Again on mobile phones protection

After my previous post on the matter I’ve found out that, first of all, iOS does support complex passwords, and second I had an experience that strengthened my feeling that Apple’s move toward TouchID is a good move.

So around 24 hours later, I guess the shock itself is wearing off, even though the scene is still extremely fuzzy in my mind.

Last night, after saying bye to [Andrea] and [Fabio] I was trying to get a cab on the South Side, and after two drivers calling to say that they couldn’t pick me up (so why on earth did you accept the ride on [HAILO] ?) I decided to cross the river — on the next pedestrian bridge next to O’Connell (Ha’Penny).

Just before finishing crossing, some scumbag yanks my phone out of my hands (while I was calling another cab). I should have just left them the phone and called Security to have it locked & tracked down, but I got into fight-or-flight mode and, as it turns out, in particular in fight mode.

I run after the guy, who was trying to cross Ormond Quay, but thanks to him trying to avoid getting driven over I catch and grab him by the chest. He drops my phone, not sure if hoping I’d let go or because he struggled; his partner then punches me in the face and screamsfor me to let him go, my glasses and my hat fall on the sidewalk, and the two guys run away.

I pick up the glasses, put my hat back on and check on the phone, it’s ringing, it’s the cab driver. One passer by actually stops to ask me if I’m okay and if I got my phone, I’m afraid I ended up being rude to him, but I was quite shocked. The cab driver has been the most understanding, I walked away from him instead of toward, but he caught up with me, and got me safely back home. I probably should have reported this but at the time I couldn’t think, and now it would be useless.

Speaking with Security tonight I realized how stupid it has been of me to run after the guy, I should have just turned back, asked Andrea to call them to pick me up and track the phone. They could have had a knife, a rock or even just any other blunt object.

I got lucky, again… it’s not the first time, I sure hope it’s not going to be the last time (although I’d like not to need to be lucky). But sure I don’t want to stray to the North Side too often.

There is no need to tell me I was totally stupid and irresponsible, I know that. On the other hand, I can say now that I’m happy Apple decided to address the phone theft problem in a non-obvious way.

No, TouchID is not better than a PIN. No, it does not resist against even shallow targeted attacks. No, it does not protect you against police forces — why should it?

But it’s more convenient than a PIN, and people who wouldn’t even use a PIN (let alone a stronger password) because of the inconvenience are likely to rather consider using TouchID. And while again this will not protect you against self-indictment (again, why should it? — yes if it wasn’t clear enough, I’m usually trusting the police more than your average paranoid), the standard city thief wouldn’t have much use of a locked phone, beside as parts.

As long as the news goes around that phones can’t be unlocked and their value on the black market goes down, the amount of thieveries will go down.

So instead of blaming Apple for not addressing your concerns of a paranoid geek (concerns that, at this point, were addressed a long time ago and the solution for was not invalidated), think about what they are really trying to solve.