Mobile // Mobile Devices
News
3/13/2014
03:22 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
LinkedIn
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Apple iPhones Could Thwart Attackers

Apple patent application suggests the company is looking to add personal security features to its mobile devices.

10 Best iOS Apps Of 2013
10 Best iOS Apps Of 2013
(Click the image for a larger view.)

To mitigate the threat of "Apple picking" – a term law enforcement officials sometimes use to refer to cell phone theft -- Apple's next iPhone may come with "attack detection mode."

The World Intellectual Property Organization has just published a patent application that Apple filed last June, titled "Mobile Emergency Attack and Failsafe Detection." It describes a way to set a mobile communications device to summon aid on the user's behalf if the user fails to interact with the device.

"While the device is in attack detection mode, certain events can cause the device to summon assistance automatically, even without further interaction from the device's user," the patent application states. "For example, while the device is in attack detection mode, if the device's user ceases to interact with the device in a specified manner for at least a specified period of time, then the device can automatically place a telephone call to emergency services (e.g., by calling 911)."

[What features has Apple added to its latest mobile OS? Read iOS 7.1: What's New.]

Apple's filing coincides with the launch last summer of the Secure Our Smartphones (SOS) initiative, an effort to encourage smartphone makers to be more proactive in preventing smartphone theft. According to Consumer Reports, smartphone theft accounts for 30% to 40% of robberies in major cities nationwide. As a result of the campaign, federal legislators and state lawmakers in California have proposed mandatory kill switches for mobile devices.

Apple researchers are also contemplating triggering the attack detection mode if the device experiences a sudden shock as measured by an accelerometer. This feature could prove useful for calling 911 in the event of a fall prompted by an assault or illness, or a traffic accident.

For detecting car accidents, the patent application suggests that GPS data and automotive sensors such as airbag deployment indicators might be factored into the calculation that determines whether to call for help. Apple's recently unveiled CarPlay framework for integrating iOS devices with vehicle systems could provide a way for Apple products to access automotive sensor data.

The patent application indicates that attack detection mode could take actions like emitting an alarm at maximum volume, in addition to or as an alternative to calling emergency services, in an effort to attract help from people nearby.

Attack detection mode could also be triggered by a "dead-man's switch," such as the release of an audio button that had previously been held down, or by a loud sound. The patent application allows for the possibility that a device might be set to capture and transmit incoming audio or to emit audio through the device's speaker, so that emergency personnel can hear what's going on and communicate with the device's owner.

Of course, a device that watches over its owner also entails potential privacy costs. Data captured by an attentive mobile device, whether stored locally or remotely, could be used against the device's owner. For example, in the event of an auto accident, the device owner's speed would be accessible to prosecutors and perhaps to the owner's insurance company. However, the promise of security, even when the risk is remote, tends to outweigh the uncertain value of privacy. Who wouldn't want a phone with attack detection mode?

Engage with Oracle president Mark Hurd, NFL CIO Michelle McKenna-Doyle, General Motors CIO Randy Mott, Box founder Aaron Levie, UPMC CIO Dan Drawbaugh, GE Power CIO Jim Fowler, and other leaders of the Digital Business movement at the InformationWeek Conference and Elite 100 Awards Ceremony, to be held in conjunction with Interop in Las Vegas, March 31 to April 1, 2014. See the full agenda here.

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View
Lorna Garey
50%
50%
Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
3/13/2014 | 3:47:47 PM
Come on ...
This is theater to distract from Apple's refusal to install a "kill switch" to brick stolen devices.
Thomas Claburn
50%
50%
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
3/13/2014 | 5:10:20 PM
Re: Come on ...
I think I'd rather have one of those Taser iPhone cases.
Lorna Garey
50%
50%
Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
3/13/2014 | 5:11:49 PM
Re: Come on ...
Of course, goes without saying. Preferably with a reservoir for pepper spray.
gvandunk
50%
50%
gvandunk,
User Rank: Strategist
3/14/2014 | 10:30:12 AM
Re: Come on ...
This might not be a bad feature as long as the owner can turn it on or off.  Not sure we want a kill switch owned by the telcos, manufacturer or government.  I feel it would just get hacked.

I am perfectly happy with what Apple has done the the Find My iPhone app.  Set this up and the phone is useless except for parts. You will not stop theft for parts with a kill switch. This gives me contol of my phone/data and its "kill" switch.  

The phone can not be reused in any part of the world wiithout the user id and pw.  Done.  The second part is getting the telcos to put the MEID on a shared database so the phone can not be activated and can be easily checked by the public when purchasing a pre-owned phone.  They can all do it they just do not want to.  The kill switch is a bad idea unless it is only owned/controlled by the owner of the phone with no manufacturer, telco or government back door.

Now, if we could use the battery to make the phone melt internally...... but the safety issues are to great for the general public. 
gev
50%
50%
gev,
User Rank: Moderator
3/14/2014 | 1:59:47 PM
where do i begin...
Apple is so full of itself

Anyone who stopped holding an iPhone is probably being attacked... there obviously no other explanation!

How about kids falling on their rear end with the phone in their back pocket. How about kids yelling and throwing phones at each other? (you never saw it? i did).  How about guys riding their bikes and making some serious noise and acceleration... The list goes on and on.
Thomas Claburn
50%
50%
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
3/14/2014 | 2:03:38 PM
Re: where do i begin...
If implemented, attack detection mode would almost certainly generate enough false positives that it would have to be shut down. Emergency services operators would get tired of the robo calls for help that turned out to be less than emergent.
ChrisMurphy
50%
50%
ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
3/14/2014 | 4:58:07 PM
Re: where do i begin...
Do I understand this correctly -- that if you're not interacting with your phone for some set period, there must be something horribly wrong? Sounds to me like "a good day." 
catvalencia
50%
50%
catvalencia,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/7/2014 | 8:46:25 AM
Re: where do i begin...
Choosing an iPhone can beats Verizon in 3G network speed test. iPhone users should think about how they will use their device. If media consumption is a priority, AT&T would be more satisfying. If reliability is at the top of the list, Verizon is the easy choice. Moreover, iphone is extremely fashionable, but are known to be delicate and somewhat of a fussbudget, also as expensive to repair. In fact, $5.9 billion has perhaps been used on iPhone repairs  since the original was released in 2007.
Building A Mobile Business Mindset
Building A Mobile Business Mindset
Among 688 respondents, 46% have deployed mobile apps, with an additional 24% planning to in the next year. Soon all apps will look like mobile apps and it's past time for those with no plans to get cracking.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest, Dec. 9, 2014
Apps will make or break the tablet as a work device, but don't shortchange critical factors related to hardware, security, peripherals, and integration.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
Join us for a roundup of the top stories on InformationWeek.com for the week of December 14, 2014. Be here for the show and for the incredible Friday Afternoon Conversation that runs beside the program.
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.