Apple patents feature that remotely disables devices when "unauthorized usage" is detected

Apple patents feature that remotely disables devices when "unauthorized usage" is detected

Summary: Apple has applied for a patent that some will think is highly beneficial, and others will think that it takes snooping to a whole new level.

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TOPICS: Mobility, Apple
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Apple has applied for a patent that some will think is highly beneficial, and others will think that it takes snooping to a whole new level.

Here's what's being claimed by the patent:

1 . A method for identifying an unauthorized user of an electronic device, the method comprising: determining that a current user of the electronic device is an unauthorized user; gathering information related to the unauthorized user's operation of the electronic device in response to determining, wherein the unauthorized user's operation comprises operations not related to the authentication; and transmitting an alert notification to a responsible party in response to gathering.

2 . The method of claim 1, wherein determining further comprises: determining the identity of the current user; comparing the determined identity to the identity of one or more authorized users of the electronic device; and detecting that the determined identity does not match the identity of at least one of the one or more authorized users.

3 . The method of claim 1, wherein determining further comprises: identifying a particular activity performed by the current user that indicates suspicious behavior.

4 . The method of claim 3, wherein the particular activity comprises one or more of hacking the electronic device, jailbreaking the electronic device, unlocking the electronic device, removing a SIM card from the electronic device, and moving at least a predetermined distance away from a synced device.

5 . The method of claim 1, wherein gathering further comprises gathering one or more of screenshots, keylogs, communications packets served to the electronic device, and information related to a host device coupled to the electronic device.

6 . The method of claim 1, wherein the alert notification comprises a general message indicating that an unauthorized user has been detected.

7 . The method of claim 1, wherein the alert notification comprises at least a portion of the gathered information.

8 . The method of claim 1, further comprising: gathering information related to the identity of the unauthorized user in response to determining; and gathering information related to the location of the electronic device in response to determining.

9 . The method of claim 1, further comprising: restricting at least one function of the electronic device in response to determining.

10 . The method of claim 1, further comprising: transmitting sensitive data from the electronic device to a remote storage; and erasing the sensitive data from the electronic device.

11 . An electronic device operable to detect an unauthorized user of an electronic device, the electronic device comprising: a processor operable to: receive an input from a current user of the electronic device; determine the input is not associated with an authorized user of the electronic device; and record usage information of the electronic device in response to determining; and communications circuitry operable to transmit the usage information to a remote device.

12 . The electronic device of claim 11, further comprising: a microphone operable to record the voice of the current user; and wherein the processor is further operable to: compare the recorded voice with voice prints of authorized user of the electronic device; and determine that the recorded voice does not match the voice print of any authorized user of the electronic device.

13 . The electronic device of claim 11, further comprising: a heartbeat sensor operable to detect the heartbeat of the current user; and wherein the processor is further operable to: compare the detected heartbeat with heart signatures of each authorized user of the electronic device; and determine that detected the heartbeat does not match the heart signature of any authorized user of the electronic device.

14 . The electronic device of claim 11, further comprising: an input device operable to receive an authenticating input for authenticating a user of the electronic device; and wherein the processor is further operable to: determine that a predetermined number of successive incorrect authenticating inputs have been received.

15 . The electronic device of claim 11, further comprising: a camera operable to take a photograph of the vicinity of the electronic device; and positioning circuitry operable to determine current location information of the electronic device; and wherein the processor is further operable to: geotag the photograph by associating the photograph with the current location information.

16 . The electronic device of claim 11, further comprising: an accelerometer operable to record a vibration profile of the electronic device; and a signal processor operable to compare the recorded vibration profile with a library of vibration profiles to determine a current mode of transportation of the electronic device.

17 . A system comprising: an electronic device comprising; an input device operable to receive a password provided by a user; a camera operable to take a photograph of the user; a processor operable to: determine that a predetermined number of incorrect passwords have been successively received; direct the camera to take a photograph of the user; and generate an alert notification in response to the processor determining, wherein the alert notification comprises information related to the identity of the user and the photograph of the user; and communications circuitry operable to transmit the alert notification to a remote device.

18 . The system of claim 17, wherein: the camera is operable to take a plurality of photographs of the surroundings of the electronic device; and wherein the processor is further operable to: analyze each of the plurality of photographs to identify distinguishing landmarks in the photographs; and determine the location of each photograph based on the identified distinguishing landmarks.

19 . The system of claim 17, wherein the alert notification is transmitted via one of text message, facsimile, VoIP application, instant messaging application, on-line profile application, on-line blog application, and a cloud server.

20 . Machine-readable media for identifying unauthorized users of an electronic device, comprising machine-readable instructions recorded thereon for: determining that a current user of the electronic device is an unauthorized user; gathering information related to the unauthorized user's operation of the electronic device in response to determining, wherein the unauthorized user's operation comprises operations not related to authentication; and transmitting an alert notification to a responsible party in response to gathering.

21 . The machine-readable media of claim 20, further comprising machine-readable instructions recorded thereon for: determining the identity of the current user; comparing the determined identity to the identity of one or more authorized users of the electronic device; and detecting that the determined identity does not match the identity of at least one of the one or more authorized users.

Pretty wide-reaching stuff.

Authorized users can be determined using facial recognition, voice recognition, heartbeat sensor or by monitoring for suspicious activity. Once unauthorized usage is detected, a mass of logging mechanisms could be bought into play:

When an unauthorized user is detected, various types of information can be gathered (e.g., information related to the identity of the current user, information related to the current user's operation of the electronic device, information related to the electronic device's location, or any combination of the above) and a responsible party can be notified with an “alert notification”. In some embodiments, the alert notification can be a general message conveying that the electronic device is not in the possession of an authorized user. For example, a message such as, “Warning, your cellular phone may have been stolen” or “Your electronic device may be in the possession of an unauthorized user” can be sent to the responsible party. In some embodiments, the alert notification can include any of the information gathered when an unauthorized user is detected (e.g., photographs of the “thief,” voice recordings, screenshots of the electronic device, keylogs, a listing of communication packets (e.g., Internet packets) served to the device, the electronic device's location, geotagged photographs, photographs of the surrounding area, or mode of transportation of the electronic device).

This could be far more useful than the current security mechanisms and remote wipe offered to iPhone/iPad owners currently.

Topics: Mobility, Apple

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111 comments
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  • Yeah, who determines "unauthorized"?

    The only things that are missing are the ankle or wrist shackles and the self-destruct explosive. Maybe a new function for the lithium battery?

    I guess it's not surprising, except in the extent of how much spying is contemplated and what kind of data could potentially be collected. I wouldn't be surprised if the Feds turned around to the other cellphone makers and demanded all of these "features" be included across the board. Of course if Apple turned on this kind of data collection, the AT&T network would instantly collapse.
    terry flores
    • RE: Apple patents feature that remotely disables devices when

      @terry flores
      So very true, AT&T would fall apart the moment they turned it on. Its really sad actually, because years back AT&T used to be the top - notch carrier then the iPhone missile hit, and where here now.
      Johnaltha
    • Maybe more importantly: uses vs users

      @terry flores <br><br>The title says "uses" while most of the patent text seems to refer to "users".<br><br>If I asked to borrow your phone to make a call and you let me, would I be an unauthorized user from Apple's perspective?<br><br>If you perform unauthorized use (unauthorized by whom?) on YOUR phone, will Apple disable your phone.<br><br>Thanks, but no thanks. I think I would take my business elsewhere, and Apple can keep their patent.
      Economister
      • As if there was any doubt Economister...

        @Economister

        Yes, we get it, you hate Apple and everything Apple... Yawn...

        You would have to be pretty stupid to think this patent applies to regular consumers... It is incredibly obvious that this patent is for enterprise/government IT. And from an enterprise/government perspective, having that kind of control over your devices is very attractive.
        i8thecat
      • Pretty stupid

        @i8thecat<br><br>Well, the history of Apple's conduct makes it VERY likely that you are wrong. Currently, they are trying very much to control their consumer customers.
        Economister
      • RE: Apple patents feature that remotely disables devices when

        @Economister <br><br>You're a conspiracy theory nut aren't you?<br><br>This patent specifies collecting the data and sending the data only in case of the device detecting unauthorised use, and the responsible party being notified first.<br><br>So the phone first doubts the user is authorised.<br><br>A party selected by the phone's owner gets notified. <br><br>That party decides that there is a problem and turns on the surveillance.<br><br>Then the phone starts sending data.<br><br>As far as surveillance goes this is not really new - it is the detection methods that trigger the alert that are new. Also some of the proposed analysis of the collected data is new.<br><br>But sending back pictures from stolen devices has been reported in the news already.<br><br>Apple already will provide location data of stolen devices.<br><br>So why do you think that Apple offering this detection feature is control?<br><br><i>If you perform unauthorized use (unauthorized by whom?) on YOUR phone, will Apple disable your phone.</i><br><br>Unauthorised by the owner - stupid!!!<br><br>Apple will disable your phone if the party that you give that control to says to - again they will do this now!!!<br><br>Motorola phones will blow a fuse if you hack them BTW - and they won't ask anyone first!!!<br><br>Google collects location data and internet surfing data already. Google even collects iPhone location data.

        <i>Well, the history of Apple's conduct makes it VERY likely that you are wrong. Currently, they are trying very much to control their consumer customers.</i>

        No - there is no real evidence of this - they control what they sell on their site.

        iTunes will load pretty much any content onto the device, drag and drop. Legal or illegal.

        Web Apps do not go through the App store and are not at all under Apple control at all, and you do not need any agreement with Apple to develop them, and the tools are free from Apple.
        richardw66
      • Irrational and delusional

        @richardw66

        Some of the posts in this blog must have really gotten to you. I will not waste my time on you except to point out a few obvious facts:

        1. If you start with my original post, basically pointing out a simple contradiction, your post is quite over the top.

        2. "i8thecat" called me stupid for not getting that the patent is for corporations and governments only, but you claim it is useful for any phone owner. So which one is it, Mr. oracle.

        3. Look up "conspiracy" in the dictionary. It is hard for Apple to conspire by itself.

        4. "Unauthorised by the owner - stupid!!!" Well, I think there is substantial evidence to show that "unauthorized by Apple" has consequences. But being an obvious Apple fan boy, your rose colored glasses do not let you see that. :-)
        Economister
      • RE: Apple patents feature that remotely disables devices when

        @i8thecat No, "WE" don't get it. There's a valid serious concern for privacy there...You're the one that doesn't get it. Basically, Apple can decide how we use our devices, where and when. That approach is closer to Steve Job's dream of us not being owners of the stuff we buy from him, we would only own a license. Now it turns out my iPad, that I bought with MY money, that I got from doing MY (totally legal and honest) job isn't mine to do with it whatever I please, it's his and he'll tell me what to do with it! ROTFLMFAO!!
        And you're so naive if you think this is only for gov. employees LOL Corporations always try to abuse technologies, until someone freeze them in their tracks.
        Information is power and all those corporative a**holes (Google, Facebook) are trying to get as much info as they can from us. They are trying to tell us what to do, when and where. If you don't believe it, read what google's CEO said in an interview not long ago: "People want us (google) to tell them what to do". I don't need another corporation telling me to "Think Different" (that means think like them) or what to think, buy or do. I don't need them to spy on me more than they already do.
        Oh, and for the record, I don't hate Apple.but I'm not a FANBOI either.
        Master Skywalker
      • Another view

        @Master Skywalker

        I don't know what Apple will ultimately use those patent for, but I share your concerns. Here is a link:

        http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/08/20/apple_jailbreak_patent/
        Economister
      • Do you know how to read Economister??? Master Skywalker, grow a brain...

        <i>@Economister said, "2. "i8thecat" called me stupid for not getting that the patent is for corporations and governments only, but you claim it is useful for any phone owner. So which one is it, Mr. oracle." </i><br><br>Where did I say it was useful for any phone owner brainiac???<br><br>Master Skywalker... <br><br>Apple sells computers and devices.. you are free to hack them however you like... Yes tard boi, you can load anything you want on them, do anything you like with them, stuff them in any orifice you please... But like any company, Apple also says, if you do, it voids your waranty and don't cry to us if by doing so, you brick or hose your device. There isn't a company is existance who does it any different and I challenge you to prove me wrong... <br><br>Apple doesn't decide how or when, you do, you always have, you always will. <br><br>Have you done any research on the iPhone Configuration Utility??? Do you even know what it is or what it does??? <br><br>Here.. curb your ignorance... <a href="http://www.apple.com/iphone/business/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://www.apple.com/iphone/business/</a><br><br>And then tell me this patent doesn't fit like a glove for Enterprise/Government IT... <br><br>At a consumer level, ask yourself this... Who is going to admin this security feature??? <br><br>Apple (only for thier own employees). <br><br>AT&T, like they care if you lose your phone, they would rather sell you a new phone and re-up your contract for another 2 years.. <br><br>So who is left to admin this security feature??? (you do realize this all has to be set up before you lose the phone???) Who issues the remote wipe, who issues the command to take a photo with a geotag and upload it to what server? Or do you think Apple will be selling a magical iPhone with an AI that will self protect and somehow find you by dialing the person sitting next to you in a restaurant and tell you where it is??? You obviously have zero grasp on reality and technology.<br><br>Oh, and for the record, I'm a Mac, and Windows 7 was my idea...
        i8thecat
      • RE: Apple patents feature that remotely disables devices when

        @i8thecat And why is it you keep on with the insults when someone does not agree with your point of view?

        What we are seeing here with this patent is another part of the war of Apple vs jailbreakers. Apple likely knew that they would lose the ruling about the legality of jailbreaking and so filed this patent to essentially hose those jailbreakers who refuse to go with the vision of the iPhone as Apple intended.

        Oh and i8thecat - here's a link to the patent for you:

        http://www.patentvest.com/console/reports/docs/app/20100207721.html

        Tell us exactly where this patent says it is applicable to just enterprise/government IT.
        athynz
      • Your stupidity no longer suprises me athynz....

        @athynz

        You inability to grasp the obvious is getting kinda old and boring... OK.. So I'll try to explain it so even a paranoid tard like you can understand...

        What we are seeing here with this patent is Apple doing some CYA by patenting their intellectual property so that the rest of the wannabes can't blatantly steal it... We are talking about some beefed up security features that both Enterprise and the Government would find attractive.

        But where does it specifically state that this is for business in the patent you ask???

        Well moron, patents don?t specifically state marketing and applicable demographic information? But with a little common sense, it is painfully obvious? (for everyone but you athynz)..

        The term "responsible party" is key... That would be the owner of the device(s) (you know.. the person(s)/ company legally responsible for the devices being controlled... The owner)... Since these security methods also requires administration and equipment, including a publicly facing server, that pretty much excludes consumers (and lets those with more than 2 brain cells know this is aimed at Enterprise / Government IT)... Granted a consumer can download the Enterprise Deployment Guide along with the iPhone Configuration Utility and admin their own iPhones.. Providing they wanted to?

        http://www.apple.com/iphone/business/

        There is no war on Jailbreakers you paranoid little freak... Apple never went after the dev team (whom you don?t know, have never met, but yet foolishly claim you trust) nor anyone else who wrote SW to jailbreak a iPhone? Apple never took legal action against anyone for Jailbreaking.. They only claimed it wasn?t wise to do so... Jailbreaking is legal (granted it?s also extremely stupid), if Apple was to use this to brick consumer phones on purpose, it would leave them open massive class action lawsuits... Apple doesn't strike me as being that incredibly stupid... No war doofus, just paranoid delusions?

        Now for the second part of your moronic paranoid stupidity... You think Apple is going to administer this security feature for regular consumers??? Do you have any friggin clue as to how many employees they would have to hire??? Alternate emergency contact information for every customer, configuring all that info into a management console? (Do you even realize how many iPhones are sold every minute?) Yeah? Apple isn't in the business of throwing money away... (Or perhaps you think Apple has perfected the computer AI and that it will eventually grow and become Apple/Skynet and launch an army of robots to kill all humans and in the future, only Apple robots will walk the earth)... Yeah.. I know.. Thinking isn't your strong point athynz...

        P.S. I don't insult you because you disagree with me athynz... I insult you because you are a total idiot and a tool... And you never take the time to think... Basically, you are a moron, and I hate morons...
        i8thecat
  • RE: Apple patents feature that remotely disables devices when

    The second-user market for iDevice just died. And don't lend/give your old iDevice to your kids or anyone else.<br>Remember the "Big Brother" Apple ad?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYecfV3ubP8
    Agnostic_OS
    • RE: Apple patents feature that remotely disables devices when

      @Agnostic_OS

      This will obviously opt-in and be configurable by the user.

      Also this specifies that the detection of unauthorised generates an alert to someone you nominate to decide what to do.

      So why would this stop any use of your phone that you think is OK?

      It just wouldn't unless you give someone control and they misuse it - which is exactly what is possible now.

      The remote disable is there right now and has been for a while.
      richardw66
      • RE: Apple patents feature that remotely disables devices when

        @richardw66

        Opt-in until Apple makes it mandatory, which they are want to do lately.
        Lerianis10
  • RE: Apple patents feature that remotely disables devices when

    Did anyone else see the movie "1984"? Is it just me or does Jobs look like the supreme leader dude?
    Banned From Apple
    • No, but I read the book

      @Banned From Apple - albeit a long time ago.

      And it is amusing, but the irony of their own "1984" ad versus strongly endeavoring to become it 26 years later...
      HypnoToad72
      • RE: Apple patents feature that remotely disables devices when

        @HypnoToad72 The movie was pretty true to the book, but the book was still a lot better. You did the right thing, IMHO.
        Bill4
      • IMHO, the movie was TERRIBLE, book was great (nt)

        .
        NonZealot
      • RE: Apple patents feature that remotely disables devices when

        @HypnoToad72

        What BS

        This is a service to alert the user or someone they nominate to unauthorised use.

        It then gives remote disable options and remote find options.

        The remote disable and remote find are there now.

        There are quite a few products for laptops that offer some of these features.

        There is nothing in this that adds any level of sending data to Apple that would be spying on the actual user. Only in case of a detection of potentially unauthorised activity does anything get sent.

        Then what gets sent is at the request of the user or someone they have asked to have this control.

        So the spying argument is completely bogus.

        Learn to read

        And stop looking for conspiracies so hard that you fail to understand the words!!!
        richardw66