But did she STEAL the iPhone? App takes photo of woman trying to unlock it

Filed Under: Android, Apple, Data loss, Featured, iOS, Law & order, Mobile, Security threats, Windows phone

iGotYaA woman who tried to unlock a stolen iPhone unwittingly took her own photo. An app on the phone then automatically sent the photo to the owner, who called the police.

The app, identified by some media outlets as iGotYa, can only be installed on jailbroken iPhones.

iGotYa takes a picture of anyone who tries to unlock it, maps their location and then sends the information to the owner in an email.

That's exactly what happened in this particular case, Sussex Police said, with an iPhone that had been stolen from the Coalition nightclub in Brighton, East Sussex, earlier this month.

Police have released the picture of the woman who might have stolen the phone.

iPhone capture, courtesy of Sussex Police

The Huffington Post quoted Pc Gavin Crute, of Sussex Police, as saying that they're eager to talk to the woman or anyone who might recognise her:

"We know where and when the photo was taken, and it appears to be in a vehicle with quite a large sunroof."

"We don't know that the woman is the person who stole the camera, but she obviously has had some connection with it in the meantime, and I'd like to speak to her about it."

Of course, not everyone wants to jailbreak their iPhones.

Fortunately, there are other ways to protect either an iPhone or an Android, as Naked Security outlines here.

Switching on a smartphone's GPS tracking function can help, and you can do that with either Apple's Find my iPhone app or, for Androids, Sophos's free Mobile Security app.

The cost of the phone is only one thing to worry about when it comes to losing a pricey smartphone, of course. Loss of data is another thing entirely.

Sophos Mobile SecurityWhich is another reason to use one of these or similar applications: Either Find my iPhone or Sophos Mobile Security will remotely wipe data in case of theft or loss.

Many such applications include additional features such as protection from malware.

An enterprise edition of Sophos's free app, called Sophos Mobile Control, also allows you to:

  • Enforce your security policies to ensure compliance
  • Turn on the built-in security features of iOS (iPhone/iPad), Android, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile devices, including password protection or any iOS encryption.
  • Ensure that only registered devices that meet your policies - i.e., not rooted (Android) or jailbroken (iOS) - have full access to corporate data and that the users of non-compliant devices are blocked or face other consequences until the situation is rectified.
  • Help locate, lock or wipe lost devices, from the admin web console or the self-service portal.
  • Have an immediate overview of your company's device status from the security dashboard.
  • Prove your corporate compliance with easy inventory and reporting tools.

You do need an app like iGotYa to take an automatic snapshot of people trying to unlock your device, though.

Whichever route you pick - free app, paid app that lets you snap photos of people trying to unlock your phone, or enterprise app with more features - is better than leaving that precious gadget stark naked, unprotected and untrackable.

In the meantime, if you recognise the woman in the photo, Sussex Police ask that you call it in. In England, dial your local police on their non-emergency number: 101.

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52 Responses to But did she STEAL the iPhone? App takes photo of woman trying to unlock it

  1. Jim · 993 days ago

    Blackberry Protect will tell you exactly where your phone is using the built in GPS. you can then wipe it out and even send a message and lock the phone, I used this once when I couldn't locate my phone, it pointed to my car..

    • Paul · 992 days ago

      So does Find iPhone app. Can make it beep, send messages to it, lock it or wipe it.

    • Yes,. And there are multiple apps to do the same thing on iPhones and Android phones. And as a bonus, you actually get a decent phone!

  2. alatariel1092 · 993 days ago

    Doesn't anyone ever think of the absurdity of carrying a tiny computer in your pocket, with all your sensitive data on it, when it can easily fall out of your pocket and get lost, and when it's an irresistible target for thieves? Whatever happened to keeping your data on a secured computer in your house, and using your phone to make phone calls?

    • TechGeek · 993 days ago

      Welcome to the modern age of stupidity and convenience.

    • A phone to make phone calls?! What an absurd thought! :p

    • Alan · 993 days ago

      Er, because smartphones bring many benefits, like email and messaging on the move, photo uploads and sharing, music... Do I really need to go on? Yes, you're running a small risk of data theft but with a bit of common sense you can limit that risk. And many people judge the residual risk is worth it.

    • Lance · 992 days ago

      The same thing that happened to the typewriter, vinyl records, audiotapes, VHS, the dial telephone, the wired telephone, the correcting Selectric, auto batteries that needed to have water added 3 times a year, and defrosting refrigerators. Among other things.

  3. Er I thought the app would 'Icloud' to locate wherever the phone is, and regardless of it being 'cracked' or not! I now feel less protected than I had thought! How come they couldn't retrieve it?

  4. Jeff · 993 days ago

    I tracked my stolen phone to an address with Google Latitude which I forwarded to the police. They promised to look into it but I haven't anything so far.

    • Chris · 988 days ago

      hahah because they are the Police.. they dont understand or care.. they just wanna get fat on hot dogs n shit XD ( I had my Router hacked before and had conclusive evidence with IPs, locations and times.. they didn't care..)

      • Amen on that! They don't even try to act like they care.

        • Truth · 671 days ago

          In today's America, cops are for protecting and serving as much as phones are for phone calls.

          They have their own agenda. Public service, safety or well being often isn't even on their radar much less petty property crime.

  5. Nathan · 993 days ago

    I had my iPhone for stolen, and using find my iPhone watched the culprit drive around the city and then stop at a house for hours. He left but then came back to the same house for hours. When the police arrived I told them I knew where the culprit lived, but they wouldn't do anything. This person also stole our company laptop which was right next to the iPhone.

  6. CatM · 993 days ago

    That is one surprisingly attractive thief.

    • jay · 896 days ago

      Mate , she's a low life phone stealing ugly dog.!!
      Get some respect for yourself & your eyes tested.

  7. Prey is a great app for tracking lost or stolen devices. Check http://preyproject.com/

  8. Fubar · 993 days ago

    re: "Doesn't anyone ever think of the absurdity of carrying a tiny computer in your pocket"

    Blame it on "Star Trek". Remeber the "communicator" that they flipped open that would do cool stuff? You can not understand the IT industry unless you watched Star Trek in the 1960s.

  9. John Stead · 993 days ago

    Typical Apple morality.
    Stolen iPhone takes picture of woman, emails it to owner.
    Typical Apple, humiliating a mom to advertise their product.
    Blown up story, humiliating a person, only to get marketing boosted up.
    Typical Apple morality. They don't care about personal life.

    • I don't think this has anything to do with Apple.

    • Ryan Prescott · 920 days ago

      Jailbreaking an iPhone is against Apple's TOS, and a jailbroken iPhone is required to use the program that takes pictures discretely like this. Did you read the article?

    • David Simmons · 895 days ago

      LMAO...Did you even read the article? What does this have to do with Apple?!

  10. herzco · 993 days ago

    While unlikely, there is a slight chance that this woman found the phone and was trying to locate the owner. As I said, this probably is not the case, but if so, what a nightmare for this person to have been implicated before the facts are out.

    • Jeanne · 903 days ago

      I actually did find an iPhone in a NYC crosswalk a couple years ago. I opened it and found the owner's name and email address. I was able to get the phone back to her. In fact, I have found two other cell phones that I did the same thing for over the years. I guess I am an anomaly - but I hope someone would do the same for me.

  11. It seems to me the smarter the phone the easier it is to either lose it or have it stolen. What if the womans picture was innocent? What if she just found the phone?

    • Concerneed Citizen · 946 days ago

      Ok yea.. I found an iphone, cool. I wonder if i can hook it up on a prepaid service and keep it as my own.. LMFAO. Who Does that. On a Side note though.. Your last name reminds me of a simpsons episode where Bart Used a walkie talkie to pretend to be TImmy Otoole Stuck down a Well.. LOL i know what im watching tonight,.

  12. mikeau · 993 days ago

    Of course, after this publicity thieves now know that they should cover the camera on stolen iphones when trying to unlock them... so the app is going to be slightly less useful each time...

    • Mr. Stuckington · 804 days ago

      I really don't think thieves will pay attention to IT news; unless they want to be as shrewd and lewd as possible.

  13. Frank · 993 days ago

    I run a business and I don't see how I can keep all my data on my computer and drive back to it when I need something. Even for home use, I might want to check my calendar or carry an important document with me. The easier thing to do is to put a password on the phone so that if it gets stolen, it can't be scavenged. And having the documents digitally on a locked device is more secure than having paper files tat are left in a car or dropped out of a briefcase and then anyone can just read them at will.

  14. All the more reason to be careful while buying a used phone.

  15. MG101 · 992 days ago

    Hey peep Find My Iphone also takes a photo of the person when they try to swipe it open to view a fake message of bank details that the app generates, also the same app tells you where your phone is, if its moving and how fast its moving so they cant get away and once your at the location you can make your phone start an alarm noise which can only be turned off by you they have no control so my advice is "Find My Iphone" and keep it running in the background and keep location services on or it cant work.. Merry Christmas

  16. Sam · 992 days ago

    What if you're just trying to unlock it to see who called last, so you can call that person, and report that you found a cellphone.

    • Kristina · 952 days ago

      You're right, I wondered the same thing. I'll be damned if I'm called a thief because I was trying to locate the owner by opening it to find a number.

  17. mark · 992 days ago

    I just wonder about the human rights aspect of putting the photo up on social networking basically incriminating this poor girl. Where is the phrase " innocent before proving guilty"?

    • Anon · 992 days ago

      is she's innocent she should come forward as that is not her phone

      • mark · 991 days ago

        Not for us to decide. She may have purchased it from someone or even found it in the street. Who knows? Its like a witch hunt.

    • Lisa Vaas · 992 days ago

      Nobody, police included, labeled the woman in the photo a thief. Maybe she is, maybe she's not. It doesn't speak well of her that she hasn't turned the phone in, since it's obviously not hers, but that's circumstantial. Hell, maybe her friend left a stolen phone in her car and she got curious. At any rate, the police just want to talk to her, given that she's fiddling with somebody's lost or stolen phone.

  18. Fred Nittles · 992 days ago

    In this day and age we're guilty until proven otherwise. Who is to say she wasn't attempting to unlock the phone in order to contact someone who may know the owner? Perhaps it was stolen or maybe it was misplaced.

    Either way, it's easy to jump to conclusions based off news reports and Internet mafia led propaganda. Too much tech in our lives.

  19. Peter · 992 days ago

    let's leave aside for a moment that Sophos want to sell their mobile security solution, which is okay for me.
    What's most remarkable about this case is the fact that you have to breach the manufacturers regulations first to secure your device in the described way, (which is legeal depending on where you are located).
    Apple Inc. seems to be interested not too much in it's customers security, otherwise they would offer a free basic tool like the mentioned "igotya" and a reasonably priced extended version for enhanced security according to professional requirements. This one could be offered by any security pros like Sophos et.al.
    Any honest finder of a lost or stolen phone should have a secure possibility to make contact with the legal owner without being blamed or criminalized as a thief.

    In the future, any professional thief would be so clever to hide their faces or blocking the camera at unlocking a stolen device. To avoid geo-tracking you would have to go to a place away from your neighbourhood, use a Faraday cage or a manipulated mobile phone cell device at unlocking.

    The best way to protect you and your gadgets security will be using it reasonably and follow basic security rules as you would do with your money purse or car/home keys.

    • They do. I't called "Find My iPhone."

      And Sophos doesn't make or sell IGotYa, a company called Mobile Innovations does, and sells it on the Cydia store. Sophos doesn't make a nickel for anything mentioned in this article.

      And unlike your iPhone or other mobile device, your keys don't tell the finder/thief where you live and what your credit card numbers are. You don't secure a smartphone the same way you secure keys.

  20. Andrew · 942 days ago

    Having found a phone recently and managed to return it to its owner (by virtue of the fact that the owner had _no_ PIN enabled!), I wouldn't want my photo plastered anywhere without my permission.

    In fact, it would be illegal to do so, AFAIK, here in Oz and in the UK. An image that substantially identifies/is of one subject must have the subject's express permission in order to be published... the police (and maybe Sophos) could be sued in this instance, perhaps?

  21. That app is awesome, I need to get one of those "locksmith" apps to secure my phone when it gets stole, at least i will have the right keys to get it back!

  22. bill · 857 days ago

    So the moral of the story is if you have a stolen iphone put some black tape over the forward facing camera - nice tip thanks for that

  23. curious · 804 days ago

    Is there any update to this story? The photo went viral worldwide but I can't seem to find a single article that suggests she was caught, let alone identified.

  24. jahanzaib · 741 days ago

    That app is awesome, I need to get this app to secure my phone.this app should b instal in every phone

  25. Hanisha · 735 days ago

    is there any possibility for photo as password in the iOS.....?

  26. Norton Mobile Security has the same features to locate, lock, erase, and take the pictures like the one the iPhone took. My Android phone has the same tiny camera and the software will take a photo every 10 minutes and send it. There's even a feature to make it scream!

    I'm with others on this who question labeling the woman a thief right off. If I found a phone I would do the same thing as the woman in the photo- look at the front and try to open it and see if I could find something that would lead me to the owner.

    I have found a few phones before and was able to get them returned. Now, with this rush to judgment I'm not so sure if I ever found another I would even pick it up.

  27. Anonymous · 454 days ago

    If I found a phone, I would try to find the owner! Then that could easily be me who gets their picture taken while trying to do that!

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About the author

I've been writing about technology, careers, science and health since 1995. I rose to the lofty heights of Executive Editor for eWEEK, popped out with the 2008 crash, joined the freelancer economy, and am still writing for my beloved peeps at places like Sophos's Naked Security, CIO Mag, ComputerWorld, PC Mag, IT Expert Voice, Software Quality Connection, Time, and the US and British editions of HP's Input/Output. I respond to cash and spicy sites, so don't be shy.