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Less passcodes, more biometric protections on iPhones in new beta test

Less passcodes, more biometric protections on iPhones in new beta test

Apple is testing a new security setting to address the theft of iPhones and at least one of the new features seems blindingly obvious.

In February, The Wall Street Journal reported on what seemed to be an increase in iPhone threats. Not only are thieves bypassing biometric safeguards by stealing the user’s passcode, once they get into a phone, they quickly disable those safeguards to completely compromise it.

Now come reports that Apple is beta testing its stolen device protection feature, which should be standard on iOS 17.3.

The beta can be found right now in Face ID and password settings. If Apple has published information on the change, it’s not obvious.

The new setting eliminates the passcode as a fallback option, instead requiring biometric authentication to use saved passwords or passkeys, apply for the tech giant’s credit card, turn off Lost Mode or use certain payments methods or digital wallet features.

It can’t prevent a phone’s theft and it can only delay thieves as they try to shake loose all the personal data, passwords and other valuable information. After that, the phone is likely is sold whole or for parts.

The optional security upgrade makes the first hour after a pinch critical in preventing data theft.

When a phone leaves a learned common location like one’s home, school or worksite, it will lock up the owner’s Apple account ID and passkey settings for an hour. After that, iOS will require two biometric authentications.

During that hour, no one will be able to disable biometric security features Face or Touch ID. Nor will they be able to use Apple-stored passwords and passkeys or turn off Find My mode. There are other prohibitions in the beta, too.

The new security features are triggered by other actions, too. There will hour delays when changing an Apple account password or the phone’s passcode. And, of course, the new security settings can’t be changed for an hour, either.

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