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Android 15 will make it harder for phone thieves to steal your data

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After shirking tradition and devoting its entire Google I/O keynote to showcase how it’s stuffing AI into everything imaginable, the company has reserved day two to catch up on the one-time star of the show, Android. Alongside the arrival of the second Android 15 beta on Wednesday, Google is unveiling previously unannounced security features in its 2024 mobile software, including AI-powered theft detection, Google Play fraud protection and more.

Theft Detection Lock is a new Android 15 feature that will use AI (there it is again) to predict phone thefts and lock things up accordingly. Google says its algorithms can detect motions associated with theft, like those associated with grabbing the phone and bolting, biking or driving away. If an Android 15 handset pinpoints one of these situations, the phone’s screen will quickly lock, making it much harder for the phone snatcher to access your data.

A fallback Remote Lock feature lets you quickly lock your handset if someone manages to take it without triggering Theft Detection Lock. With Remote Lock, you can (you guessed it) remotely lock the phone’s screen from any device with only your phone number and the completion of a “quick security challenge.” This is designed to avoid situations where someone gets their phone taken (or loses it) but doesn’t know their Google account password to access Find My Device.

Along similar lines, Offline Device Lock automatically locks your phone’s screen — requiring authentication to unlock — when it’s off the grid. This is designed to counter thieves who quickly take a stolen device offline before the owner can lock or wipe it remotely.

Meanwhile, an update to factory reset protection will require your credentials to use the phone after a data wipe, reducing the incentives for them to steal it in the first place. In addition, disabling Find My Device or lengthening the phone’s screen timeout will require security authentication, voiding another common tactic phone snatchers use to reset the device before getting locked out.

Similar to a feature Apple rolled out earlier this year, Android 15 will also require extra authentication when trying to change account security settings (changing the PIN, disabling theft protection or accessing Passkeys) from an untrusted location.

Catch up on all the news from Google I/O 2024 right here!

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