Operating system: Google: New theft protection for Android smartphones

operating system
Google: New theft protection for Android smartphones

The mascot of Google’s mobile operating system Android (symbolic image). photo

© Andrej Sokolow/dpa

Smartphone thieves don’t just care about the device itself. They want to get their victims’ data. Google is now putting in place several security walls against this abuse option.

Smartphones with the In the future, Google’s Android operating system will be able to use artificial intelligence to detect when a thief snatches the phone out of the owner’s hand and flees the crime scene. If the AI ​​detects a common movement associated with theft, the phone’s display will immediately lock, Google announced at the I/O developer conference in Mountain View.

Google is reacting to numerous incidents in which thieves not only managed to snatch their smartphones out of the hands of unsuspecting passers-by from a moving motorcycle, but also used the unlocked device to further harm their victims immediately after the robbery. The online bank accounts linked to the smartphone were often plundered. The AI-activated screen lock will prevent thieves from easily accessing the data in the future.

Protective wall against resale of stolen smartphones

But Google is also adding another protective wall that will make it more difficult for criminals to resell a stolen Android smartphone. If a thief resets a stolen device, they can no longer set it up without knowing the device or Google account information. “This makes a stolen device unsellable, reducing incentives for phone theft,” Google said.

In January, Google competitor Apple expanded a similar anti-theft protection for the iPhone and made it virtually impossible for thieves to unlock it with the iOS 17.3 operating system. This is where Google is now following suit: If the locking code could be spied out by the thief, Android can prevent the PIN from being changed or the theft protection from being deactivated if this is done from an untrustworthy location (e.g. home or work). In this case, a change to important account and device settings must be confirmed with a biometric feature (fingerprint or facial scan).

Separate area for sensitive data

In addition, Android also makes it possible to set up a separate area on the smartphone for sensitive data, hide it and lock it with a separate PIN. This could be used to provide additional protection for apps containing health or financial information.

Most of the anti-theft features presented will be activated later this year via Google Play Services on smartphones with Android 10 or newer. Android 10 has been on the market since 2019. Some features like factory reset protection and private storage require Android 15, which will be introduced later this year.


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