Her iPhone was locked with both the passcode number and Touch ID enabled, but I doubt if thieves care much about the phone’s access status when they grab a smartphone and run. What would be handy and perhaps beneficial to iPhone owners is a panic button or something akin to a dead man’s switch. Apple may be working on both.
The Panic Button
Way back in 2014 Apple applied for a patent for what amounts to a fingerprint controlled panic button. the patent application’s gobbledygook-speak is a bit thick but it would work with Touch ID but in an opposite way.
Now, when you want to unlock your iPhone or iPad, you place the previously scanned finger over the Home button and Touch ID scans the fingerprint, and allows access to the device (or not). The patent application describe an extra function where another finger could be designated as the Panic Button finger which activates other options; alerting authorities, erasing the device, putting the device in lock-down mode designed to thwart thieves or government officials (as if there’s a difference).
It’s the Panic Button option that I find most intriguing because it would allow you to appear to unlock the device while actually activating a silent alarm to friends, family, even law enforcement that there’s a problem. Such a function could be set to send, silently and in the background, the iPhone’s current location, or set off an audible alert after x-number of minutes; an alert that could be be turned off without secure access.
The Panic Button mode could also leave the iPhone with the appearance that it has been restored to standard factory settings awaiting a new user but all the while tracking the phone’s location, gathering information via iSight camera and microphone, and transmitting it to a secure location (I envision a personal security section in your iCloud account to gather and store photos, videos, and audio files in the background).
Here’s the standard patent gobbledygook-speak:
Fingerprint actuation is described for unlocking a mobile device and activating customized mobile device functions by using a fingerprint authentication technique. The mobile device uses a fingerprint sensor to authenticate a user for allowing secure access to certain mobile device functions or contents, and provides a utility in addition to unlocking the mobile device. This allows the user to control access to one or more mobile device functions concurrently with invoking fingerprint authentication in order to unlock the mobile device when the user presses a finger to the fingerprint sensor.
The mobile device may be unlocked using a designated finger that activates a panic mode of operation, wherein personal data stored on the mobile device is not accessible or viewable to the user. In other implementations, the user may register particular fingerprints to be associated with different modes of operation and activate the different modes based on the particular fingerprints.
This opens up a long list of potential options which range from deleting or erasing all content on the phone, to simply erasing personal information and locking the phone to prevent unauthorized access regardless of the phone’s location or status. I’m particularly interested in the option to alert authorities and capture photos and videos of a thief.
This could also be setup to use a specific finger or the wrong finger. In the former, a specific finger would be used to set the device into alert and alarm lockdown mode, perfect when handing over an iPhone to a mugger. Or, in the latter scenario, the wrong finger applied to the Home button and Touch ID would also trigger the alarm and lockdown mode (easily overridden with the correct finger, but not override at all by a thief with the wrong fingerprint).
Is a Panic Button option for the iPhone cool, or what?