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iPhone theft and resulting loss of money, identities and personal data

Byte-size Bulletin by Simon Heath in Security, News on May 31, 2023

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Only 2% were recovered. The likelihood is that if your phone is stolen, you will never get it back. In a new development, criminals are stealing more than just the device. They are taking your money, your identity, your data, and locking you out of all of them.

The crime, sometimes called "shoulder surfing", works this way

Criminals observe you input your passcode and then steal your phone. Potentially, they now have access to all the phone's apps and features and plenty of time to exploit them as they lock you out of your own device.

What you might have considered a petty crime can result in serious problems. John Roch, the head of London's Met Police Economic Crime Unit describes it as small scale but with devastating consequences.  

Simone de Jacopo, in an interview with BBC, thought little of his phone's theft until the following day he discovered £22,500 was stolen from his bank. Because his passcode was known to the fraudsters his bank initially refused compensation. It took him ten months to receive it and it was paid as a gesture of goodwill, rather than as a matter of policy.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Greg Fasca spent months trying to regain access to his Apple ID, including offering to fly to Apple's HQ to prove his identity and recover eight years of photos and videos of his children.

Does this type of crime only affect iPhone users?

Whilst criminals tend to target iPhones because they consider them a lucrative target and because of how Apple's security features work, lessons must be learned regardless of the device you use.

Does this type of crime affect businesses?

If your company uses iPhones or other mobile devices to stay connected, this is also a risk to consider - as work, as well as personal, data and systems, could be compromised.

Help is at hand

In June we will publish our guidance on how to change your iPhone settings to better protect your device, your Apple ID, your apps and data on the phone. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as changing one setting. You need to add layers of security.
Our guidance will contain eight essential 'how-to' video tips to help you stop or slow down the criminal's access to your device, identity and money. It will also help you retain and recover your data.

How can I get this guidance?

The best way to get an update is to follow our company page on LinkedIn where we will post the guidance and we'll also include it in our June newsletter. 
Of course, this crime is a new "eye-catching" development and has rightly grabbed quite a bit of attention, not least because intimidation and drink-spiking have been used as methods of stealing phones.
But it remains true that you should consider emerging risks in the light of your overall Cyber Security Risk Assessment.

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