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 (Neutral)

Top Rated Comments

Goldfrapp Avatar
76 months ago
Not an issue since there are only 5 watches in the wild.
Score: 83 Votes (Like | Disagree)
bbeagle Avatar
76 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
76 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
76 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
76 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
76 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

whatsapp privacy banner

WhatsApp Reveals What Happens to Users Who Don't Agree to Upcoming Privacy Policy Changes

Sunday February 21, 2021 1:11 am PST by
WhatsApp has revealed how it will gradually limit the features available to accounts held by users who do not accept the platform's impending privacy policy changes, due to come into effect on May 15. WhatsApp's new banner explaining the privacy policy changes According to an email seen by TechCrunch to one of its merchant partners, WhatsApp said it will "slowly ask" users who have not yet...
new airpods leaked image 52audios

Alleged Leaked Image Claims to Show Third-Generation AirPods and Case

Sunday February 21, 2021 2:49 am PST by
A new image claims to offer our first real world look at Apple's next-generation AirPods. The image, shared by 52audio, showcases both AirPods and the charging case for what the site claims to be the third iteration of the wireless earbuds. 52audio has in the past shared images claiming to showcase different parts of the third-generation AirPods. Most notably, the site in November shared...
2021 mbp sd slot feature2

Kuo: New MacBook Pro Models With HDMI Port and SD Card Reader to Launch Later This Year

Monday February 22, 2021 8:52 pm PST by
Apple plans to release two new MacBook Pro models equipped with an HDMI port and SD card reader in the second half of 2021, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who outlined his expectations in a research note obtained by MacRumors. The return of an SD card reader was first reported by Bloomberg's Mark Gurman last month. "We predict that Apple's two new MacBook Pro models in 2H21 will have...
mac security privacy

Apple Takes Step to Prevent Further Spread of 'Silver Sparrow' Malware on Macs

Monday February 22, 2021 6:13 am PST by
Over the weekend, we reported on the second known piece of malware compiled to run natively on M1 Macs. Given the name "Silver Sparrow," the malicious package is said to leverage the macOS Installer JavaScript API to execute suspicious commands. After observing the malware for over a week, however, security firm Red Canary did not observe any final payload, so the exact threat to users remains a...
iphone 12 pro display video

BOE Rumored to Supply iPhone 13 Display Panels After iPhone 12 Failures

Monday February 22, 2021 9:54 am PST by
Display manufacturer BOE will be one of the main suppliers of OLED panels for iPhone 13 models, according to a new report today from Taiwan's Economic Daily News. BOE is said to be working with touch panel manufacturer General Interface Solution (GIS), part of the Hon Hai Group to develop OLED panels. Multiple iPhone 12 rumors suggested that BOE would supply some panels for the devices,...
pink squares macos

Apple Investigating Issue With 'Pink Squares' Appearing on Displays Connected to M1 Mac Mini

Sunday February 21, 2021 11:08 am PST by
In an internal memo this week, obtained by MacRumors, Apple informed service providers that it is aware of and investigating an issue that may result in "pink squares or pixels" appearing on displays connected to an M1 Mac mini. Image via Twitter user @FatihVidyograf This issue has been reported by users across the Apple Support Communities, MacRumors Forums, and Reddit since the M1 Mac mini...
Top Stories 47 Feature

Top Stories: More iOS 14.5 Beta Changes, iPhone 13 Rumors, Apple Watch Charging Issue Fixed

Saturday February 20, 2021 6:00 am PST by
Apple is continuing to tweak things during the iOS 14.5 beta testing period, and it looks like there will be some nice changes coming in the update when it's released to the public in a month or so. This week also saw the release of a watchOS bug fix update for Series 5 and Series SE owners, addressing a serious issue where their watches may not charge after entering Power Reserve mode,...
google chrome macos big sur

Chrome Used 10X More RAM Than Safari on macOS Big Sur in Recent Test [Updated]

Saturday February 20, 2021 12:52 pm PST by
Under normal and lightweight web browsing, Google Chrome uses 10x more RAM than Safari on macOS Big Sur, according to a test conducted by Flotato creator Morten Just (via iMore). In a blog post, Just outlines that he put both browsers to the test in two scenarios on the latest version of macOS. The first test was conducted on a virtual machine, and the second on a 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro...
m1 mac mini

M1 Mac Users Report Excessive SSD Wear

Tuesday February 23, 2021 7:07 am PST by
Over the past week, some M1 Mac users have been reporting alarming SSD health readings, suggesting that these devices are writing extraordinary amounts of data to their drives (via iMore). Across Twitter and the MacRumors forums, users are reporting that M1 Macs are experiencing extremely high drive writes over a short space of time. In what appear to be the most severe cases, M1 Macs are sai...
maxresdefault

Revisiting Apple's MagSafe Leather Wallet After 3 Months of Usage

Saturday February 20, 2021 8:04 am PST by
Back in November when Apple's MagSafe-compatible Leather Wallet first launched, MacRumors videographer Dan took a look at the accessory and ended up disliking it because of the weak magnetic connection. Dan kept using the Leather Wallet despite its flaws, and after three months with the accessory, his opinion has changed and he wanted to share some new thoughts on it. Subscribe to the ...