An Apple patent application which surfaced this morning in the United States Patent & Trademark Office’s database envisions advanced proactive measures that are likely to end up utilized in the free Find My iPhone service (which can locate stolen Macs, too). Entitled “Proactive Security for Mobile Devices” and credit to Apple engineer Hooman Borghei, the patent application sets the stage with the following description:
Mobile devices, such as phones and media devices, have a high risk of being lost or stolen. If a mobile device is stolen, the information contained on the device can be accessed. Various security methods have been developed to prevent unauthorized access of information stored on mobile devices. Some methods will encrypt the data to prevent access. Simple encryption ciphers can be broken and more secure encryption techniques are also more complex and thus require more resources that may not be available on some devices. Other security methods allow a remote wipe command to be sent to the mobile device over a network. The remote wipe command, however, wipes out all the data on the mobile device accept a boot file. This forces the user to have to restore the wiped data, which can be inconvenient and time consuming for the user.
So, what are the aggressive countermeasures Apple’s been exploring? For starters, they propose selective protection of your content stored on the device. This would kick in when someone enters an incorrect passcode. We are more excited, however, about cool remote surveillance capabilities, such as transmission of the images and sounds that your device secretly captures. This could go a long way towards helping one figure out the thief’s surrounding without them suspecting anything. Yeah, kinda like this guy. Warning: This article will self-destruct in T-minus thirty seconds…
Apple explains: “A mobile device can proactively determine whether the mobile device is associated with a security risk and the level of the security risk. Upon determining a security risk, the mobile device can transmit coordinates of its current geographic location to a server. To protect privacy of authorized users, the transmission can be disabled by entering a password. If multiple failed password attempts are detected, the mobile device can proactively increase a security level of the device, and selectively protect files or other content stored on the mobile device. In some implementations, the mobile device can be transitioned into a surveillance mode where the mobile device records or captures information associated with one or more of user actions, ambient sound, images, a trajectory of the device, and transmits the recorded or captured information to the network resource.” You can browse this patent application by typing in the ID number 20110141276 into the United States Patent & Trademark office search engine.