Android phones getting advanced anti-theft protection


Google is adding a range of anti-theft technologies to Android that are designed to protect owners from data loss, identity theft and other risks.

The new features will be made available through Google Play services updates later this year on billions of devices running Android 10 or later, with some features exclusive to Android 15, according to a Google blog.

Smartphones have become high-risk devices: they assist us with daily tasks like online banking, storing sensitive information, taking photos and making quick payments. But because they hold so much important data, they are also attractive targets for thieves.

The new features Google is introducing in Android include:

  • Factory reset upgrade: One common tactic for thieves is to reset a stolen device and resell it. With the new factory reset protection upgrade, if a thief attempts to reset your device, they won’t be able to set it up again without your Google account credentials. This makes stolen devices less valuable and reduces the incentive for theft.
  • Private Space: To protect sensitive data, Private Space allows users to create a separate, locked area on their phones for apps containing important information, such as health or financial software. This space can be secured with a separate Pin code.
  • Increased authentication for sensitive settings: To change critical settings like disabling Find My Device or extending screen timeout, users will now need to enter their Pin, password or biometric authentication. This should prevent thieves from easily making a stolen device untraceable or unlock it.
  • Enhanced authentication protections: For an extra layer of security, enhanced authentication will require biometrics for accessing and changing critical Google account and device settings. This feature is particularly useful if a thief knows your Pin.

The factory reset protection and Private Space features will be part of Android 15, while enhanced authentication protections will be available to select devices later this year.

Losing a device is stressful, and quick reactions are crucial when a theft is about to occur. Now Google has developed features that automatically recognise suspicious signals and proactively protect users’ data:

  • Theft detection lock: This feature uses Google AI to detect if a phone is snatched from a user’s hand and someone tries to get away with it by running, biking or driving away. If such motion is detected, the phone’s screen will lock immediately, preventing thieves from accessing the phone’s data.
  • Offline device lock: If a thief tries to disconnect a stolen phone for long periods, Offline Device Lock will automatically lock the screen, even when the device is not connected to a mobile network. The device will also lock if there are excessive failed authentication attempts.
  • Quick actions after a phone is stolen remote lock: When a phone is stolen and the user can’t recall their Google account password, the Remote Lock feature will allow them lock their screen using just their phone number and a quick security challenge from any device. This buys time to recover the account details and access additional options in Find My Device, including sending a factory reset command to wipe the device completely.

In Brazil, where phone theft is a significant issue, Google is launching a beta version of some of these features for Android 10+ devices. This follows pilots in Singapore and Thailand. In South Africa, where phone theft is rampant, many smartphone users will agree that these new features can’t come soon enough.


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