of ordering a new watch. Apple Watch Series 6 & Apple Watch SE Hands-On! When it comes to design, both the $399 Series 6 and the $279 SE look just like...

iOS 14 Picture in Picture No Longer Working With YouTube's Mobile Website in Safari [Without Premium]

Friday September 18, 2020 12:21 pm PDT by
Apple in iOS 14 added Picture in Picture to the iPhone, a feature designed to let you watch a video in a small screen on your device while you continue to do other things on the phone. When Picture in Picture was working with YouTube The YouTube app doesn't support Picture in Picture, but up until yesterday there was a functional workaround that allowed videos from YouTube.com to be watched...

When Will the iPhone 12 Launch? Here's What We Know

Wednesday September 16, 2020 6:12 am PDT by
Yesterday's "Time Flies" Apple event saw the release of the Apple Watch Series 6, Apple Watch SE, iPad 8, and iPad Air 4, but no new iPhone models. Rumors before the event strongly alleged that it would not see the unveiling of new iPhones, with many reports pointing to an October launch. The lack of new iPhone models yesterday seems to confirm that the iPhone 12 lineup will not appear...

Here's How You Can Download iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 Around the World [It's Out]

Wednesday September 16, 2020 2:36 am PDT by
Apple's official public release of iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 dropped on Wednesday, September 16, just a day after the company released the Golden Master to third-party developers. Also set to be made available to the general public for the first time are watchOS 7 and tvOS 14. Getting Started With iOS 14 Video Click image to watch iOS 14 Getting Started While that's left a lot of developers...

AirPods Studio Rumored to Come With U1 Chip, Ultra-Wideband Said to Be Vital to Future Apple Ecosystem

Sunday September 20, 2020 6:17 am PDT by
Proven leaker known as "L0vetodream" has today shared a range of information about the ultra-wideband U1 chip in Apple's upcoming AirTags item trackers and AirPods Studio headphones. The first of a series of tweets shared today simply stated that AirPods Studio will contain an ultra-wideband U1 chip. It seems likely that the U1 chip would be used in AirPods Studio to track the location of...

Kuo: Apple to Accelerate Adoption of Mini-LED Displays in iPad and Mac Notebook Lineups

Sunday September 20, 2020 10:00 pm PDT by
Increased competition among Apple's suppliers for mini-LED display chips will accelerate the company's adoption of the advanced technology in its iPad and MacBook lineups, according to a new research note from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo seen by MacRumors. Kuo says that while Epistar had been predicted to be the exclusive supplier of mini-LED chips for Apple products in 2021, Sanan Optoelectronics...

Top Stories: Apple Event Recap, Apple Watch Series 6, Redesigned iPad Air, and More

Saturday September 19, 2020 6:00 am PDT by
This week's news was obviously dominated by Apple's media event and the launch of iOS 14, but there was a lot to digest, so check out our summary below for the high-level view of the past week. With the exception of the massively redesigned iPad Air, all of the new hardware introduced this week is starting to appear on store shelves and on customers' doorsteps, while all of the new software...

Apple Updates AirPods 2 and AirPods Pro Firmware to Version 3A283

Monday September 14, 2020 11:24 am PDT by
Apple today released new 3A283 firmware updates for the second-generation AirPods and the AirPods Pro. The second-generation AirPods are being updated from the 2D15 firmware they were previously running, while the AirPods Pros are being updated from the 2D27 firmware they had installed previously. Apple does not provide details on what's included in refreshed firmware so we don't know what's ...