Apple Watch Vulnerable to Theft With No Activation Lock

Our iPhones and iPads are protected by Activation Lock, a security feature that prevents thieves from wiping and using a stolen Apple device with a new account, but the recently released Apple Watch has no similar security feature.

As pointed out by iDownloadBlog in a detailed post on the security of the Apple Watch, there is nothing that stops a lost or stolen Apple Watch from being wiped and paired with a new iPhone. The Apple Watch has a passcode option that requires a sequence of numbers to be entered every time it's removed from a wrist, but the passcode protects only data.

The passcode is also easily bypassed with a reset. Pressing down on the side button of the Apple Watch brings up the power down options and a force press on this screen brings up an option to Erase All content and Settings. Erasing the Apple Watch in this manner erases the passcode and allows the Apple Watch to be paired with a new device, with no hint of the original owner's information available.

applewatchpasscode
Because there's no Activation Lock and because the Apple Watch is reliant on the iPhone, there's also no Find My iPhone option to locate a lost or stolen Apple Watch. Due to this lack of security, it's possible the Apple Watch will become a major target for thieves.

It's an expensive device (especially the higher-end Edition versions), it's compact, it's highly desirable, it has a high resale value like all of Apple's products, and it's easily visible on a wrist rather than hidden away in a bag or pocket like an iPhone. In short, it's an easy target for muggers.

iPhone theft in major cities like San Francisco and New York became such an issue that government officials called for Apple and other cell phone manufacturers to implement a "kill switch" that would disable stolen devices, leading to the eventual release of Activation Lock alongside iOS 7.

Activation Lock had a positive impact on smartphone thievery, dropping iPhone theft by 25 percent in New York, 40 percent in San Francisco, and 50 percent in London as of early 2015. If Apple Watch theft causes crime rates to spike like iPhone theft, it's possible lawmakers will once again step in to call upon Apple to improve the security of the wrist worn device.

As iDownloadBlog notes, Apple could potentially introduce stricter security measures in a future version of Watch OS. A simple solution would check the last known Apple ID of a paired device, refusing a new connection without a password or other authentication. Given the number of sensors in the Apple Watch, it's also not unimaginable that a future biometric solution could also be implemented for additional security.

Related Roundup: Apple Watch Series 6
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Buy Now)

Top Rated Comments

Goldfrapp Avatar
73 months ago
Not an issue since there are only 5 watches in the wild.
Score: 83 Votes (Like | Disagree)
bbeagle Avatar
73 months ago
Why is only Apple Watch singled out?

EVERY smart watch and NON-smart watch - even those costing thousands of dollars more - operates in the same way. Lose the watch, or get it stolen, someone else can use it like it was theirs.

Every Rolex, Timex, Moto 360.... all work the same way. Why single out Apple Watch?
Score: 81 Votes (Like | Disagree)
goobot Avatar
73 months ago

Why is only Apple Watch singled out?

EVERY smart watch and NON-smart watch - even those costing thousands of dollars more - operates in the same way. Lose the watch, or get it stolen, someone else can use it like it was theirs.

Every Rolex, Timex, Moto 360.... all work the same way. Why single out Apple Watch?

Because this is an apple form.
Score: 32 Votes (Like | Disagree)
max-man Avatar
73 months ago
Seriously? This makes it as news? Who cares? The data is protected, that is far more important.

You buy a Rolex and it gets stolen... guess what? the thief can still wear it and check the time.
Score: 29 Votes (Like | Disagree)
keysofanxiety Avatar
73 months ago


The passcode is also easily bypassed with a reset. Pressing down on the side button of the Apple Watch brings up the power down options and a force press on this screen brings up an option to Erase All content and Settings. Erasing the Apple Watch in this manner erases the passcode and allows the Apple Watch to be paired with a new device, with no hint of the original owner's information available.


Well if thieves didn't know what to do before, they do now.

At least this article should bring it to Apple's attention. I foresee an update shortly.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
deadandalive Avatar
73 months ago
Thanks for the step by step instructions letting people know why it is a great idea to steal my Watch
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

apple top apps games 2020

Apple Shares Top 20 Most Downloaded Games and Apps of 2020

Tuesday December 1, 2020 9:38 pm PST by
Alongside picks for the top iPhone, iPad, and Mac apps and games of the year, Apple today shared charts featuring the Top Games of 2020 and the Top Apps of 2020, revealing the most popular free and paid apps and games during the year. Among Us! was the top free game of 2020, followed by Call of Duty: Mobile, Roblox, and Subway Surfers. Ink Inc. Tattoo Drawing was the number four free app,...
m1 chip macbook air pro

Developer Delves Into Reasons Why Apple's M1 Chip is So Fast

Monday November 30, 2020 1:57 pm PST by
Apple's M1 chip is the fastest chip that Apple has ever released in a Mac based on single-core CPU benchmark scores, and it beats out many high-end Intel Macs when it comes to multi-core performance. Developer Erik Engheim recently shared a deep dive into the M1 chip, exploring the reasons why Apple's new processor is so much faster than the Intel chips that it replaces. First and foremost,...
maxresdefault

Italy Fines Apple $12 Million for Misleading iPhone Water Resistance Claims

Monday November 30, 2020 3:10 am PST by
Apple has been slapped with a 10 million euro ($12 million) fine by Italy's antitrust watchdog for unfair commercial practices related to its iPhone marketing in the country. One of the Apple ads cited in the Italian watchdog's proceedings (credit: setteBIT) Specifically, Apple is being charged for misleading claims in promotional messages about how deep and how long iPhones can be submerged...
General cyber monday 20 sale feature

Apple Cyber Monday 2020: Discounts on iPads, Macs, AirPods, and More [Updated]

Monday November 30, 2020 6:25 am PST by
Today is Cyber Monday, a shopping event that sees many of the same deals from Black Friday bleed over into a new week, along with a few brand new offers on everything from Apple products to related accessories. In this post we'll highlight the best online discounts that you can find on Apple devices today. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a...
16 inch MBP Mini Led

Mini-LED M1 MacBook Pro and Mini-LED iPad Pro Models Coming First Half of 2021

Monday November 30, 2020 2:24 am PST by
Apple is widely reported to be embracing mini-LED display backlighting technology for some products next year, and a new report today by DigiTimes has named several of Apple's partners in the supply chain that are expected to benefit from the switch. According to the report, Apple is set to launch its first mini-LED iPad Pro in the first quarter of 2021 and mass produce mini-LED MacBook Pro...
iphone8guide b

iOS 14.2 Quietly Added FaceTime 1080p Support to iPhone 8 and Later Models

Wednesday December 2, 2020 3:21 am PST by
Back in early November, Apple released iOS 14.2 and announced with it a slew of new features for iPhones, but one thing it didn't mention was the apparent addition of support for 1080p FaceTime calls on iPhone 8 and later devices. The little-known fact was discovered by MacMagazine, which found that Apple quietly updated the specs pages for devices like iPhone XR shortly after the release of ...
Mac Mini 2018

Apple Developers Now Able to Natively Run macOS Within AWS With Amazon EC2 Mac Instances

Monday November 30, 2020 9:01 pm PST by
As AWS re:Invent kicks off, Amazon Web Services today announced new Mac instances for Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, allowing AWS customers to run on-demand macOS workloads in the AWS cloud for the first time. Amazon says that the new feature extends the flexibility, scalability, and cost benefits of AWS to all Apple developers as those creating apps for iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, Apple...
best apps of 2020

Wakeout! Named Apple's Best App of 2020, While Zoom Earns the Title for Best iPad App

Tuesday December 1, 2020 9:26 pm PST by
Apple today shared its App Store Best of 2020 winners, highlighting its picks for the top iOS, iPadOS, and macOS apps and games released over the course of the year. Apple's iPhone App of the Year award went to Wakeout!, which is a family friendly exercise and movement app that encourages people to complete easy exercises while at home. Apple's iPad App of the Year was Zoom, which soared in...
magsafe duo charger

MagSafe Duo Charger for iPhone 12 and Apple Watch Now Available for Purchase

Tuesday December 1, 2020 4:15 pm PST by
Apple today began selling the MagSafe Duo Charger that was announced alongside the new iPhone 12 models back in October. Priced at $129, the MagSafe Duo offers a MagSafe charging puck for the iPhone 12, 12 Pro, 12 Pro Max, and 12 mini, along with an Apple Watch charger. Though the accessory was announced in October and was listed as coming soon, it was not clear when it would launch. Orders...
imac 5k 2014 video

Apple Adds First iMac Models With Retina 5K Display to Vintage Products List

Tuesday December 1, 2020 8:09 am PST by
The first iMac with a Retina 5K display is one of several iMac models that have been added to Apple's vintage products list this week. In the past, vintage Apple products were no longer eligible for repairs at the Genius Bar or at Apple Authorized Service Providers, but Apple began offering extended repairs of select vintage products in 2018. Many of the iMac models listed below will likely...