How to Remotely Format your iPhone

How to Remotely Format your iPhone, iPad, or Mac after a Theft

How to remotely Format your iPhone, iPad, or Mac after a theft – Find My iPhone—and iPad and Mac—was one of the most powerful tools offered to macOS and iOS years ago. The iCloud-connected service allows you to trace an item that has been misplaced and maybe recover a stolen item.

You can utilize Find Me for macOS, iOS, or iPadOS, or to wipe your computer, phone, or tablet or to queue an erasure signal for the next time the device is connected to the Internet if the service is enabled on the device.

For storage, iPhones, and iPads with a Secure Enclave, as well as Macs with FileVault, just erase the encryption keys. This makes the data unrecoverable. (Don’t worry; it won’t affect your local or iCloud backups.) Disk encryption is always activated on a Mac with a T2 Security Chip or M1 Apple silicon, even if FileVault isn’t, allowing Secure Enclave to delete the disk encryption keys instantaneously even if FileVault is disabled.

The enclave of Pre-Security File deletion takes longer for iPhones, iPads, and Macs that don’t have FileVault enabled since each byte of data must be wiped.

If you’re unsure if your iPhone, iPad, or Intel Mac has a Secure Enclave, look it up on Apple’s website. Go to the FileVault tab in the Security & Privacy preference pane to see if FileVault is activated.

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What is the procedure for wiping a device?

Apple has modified the procedure significantly for its native apps, but the iCloud website has been left largely the same for years.

Launch the Find My app on macOS, iOS, or iPadOS. Select the Devices tab, then select your hardware. (You can also see the devices of family members if you have Family Sharing enabled.) Tap Erase This Device on an iPhone or iPad and follow the directions. Right-click the device and select Erase This Device on a Mac.

Log in to your iCloud account and click the Find iPhone link—there is no “My” in there. If prompted, enter your iCloud password once more. Select your hardware from the All Devices menu:

For a Mac, select Erase Mac and follow the prompts; you’ll notice that the text claims it “may take up to a day to finish,” which is the worst-case scenario for a Mac with a hard drive but no FileVault and no T2 or M1 chip.

Simply select Erase iPhone or Erase iPad for an iPhone or iPad.

If the device is linked to the internet through any method available to it—Wi-Fi, cellular, tethering, a…dial-up modem—erasure begins as soon as the Mac gets the signal sent through Apple’s servers. In the scenarios mentioned above, the drive or flash storage becomes unrecoverable fairly instantly.

Apple queues the erase command, so if the gadget connects to the internet again, it will wipe itself. Finding your device’s location using Find My is no longer available once it starts erasing its data.

Devices that have been taken offline or placed in a metal box by ne’er-do-wells may never be brought back online to receive an erase command. However, the stored data on iPhones, iPads, and Macs with a Secure Enclave cannot be accessed unless the password is also retrieved. (There may be cracks that work on a running Mac, but they’re improbable; if the Mac is powered down and FileVault is activated, it’s effectively impossible.)

It can be deleted, which safely deletes your data—and then Find My’s Activation Lock kicks in. (There are a few extra prerequisites for Macs.) Activation Lock prevents a deleted device from being reactivated without the iCloud password connected with the account that enabled Find Mine on it.

In certain situations, criminal gangs appear to have worked out how to get around Activation Lock, but those methods still necessitate wiping the device, leaving your data unavailable.

Is there a future when remote erase is the norm?

I can see a future where the Find My Network may be used to erase data as well. The system is currently only utilized as a passive relay: an AirTag tracker and most Apple products can broadcast their location through Bluetooth in a secure manner. Nearby Macs, iPhones, and iPads with Find My Network turned on to send this information to Apple, allowing you to receive location updates without the party relaying it knowing who you are or which device is transmitting.

AirTags, on the other hand, suggests a two-way process. If Apple finds that an AirTag has been traveling with you and that you are not the owner, an iPhone or iPad dialog appears with the option to play a sound. Bluetooth is used to send this command.

When an iPhone detects an unknown AirTag traveling with it over time, it can send a signal to the AirTag, causing it to take action.

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The COVID-19 exposure notification system is a precursor to a more complex system that protects privacy while also being capable of device erasure. Your smartphone recorded all specially formatted Bluetooth signals around you and stored them for a period of time in Apple and Google’s joint notification system; this is similar to the signals generated by Apple devices for Find My Network.

If someone who was close to you was diagnosed with COVID and entered a code provided by their healthcare provider into their smartphone, the encrypted Bluetooth IDs associated with the diagnosis would be uploaded to a database that all devices in your region or country downloaded and compared to stored IDs on a regular basis.

Consider this scenario: what if you could report your gadget as stolen and request that it be erased? This signal would then be encrypted and spread across all Apple hardware in your vicinity or a larger region. Any of those devices may transmit an encrypted erase command if they picked up an encrypted Bluetooth signal that matched. Thieves attempt to disable all wireless capabilities on a device, but Bluetooth is frequently more difficult to stop than Wi-Fi or cellular.

The precautions in place would have to be formidable, but it’s not impossible—just far-reaching!

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