How Hackers Break into iCloud-Locked iPhones

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In spring, 2017, a teenager walked up behind a woman leaving the Metro in Northeast Washington DC and put her in a chokehold: "Be quiet," he said. And "delete your iCloud." He grabbed her iPhone 6S and ran away.

The iCloud security feature has cut down on the number of iPhones that have been stolen, but enterprising criminals have found ways to remove iCloud in order to resell devices. To do this, they phish the phone’s original owners, or scam employees at Apple Stores. Thieves, coders, and hackers participate in an underground industry designed to remove a user’s iCloud account from a phone so that they can then be resold.

Motherboard Editor-in-Chief Jason Koebler and senior staff writer Joseph Cox spent the last few months diving into the notably complicated world of “iCloud Unlocks” and the ways in which it involves not only physical and cybercrime, but also the otherwise legitimate independent iPhone repair industry.

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