how to find stolen iphone

It's no fun to misplace your phone, but Apple has provided a way to track it down and recover it. However, with iOS 13 (& macOS Catalina) their tracking system has gotten a rebrand. "Find my iPhone", "Find my Mac", "Find my iPad", and "Find My Friends" are all now the same app called "Find My". It can be scary to lose your device, so we'll to cut the chase. This is how to track down your lost iPhone using iOS 13 or macOS Catalina:

How to Locate a Device with Find My in iOS 13 and macOS Catalina

how to track down stolen iphone

9to5Mac used Find My to locate their MacBook Air. In their above screenshot, they show how to access all of your connected devices using FindMy. Next, they used their iPhone to locate their laptop while it was offline. Even though it was turned off, the Find My app was still able to locate it. Here's how to use your own devices to track down another:

  1. 1.First, open up the “Find My” app on an Apple device.
  2. 2.Then, tap the “Devices” tab at the bottom
  3. 3.Look for your device on the list then on the map.
  4. 4.Tap it and depending on the situation, you can ping it, mark it as lost, and/or erase the device.

Congrats on tracking down your lost device! Finding your lost or stolen iPhone while offline is no small feat. It's a confluence of technology and ubiquity of the iPhone (among other Apple devices) that lets Apple pull this off. Moreover, they were able to do so while anonymizing all if the data their devices transmit, such as location. Offline support for Find My is a great way to find a lost device but it also makes for a better theft deterrent.

Is Using Find My Safe?

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We know even if your iPhone is turned off, the Find My app will still be able to locate it. That certainly is a great feature if it gets lost. But, it also raises a concerning question: can Apple stil track you even when your phone is off? Yes, they can. There is one caveat to this whole ordeal though, in order to find your lost iPhone, you'll need another connected Apple device to locate your lost phone. The second Apple device is the one that has the key to decrypt the location of your offline device.

This data is kept encrypted and needs a key from another one of your devices in order to begin the location process. Apple describes its offline location support by stating, "Locate a missing device even if it’s not connected to Wi‑Fi or cellular using crowd‑sourced location. When you mark your device as missing and another Apple user’s device is nearby, it can detect your device’s Bluetooth signal and report its location to you. It’s completely anonymous and encrypted end‑to‑end, so everyone’s privacy is protected."

So, they can track your phone when it's off, but that's good news! You'll be able to locate your phone even if it's dead or has been turned off. Also, you don't have to take their statement at face value, they built it into the privacy framework of Find My.

How Find My Works

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Every Apple device emits a perpetually changing encryption key to all nearby Apple devices via Bluetooth signals. They unlock the encrypted location of each device. Once they are picked up, the signals act as a beacon. All the devices send and receive these Bluetooth keys constantly. When your iOS device sends out a signal, the nearby devices upload the location of your device, still fully encrypted. This allows you to use Find My to track it when your device is online. However, offline tracking works a bit differently. When it's turned off, the Apple device will relay its' location to the cloud.

A report from Wired earlier this year explained how Find My will work in practice. They said,  "When you want to find your stolen laptop, you turn to your second Apple device—let’s say an iPad—which contains both the same private key as the laptop and has generated the same series of rotating public keys. When you tap a button to find your laptop, the iPad uploads the same hash of the public key to Apple as an identifier, so that Apple can search through its millions upon millions of stored encrypted locations, and find the matching hash."

Does Find My Work?

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Have you had any heroic rescues or success stories using Find My? Let us know in the comments!

Another great way to protect your device is to put it into a case. When looking for a new iPhone 11 case, 16-inch MacBook Pro case, or even a new leather iPad case, we hope you'll consider our handmade protective cases.

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