On July 17, 2014, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals a possible future "Find My iPhone" security feature. The invention is intended to allow the finder of a lost iDevice to initiate a communication with a particular contact stored in the device by bypassing the device's security scheme. In April we posted a report titled "Apple Agrees to Provide a Kill Switch on iPhones in 2015." The report noted that in San Francisco 60% of all robberies involved the theft of a mobile device and in neighboring Oakland it was up to a whopping 75%. The report noted that legislation had been tabled in California to force tech companies to do more to secure mobile devices and its contents. Apple currently provides mobile device users with a feature called "Find My iPhone." This current patent application marks Apple's third security related patent of the day. The other two security related features were covered in our first report titled "Apple Invents Wildly Advanced Bumping Technology."
Apple's Patent Background
The majority of handheld devices (e.g., laptops, tablet devices, smartphones, and multi-media players/devices) available today provide mechanisms for securing the handheld device so that only the device owner or those authorized by the owner can access data on the device. It is common practice for handheld device owners to employ such security mechanisms to protect their devices as well as the integrity of the data on these devices.
When an honest finder locates a lost device, his methods of getting the device back to its owner include placing a phone call to any contact stored on the device. However, when the device has a security authentication scheme enabled, an honest finder has no way of providing the device with the correct authentication credentials.
In such cases, the honest finder is limited to either waiting for the device to receive a phone call from the owner or someone close to the owner who can help identify the device's owner. Or, if the device was found left in a public establishment (e.g., a restaurant, a shop, a taxi etc.), the honest finder can leave the device with an employee of the establishment.
However, this mechanism only works if the device owner returns to the correct establishment and the employee is honest enough to return the device. Nevertheless, it is very difficult or impossible for an honest finder of a lost device with a security authentication scheme enabled to proactively attempt to locate the owner of the device to facilitate returning the device to its owner.
Apple's Advances "Find My iPhone" Feature
Apple's invention advances their current "Find My iPhone" security feature. The invention will allow the finder of a lost iDevice to initiate a communication with a particular contact stored in the device by bypassing the device's security scheme.
The security scheme of the device prevents an unauthenticated user from using the device to initiate a communication. By allowing an unauthenticated user to communicate with the particular contact using the device, the device enables an honest finder to contact the particular contact even if the device is secured, in case the owner of the device loses the device. Also, the device allows the owner to initiate a communication with the particular contact quicker because the owner does not have to go through the device's security scheme to get authenticated by the device to use the device.
In some embodiments, the device provides a selectable user interface (UI) item, which when selected causes the device to bypass the security scheme and initiate a communication with a preselected contact stored on the device. Instead of initiating a communication with a preselected contact, the device of some embodiments provides a set of contacts when the device receives a selection of the selectable UI item. The device allows an unauthenticated user to choose a contact from the set of contacts and initiate a communication with a selected contact.
The device of some embodiments provides several different communication types that an unauthenticated user can use to initiate a communication with a selected contact. In some embodiments, these communication types include a phone call, a short messaging service (SMS) message, an email, a video conference, etc. These communication types are supported by applications running on the device. In some embodiments, these applications include applications that are provided by the manufacturer of the device as well as applications that are provided by third-party vendors.
In some embodiments, the device also provides an authenticated user (e.g., the owner of the device) with the option to set up or select a set of contacts to which an unauthenticated user can initiate communications when the device's security scheme is bypassed. For each of such contacts, the device of some embodiments allows the authenticated user to set up or select a set of communication types that may be used to initiate a communication with the contact. Moreover, the device of some embodiments allows the authenticated user to impose a limit on the amount of activity (e.g., number of phone calls, amount of outgoing data, etc.) that an unauthenticated user can initiate using the device when the device's security scheme is bypassed.
The device in some embodiments connects to a network through a routing device to initiate a communication with a contact when the device's security scheme is bypassed. Often, a routing device requires the device to be authenticated in order to use the routing device to connect to the network. In some embodiments, a routing device allows the device to get by the authentication requirement such that the device can connect to the network and send a communication, which is initiated when the device's security scheme is bypassed, through the network.
Initiating Short Message Service (SMS) Communication with a Privileged Contact
In Apple's patent FIG. 6 noted above we're able to see an exemplary interface for initiating short message service (SMS) communication with a privileged contact by user interaction with device's display area of some embodiments. In this example, the device is initiating an email with a pre-selected privileged contact. Patent FIG. 6 illustrates a user's interaction with the device in four stages 601-604.
The first stage #601 illustrates receiving a selection of UI item #310 on the device which bypasses the device's security scheme to enter a limited access mode for initiating contact with at least one preselected contact. Some embodiments display the interface of the first stage after receiving a user interaction with the device to unlock the device following a period of device inactivity.
The second stage #602 illustrates the device in limited access mode. In this example, the device displays several selectable contacts 620-622 associated with a corresponding contact or group of contacts. The device receives a selection of one of the selectable contacts in order to initiate communication. In this example, the device receives a selection of selectable contact #622.
The third stage #603 illustrates that the selected contact is highlighted and the device displays selectable communication types #630 and #631 in the device display area. The available communication types are predetermined based on the privileged contact configuration as further discussed in Section IV. For instance, if a device owner knows that a specific contact answers phone calls infrequently but responds to text messages quickly, the device owner would likely not configure phone calls on the device for that contact in limited access mode. In this example, the selected contact is associated with the communication methods text message and email. The device receives a selection of communication type in order to send a text message to the selected contact.
The Fourth Stage #604 illustrates that the text message interface includes a display area #640 for displaying text, keypad #650 for entering text, and UI item #660 for initiating transmission of the text displayed in display area. The display area is pre populated with a message and/or the device receives entry of a custom message from user interaction with keypad. Once the message is complete, the device receives a selection of UI item to send the text in display area as a text message using the stored phone number associated with the selected contact. In some embodiments, this message is sent as an SMS message. Other embodiments transmit this message using multimedia messaging service (MMS) or another method of transmitting text messages.
Apple's patent application is very detailed. For those of you wishing to drill down further into this invention can do so by reviewing patent application 20140199966. The sole inventor of Apple's patent which was originally filed in Q1 2013 is listed as Asaf Schushan.
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