February 24, 2024
iOS 17.3 is here with an important new iPhone security feature you’ll want right now

The release of iOS 17.3 may quietly be one of the most important Apple has issued in a long time. Yeah, there are features like AirPlay support for hotel TVs (in a very limited number of hotel rooms, for now), and collaborative playlists for Apple Music (a feature other music services have had for years). But it’s the new security feature that makes this a must-have.

No, not the kind of security feature you’re thinking of. Not some under-the-hood, fixing-a-hacker-exploit thing that keeps bad people from running malware on your iPhone (although there are those, too). This one helps protect your important digital data and access from physical iPhone thieves.

Stolen Device Protection keeps your critical info safe

Our iPhones have all sorts of very, very important data. Not just photos and videos but apps for things like your bank and credit cards. And your phone often contains the passwords to all those accounts, and even if you have two-factor authentication turned on, it gets the texts or has the 2FA app for those accounts, too!

Apple does a lot to make sure a thief who steals your iPhone can’t just unlock it and get access to all that stuff. But the critical flaw in its systems is your iPhone passcode. If someone watches you unlock your iPhone using your six-digit pin, they can then steal your iPhone, unlock it, and change all the important settings that protect you and your data. They can turn off Find My, access your passwords, send people money with Apple Cash, and so much more. A thief with your iPhone and your passcode can even effectively lock you out of your own Apple ID, messing up your access to other Apple devices.

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After updating to iOS 17.3, you’ll be able to turn on Stolen Device Protection in Settings > Face ID & Passcode. With this enabled, your six-digit passcode will no longer allow someone (including you) to:

  • Access iCloud Keychain passwords
  • Apply for a new Apple Card
  • Erase all content and settings
  • Turn off Lost Mode
  • Sending people money with Apple Cash
  • Use your iPhone to set up a new device
  • Use payment methods saved in Safari

Instead, you’ll have to unlock your iPhone with Face ID or Touch ID to do those things. This won’t be necessary in known locations like your home, but it’s not likely that a thief is going to try to get into your iPhone there.

And even more important features, like changing your Apple ID password or adding/removing Face ID or Touch ID, will require authentication, then a one-hour delay, and then re-authentication.

It’s not a complete deterrent to all iPhone theft. Notably, your mail will still be accessible, so any app or service that allows you to reset your password with just a confirmation email is at stake. You still want to make sure you use two-factor authentication and unique passwords as much as possible.

So don’t wait to update to iOS 17.3. Grab it, and enable Stolen Device Protection now. If thieves come to expect that anyone with an iPhone has it locked down in this way, it won’t even become worth stealing them anymore.