Mobile

Apple pulls online Activation Lock tool

The status check page could reportedly be used to steal valid iPhone and iPad serial numbers from Apple device owners.

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With Apple's Activation Lock checker gone, you'll have to exercise a little more diligence with used devices.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple's online tool meant to help prevent the use of lost or stolen iPhones may have actually aided phone thieves.

Apple has removed the Check Activation Lock Status page from iCloud.com. The change was noted Sunday by MacRumors. The page let people check the status of an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch by plugging in the IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number or serial number.

Introduced in iOS 7, Activation Lock is a security feature meant to prevent the use of lost or stolen devices. Someone buying a used iPhone or iPad, for example, could request the serial number and use Apple's status page to verify that Activation Lock was turned off. If the device was still locked, or the seller refused to give a serial number, there's a chance it was stolen. In other words, major red flag.

Apple hasn't said why it pulled the site, but MacRumors suggested it could be linked to a scheme that lets hackers steals valid serial numbers from existing iOS users.

Hackers could plug an invalid IMEI into Apple's online tool and change one or two characters until they found a serial number that was functional. That serial number, which belongs to a legitimate Apple device owner, could then be used to unlock a previously bricked iPhone or iPad.

The hack could explain complaints from iPhone 7 owners who found their new devices inexplicably locked to another Apple ID account, according to MacRumors.

Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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