The UK’s Metropolitan Police has been discussing the introduction of pre-activated PIN codes on all new phones sold in the country, in a bid to reduce mobile phone thefts. The idea is to make PIN code access the default option, forcing those who don’t want it to drill down through a few menus and turn it off themselves. Currently, it’s the opposite situation, new owners must activate the PIN code during setup, or as many do, just skip past the option.
According to a report published by The Register, the police have been talking to several smartphone manufacturers, including Samsung and Apple, for a whopping two years. Met Police Detective Chief Inspector Mahoney, who is in charge of the initiative, said the department has also talked to the government on the matter, and stated the plan has “gained traction.” However, he offers no indication it’s close to being adopted.
DCI Mahoney says internal research has shown if a PIN code is active when the device is purchased, owners are less likely to turn it off. A secured phone is worth less to criminals, thanks to it being more difficult to get at the valuable personal information inside. We’re all acutely aware of just how much data is stored on our phones, and in the wrong hands, it could be used to steal our identity and make lives a misery.
An active PIN code is only one part of keeping our phones secured, but it works well in conjunction with security measures such as Apple’s Find My iPhone and Activation Lock, and Samsung’s Find My Mobile system. The UK also contributes to the international stolen phone database, which prevents phones reported as stolen being reactivated.
The UK police’s two year effort to make PIN codes mandatory comes soon after similarly lengthy battles took place in America. Rather than PIN codes, the fight was to introduce legislation for “kill switches” on our phones, which could also cut down on phone theft.