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Apple Watch theft report: Is the Apple Watch secure, and how easy is it to reset and use a stolen Apple Watch?

Lou Hattersley | May 22, 2015
How safe is it to own an Apple Watch? Is the strap secure, and if it's lost, or stolen, how easy is it for a thief to reset or remove the data from the Apple Watch? We look at the hardware and software security of the Apple Watch

apple watch

Is the Apple Watch secure? I've heard that it's a theft or mugging risk, but how hard would it be for a thief to reset the Apple Watch and sell it on?

Security is a big concern for many Apple Watch owners. If you're going to spend £300 or more on a new Apple device you don't want to lose it, or have it stolen. So just how secure is the Apple Watch, and how much of a challenge would it present to a thief?

We've been putting the Apple Watch to the test for a few days. There's the physical security inherent in a wearable device; then there's data loss, which for some people is more important than other factors. (As journalists we're privy to a few secrets, but nothing earth shattering, but some people work in jobs where losing data is a criminal offence.) Do Apple Watch owners need to worry, and what can they do to improve the device's security?

How secure is the Apple Watch?
First, let's talk a little about physical security. The Apple Watch sport model's band clasps around your wrist, clips on to a small metal stud and tucks through a hole in the strap. This is the most popular model, and it's surprisingly easy to remove - although it doesn't fall off no matter how much you fling it around.

Other Apple Watch straps use magnetic clasps or traditional buckles, and palming these off would call for tremendous skill from a potential pickpocket.

So much for the physical stage of theft. But a more important consideration is whether a thief can use the watch once it's stolen, and this depends on the passcode lock.

Apple Watch: Using a passcode lock
The Apple Watch interface is protected by a four-digit passcode that Apple heavily suggests you use during setup. (Alternatively, you can set a longer passcode, but this will be input on the iPhone rather than the Apple Watch.) You can skip the passcode, but we imagine most people will use one.

The passcode is requested when you first put the Apple Watch on, and the Apple Watch remains unlocked while you are wearing it. The sensors on the back of the Apple Watch detect when it is being worn, and use this as its cue to request a passcode, or allow you to continue as normal. Once you've removed the watch, it requests the passcode next time it wakes up.

Apple Watch sensor security flaw
Somebody recently discovered a flaw in the Apple's Watch 'no passcode while worn' system. If you take an Apple Watch off someone's wrist but keep your fingers on the rear of the device, then the Apple Watch thinks it's still being worn. You don't need to hold it in any particularly accurate or skillful way, either: just keep your fingers loosely around the rear of the Apple Watch and it won't request the passcode.

 

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