Update your Android phone to prevent thieves from breaking into your device, Google announces

The next major version of Android will prevent thieves from breaking into stolen phones, Google has announced. The smart feature, known as Theft Detection Lock, will debut in Android 15, which was announced last week at the Google I/O developer conference but won’t launch until later this year. Google has also confirmed this the biggest shakeup in the search engine since its launch in the late 1990s during the same two-day event.

Google says its Artificial Intelligence (AI) model can detect when a smartphone has been snatched from the owner’s hand – with Android 15 automatically locking the screen to prevent thieves from breaking into the device.


screenshot of an Android phone with the settings open for the new remote lock screen

Google has also made improvements to the Remote Lock feature, making it easier for users to lock their device if it gets lost

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Without a fingerprint scan, facial scan, correct password or PIN, thieves cannot access the contents of the phone. It will also prevent criminals from resetting the handset to sell it on the second-hand market.

Until now, snatching a phone from someone’s hand would bypass the need to unlock the phone.

Google said its AI is taught to detect “common movements associated with theft” by reading signals from the device, such as the accelerometer reading the sudden jolt of someone on a bicycle snatching a phone from a user’s hand and then drives away at high speed to immediately lock the device.

It will be supplemented with a range of tools to better secure and hide apps that may contain sensitive data that could be of interest to thieves, as well as features to simplify the ability to remotely lock a phone after it has been stolen.

Android Vice President of Engineering Dave Burke said the new theft detection tool was partly inspired by feedback it received from staff and users in Sao Paolo, Brazil and London, where he said high levels of phone theft were reported.

“Some pretty scary statistics that I learned quite recently (were that) in Sao Paolo a phone is stolen every five minutes, and in London a phone is stolen every six minutes,” he said. “That’s a very serious problem, and we started thinking about what we can do, and we started studying the problem.”

He added that the company had studied videos of phone thefts on bicycles to develop the new feature.

In October last year, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley and London Mayor Sadiq Khan held a meeting with tech companies – including Google – about phone companies doing more to help combat phone theft after a rise in incidents in the capital in recent months. previous 12 months.

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The new feature is complemented by other tools. Google said: “Strengthen your device’s security against theft with new and improved security features that will make thieves think twice about trying”.

It includes a new Private Space tool, which allows users to create a separate area on their phone to place apps that contain sensitive data (such as banking apps) and can be hidden and locked with a separate PIN.

In addition, Google is introducing a new Remote Lock feature, which allows users to lock their device remotely, using just their phone number and an additional preset security question.

Google said allowing this process using a phone number was because “many users are shocked and stressed after losing a phone and can’t remember their Google account password,” which is used to gain access to the Find My Device app where phones can be locked remotely.

The tech giant announced that it would also be rolling out new on-device AI tools that would detect apps that may be committing fraud.

The live threat detection tools analyze how apps behave and use the permissions users give them to monitor if they are engaging in suspicious behavior, alerting both users and Google if such activity is spotted.

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