What iOS 7’s Activation Lock means for the enterprise

One of the bigger stories out of Apple’s introduction of iOS 7 at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) was its Activation Lock feature. Law enforcement officials have been calling on Apple and other phone manufacturers to proactively deter theft of their products as cellphone thefts rise, and Activation Lock seems to be Apple’s answer.

Activation Lock, if you haven’t yet heard, allows a user to lock a lost or stolen iPhone. The phone can’t be reactivated or wiped and resold without the user’s Apple ID and password. Law enforcement and users seem to like the change, but what about enterprises? What does Activation Lock mean to IT? Here are two major takeaways:

  1. Activation Lock creates a small risk. The one problem with Activation Lock in the enterprise is its potential to be misused by a disgruntled or laid off employee, who could conceivably turn in his or her phone, put an Activation Lock on it, and leave the company a brick as a farewell gift. This is unlikely but possible based on what we know about the feature. Apple, however, is probably aware of the potential sensitivities, and the feature will likely have safeguards, like a reclamation feature that would restore a phone that was improperly locked. But, we still don’t know all the details.
  2. Activation Lock is for users, not businesses. While it makes sense that average iPhone users would want a way to lock their phone in the event it’s lost or stolen, enterprises are less concerned about the reselling of a stolen phone. Higher on the list of IT priorities is data loss or leaks. And these companies should already have MDM solutions in place to remote wipe devices that go missing.

At present it’s hard to fully gauge the impact of Activation Lock and other iOS 7 changes on the enterprise. While the features have been announced, the full details are still unknown. Apple has also listed, but not detailed, some other features relevant to the enterprise, including “better protection of work and personal data, management of app licenses, seamless enrollment in Mobile Device Management, wireless app configuration, enterprise single sign-on support, and default data protection for third-party apps.”

It remains to be seen how these functions will work, but the details will likely be fleshed out over the next several months. For now, we’re cautiously optimistic that the features will be favorable to the enterprise.

So while the impact of iOS 7 is an incomplete picture at best, and enterprises might not know how to respond for several more months, the one thing we can say about iOS 7 is that underneath the new design is a lot more power, and we look forward to seeing what it can do.

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