Smartphone theft is rapidly becoming one of the most prevalent types of property crime, and the mobile security firm Lookout thinks they can help stop it. On Wednesday, the company launched a new feature for their popular anti-theft software.
Should a prankster friend or potential thief try to enter your password too many times, it'll use the phone's front-facing camera to snap a shot of the unscrupulous individual and email you their GPS location. Playing off of the massive popularity of the selfie, they've deemed their new technique the "theftie." These email alerts are premium features for paying customers, but Lookout says that current users of the free version will be grandfathered in.
For those worried about their personal data being stolen the old-fashioned way, this news comes as great relief. Smart phone theft is rapidly on the rise, especially in major urban areas like San Francisco where it can amount to almost two thirds of all property crime.
The app isn't a guarantee, however – particularly for iPhone users. While Android's open platform makes alerts very easy to trigger, Apple's closed ecosystem means that "thefties" will only be taken when the phone is put into airplane mode or the SIM card is removed. Regardless, these types of features my soon come standard. Samsung and Apple, of course, both already have similar features built in, and lawmakers are pushing for anti-theft software to be included on phones by default; at least in Minnesota, that campaign has succeeded. Should a phone be lost or stolen, the law mandates that users be able to remotely disable the device to prevent resale or abuse on the part of thieves.
According to Consumer Reports, 1.6 million smartphones are stolen each year in the U.S. With so many of us carrying around potential treasure troves of personal information – not to mention the value of the device itself – on us all the time, it's no wonder they've become hot targets. Here's hoping that these features and laws can help curtail this recent criminal trend.