With the release of iOS 7, Apple added a security mechanism called Activation Lock. This new feature comes in response to the growing number of mobile device thefts that are documented yearly by police crime statistics in major cities.
Activation Lock works in conjunction with your Apple ID and the iCloud setting Find My iPhone to effectively tie iOS devices to your iCloud account. This allows users to map the location of the device by using the built-in GPS and Wi-Fi radios, and it also prevents the device from being activated by any account — other than the Apple ID used to initially setup the service — even if the device is restored to factory settings.
Set up Activation Lock on iOS devices
Here are the requirements for setting up Activation Lock:
- Apple iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch (iOS 7+)
- Wi-Fi or cellular Internet access
- Apple ID *
- iCloud account *
* Note: Both the Apple ID and iCloud account can be created directly from any iOS device. It can also be created during the initial setup process for new devices.
Follow these steps to set up Activation Lock:
- Go to Settings | iCloud. Make sure that the device
is signed in with a valid Apple ID and iCloud account. The Find My iPhone (or in this case, Find My iPad) service is turned off by default (Figure
- Tap the button to turn the service on. To
confirm, tap OK to enable the Find My iPhone (iPad) features (Figure B).
How Activation Lock works after a factory restore
Follow these steps to use Activation Lock after a factory restore:
- To test Activation Lock, the iOS device must be restored to factory settings. Doing so removes all data and settings.
- After the device reboots, the iOS 7 welcome
screen will load. To proceed, swipe slide to setup (Figure C) at the bottom of the screen.
- Select your desired language (Figure D).
- Select Your
Country or Region (Figure E).
- Choose a Wi-Fi Network to connect to and tap
Next after entering your credentials (Figure F).
- The iOS device will attempt to activate by
communicating with Apple's iCloud servers (Figure G).
- If Activation Lock was setup previously on the
device and never properly deactivated, the Activate iOS screen will appear. It indicates the iOS
device is currently linked to an Apple ID and prompts the user to enter those
credentials in order to continue with the setup phase. If the Apple ID cannot
be provided or the account information is incorrectly entered, the iOS device
halts activation, preventing unauthorized access to the device (Figure H).
- If the correct Apple ID is entered, tap Next to
proceed with the activation check (Figure I).
- Upon successfully authenticating to iCloud, choose to Enable Location Services (Figure J).
- The Set Up iPhone/iPad configuration allows you to choose whether
the device will be setup as new or restored from backup (Figure K).
ID will prompt you to Sign In with Your Apple ID. Enter your credentials when
prompted (Figure L).
servers will authenticate the entered credentials (Figure M).
choose Use iCloud (Figure N).
Use Find My iPhone/iPad (Figure O).
the correct email address for use with iMessage and FaceTime, and then tap
Next (Figure P).
will update settings (Figure Q).
asked to Create a Passcode, enter your chosen four-digit code (Figure R).
by re-entering the four-digit code (Figure S).
Keychain access allows the iOS device to securely store passwords for future
use. Tap Don't Restore Passwords (Figure T), which can be enabled in Settings | iCloud
- Tap Continue to confirm (Figure U).
& Usage reports data and crash reports back to Apple for review. Select whether or not you want to send that information (Figure V).
the initial setup has been completed, tap Get Started to access your newly
restored, Activation Lock-enabled iOS device (Figure W).
While Apple's Activation Lock will not prevent your iOS device from being stolen, it can and does act as one excellent theft deterrent. As of this writing, there isn't an exploit or way to bypass the activation check. This renders the device a useless brick, since it offers zero functionality beyond the activation check screen. If you'd like to learn more about Activation Lock, here are some frequently asked questions, courtesy of Apple's KB article.
Do you use Activation Lock on your iOS device(s)? Share your experience with Apple's security in the discussion below.
Jesus Vigo is a Network Administrator by day and owner of Mac|Jesus, LLC, specializing in Mac and Windows integration and providing solutions to small- and medium-size businesses. He brings 19 years of experience and multiple certifications from several vendors, including Apple and CompTIA.