Apple devices like iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches include a security feature called Activation Lock. This setting allows users to essentially lock down their device if it’s lost or stolen and prevents another individual from gaining access to the device. According to Apple, the feature is activated when devices are connected to the Find My app.
Many Apple users save pictures and other data to iCloud, and the Apple username and password is used to access the cloud. Does iCloud unlock or lock this setting? Apple device owners can use iCloud to delete devices from the cloud if they need to sell it or trade it in, but the iCloud account also serves as a protection point when Activation Lock is engaged. Here’s how it works.
Many Apple devices allow owners to initiate the Activation Lock security feature. Again, the feature is designed to protect a device in the event that it has been lost, misplaced or stolen. However, the device needs to be linked to the Find My app in order to be protected by the Activation Lock feature.
Apple explains that the user’s Apple ID and passcode is saved remotely and is linked to the device (via Find My). Apple stores this data and connects it to the device to ensure that an iPad, iPhone or watch is identified to its owner. When the security feature is activated, Apple explains that anyone who finds the device needs to enter the username and password to disable Find My, erase any data or activate the phone.
If a phone is lost or stolen and the device is linked to Find My, the owner should immediately use another device to access Find My and label the missing device by choosing Mark as Lost.
Choosing this designation for the device will cause the missing or stolen device to display a message on its screen. This indicates that the device is missing. Apple explains that users can also erase their iPhone using the Find My app; erasing the phone doesn’t eliminate the message on the device that indicates that the phone is lost.
Marking the phone as lost is separate from the Activation Lock protection. Marking it as lost serves as another layer of protection and, again, displays a message on the screen. The Activation Lock feature holds the phone’s data and ensures that the phone is linked to the rightful owner; Apple reports that Activation Lock is designed to make it harder for the phone to be resold or for someone else to try to use it as their phone.
Apple users typically have an icloud account that is linked to their device. When Activation Lock is initiated, the screen notes that the phone's location can be viewed by the owner; the information on the screen is shown as the user’s iCloud account and noted as firstname.lastname@example.org.
An account via iCloud unlocks and locks the Activation Lock when the device isn’t online. Activation Lock is typically controlled via the phone, but in some instances device owners might need to remove the feature remotely when the phone isn’t connected online.
The procedure to remove a device from Activation Lock might be necessary when the owner decides to sell their phone, trade it in, etc. When a device is protected by Activation Lock, it can’t be used by another individual.
To disable the Activation Lock feature when the device is offline, the owner needs to access the iCloud. Apple explains that users can visit www.icloud.com/find. The user needs to enter their Apple ID and password. Then they need to choose All Devices. From this point, the owner can select the device they want to remove from the iCloud and they can deactivate it. Once the device is removed, the Activation Lock feature is removed or unlocked from that device.
Apple offers Activation Lock as an additional layer of security to help protect devices if they are lost or stolen. While some phones are never recovered, others are easily tracked. In fact, some Apple device owners use a simple trick for tracking down thieves who have run off with their lost or stolen device.
The app Find My is an essential tool for all Apple owners. This app lets owners connect all their devices to a tracking technology that displays each device on a map. Once a device is connected to Find My, owners can open up the app on any linked device and see the location of every iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch or other Apple device that they own (and have synced to the app).
The app shows every device as long as it’s online. If a phone has shut down because of a low battery, Find My won’t show it. However, all online devices will be displayed; this is how Apple owners have tracked down the individuals that have stolen their devices.
Find My shows devices anywhere and everywhere as long as the devices are online and linked to the user’s Find My account. Owners have watched their stolen device travel down highways or located their phone at another home; using this data, they can alert authorities and find their device.
The Find My app works with iPhones, iPads, Apple Watch, AirPods, MacBook, etc. Those with many devices can track each one using the app; Find My also is beneficial to find phones that have been misplaced in the home. The app lets owners play a sound that emanates from the device and helps owners find it. This can be helpful if a phone has slipped behind a couch or was dropped in a park, too.
While Find My can be an effective and efficient tracking tool to find a missing or stolen device, thieves might still be able to outsmart the app. Missing AirPods, for example, might be connected to another device; however, owners should still try to mark missing AirPods as missing (if this is shown as an option via Find My).
Phones that are marked as missing or stolen and are reported as such via the Activation Lock feature and Find My might make their way to the IMEI blacklist. There isn’t just one list that includes every missing or stolen phone, though.
All phones and devices that are included on any of the blacklists cannot be activated through a cell phone carrier. This means that anyone who unknowingly purchases a stolen or lost iPhone won’t be able to make calls or connect it to a carrier like Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, etc. These carriers will check the IMEI number on the phone; if the IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) is on the blacklist, the carrier will not issue service. The IMEI is a personal identification number found on all mobile devices.
Can thieves bypass iCloud to gain access to a device and turn off the Activation Lock or remove a device from Find My? Unfortunately, some thieves could find a way to hack the phone or even find the iCloud account password.
When an individual realizes that their iPhone is missing, they might feel a sense of panic. Many phone owners store personal and financial information on their phone; if the device is compromised, it could be used to access private information and the consequences could be financially devastating for the individual.
If the phone is connected to Find My, owners should open the app to see if the phone can be located. It might just have been misplaced in the home. If the phone is moving and appears to be in the possession of another individual, the owner can choose to delete the information from the device and to reach out to law enforcement to file a report and, hopefully, track down the phone.
In a moment of panic, though, owners might not remember iCloud info like their passcode. What do they do? Can they bypass iCloud? Users can choose to reset their password or contact Apple. However, they shouldn’t deactivate the security feature that protects their phone.
In addition, owners should contact their bank and credit card companies to alert them of the stolen device and lock down accounts. Securing financial accounts should be a top priority.
Phones that have the Activation Lock feature will display a message once the device is marked as lost. No one should be able to gain access to the device, but, again, owners should reach out to any financial institutions and can elect to erase their device, too.
A device that is showing as nearby also can be ‘pinged’ using Find My. Simply choose the option on the device that ‘plays a sound.’ The owner should hear a high-pitched ping that helps them locate their phone, tablet, etc.
For individuals who are purchasing a new iPhone, choose to utilize the available security features to maximize the safety of the device. Connect the iPhone to Find My and use this feature to track the phone if it’s ever lost or stolen. Many families connect all their devices to Find My.
In addition, the Activation Lock is yet another security feature that ensures that a lost or stolen iPhone can be labeled as such by Apple. When this feature is initiated, a phone cannot be used or accessed without the passcode.
Apple and other manufacturers have implemented security measures in their devices to ensure that owners can protect their data and lockdown their phones when necessary. Use these features to make it more difficult for anyone to use or access a stolen or missing iPhone.