Apple has been granted a patent on iPhone security, describing several methods to protect sensitive information if the device were to fall into the wrong hands.
U.S. Patent No. 8,289,130 for “Systems and methods for identifying unauthorized users of an electronic device” offers a unique security solution to the ever-present problem of having one’s iPhone lost or stolen.
The language in the patent goes beyond any identification technology currently available in the current device. One scenario calls for heartbeat monitoring, which would be used to determine if the current person holding the iPhone was the true owner of the handset.
From the patent abstract:
In some embodiments, an unauthorized user of the electronic device can be detected by identifying particular activities that may indicate suspicious behavior. In some embodiments, an unauthorized user can be detected by comparing the identity of the current user to the identity of the owner of the electronic device. When an unauthorized user is detected, various safety measures can be taken.
The patent lists three main operations: Detection of an unauthorized user, gathering information about the unauthorized user, and the transmission of an alert to the device’s owner with this information.
A person’s heartbeat could be used to determine if that person is the owner of the device, although this could also be accomplished via photo or voice matching. Other means of detection of unauthorized use could be, “entering an incorrect password a predetermined number of times in a row, hacking of the electronic device, jailbreaking of the electronic device, unlocking of the electronic device, removing a SIM card from the electronic device, or moving a predetermined distance away from a synced device.”
If a user other than the true owner is detected, the device would then go into information gathering mode, collecting information such as location, screenshots, keylogs, photos, and other information, which would then be sent to the device owner, the police, or some other “responsible party.”
As always, just because Apple receives a patent doesn’t mean they’ll be using the technology any time soon, but information like this does offer an interesting glimpse into the paths the company may take in the future regarding device security.