back to article iPhone passcode blocks everything - except phone calls

iPhone users expecting their Passcode Lock to prevent thieves running up their bill will be disappointed, as it emerges that the "Emergency Call" button actually allows any number to be dialled. While most users are happy to keylock their iPhone with the sliding finger, some opt to configure a passcode to lock the device more …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Richard Cartledge


    So it does, I'm glad I'm on Orange Dolphin Pay and Go with free internet access for a month eveytime you topup £10. ;)

  2. Eddy Ito

    Of course any number can be an emergency

    It wouldn't be much good calling the police when they are the ones trying to break down the door.

  3. Ben Best
    Thumb Down


    It also shows the name of the person you're calling if they're in your phone book...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    Not seeing any real details - perhaps it only allows recognized emergency numbers and phone numbers already in the addressbook? Not in the UK with an iPhone, so can't test...


  5. This post has been deleted by its author

  6. Bill Gould
    Gates Halo

    Way to go Apple.

    Just another reason to stay away from Wonderdouches craptech.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    old news

    This is a well known, documented fact and has been for some time. Hardly 'news' worthy.

  8. Webster Phreaky
    Jobs Horns

    Bwah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha .... TOO FUNNY Kool Aid Drinkers!!

    but the AppleTards are still in denile about all the Apple product follies.

  9. David Simpson
    Thumb Down

    Or just take your sim out.

    A lock code is far from secure anyway, if someone stole your iPhone with the intention of stealing free minutes as well as a phone, they could just remove your sim, stick it in their own phone and run you up a huge bill.

    Not really much you can do about it, thats what insurance is for.

  10. Phillip Mackin


    I already knew this. I've known for a long time. I go further than this - I could have sworn I read it here, like, six months ago.

  11. Eugene Goodrich

    Proper feature design

    Apple has to allow any number. If it's 3:30 on a Friday, the pub can be an emergency number to a lot of people for a lot of reasons.

    Its raining around here so I need this coat to go to the, er, emergency response center.

  12. Ed
    Thumb Down


    ...this isn't news. Hasn't this been common knowledge for months?

  13. Urs Keller
    Paris Hilton

    What do other smartphones do?

    Anyone to know how the Nikias, Sony-Ericsons, RIMs, Motos, etc. handle emergency calls?

  14. Chris iverson

    Thank you El Reg

    ....For my daily jesus phone bash. A Friday is nothing without a little BOFH and a jobsian bash

  15. Thomas

    Webster baiting?

    The true genius of El Reg's habit of running these sort of stories: either you're the sort of brainless, angry idiot who actually enjoys reading about every minor issue, of you can skip to the comments and have a good laugh at Webster.

  16. Sabine Miehlbradt

    Usual way to route emergency calls from a mobile

    @Urs Keller

    Usually, emergency calls in the EU are managed by the network (Vodafone, T-Mobile, E-Plus). If I call Emergengy on any phone connected to any network - even if it is not "my" network, the company puts me through to the general local emergency line 112. So it's like calling 112 from you landline phone. They can deal with anything.

    The law states basically that emergency calls have to be routed that way even if the mobile is not logged in. As long as you got juice in the battery and can get a link to any net, you can make an emergency call.

    I'm German but if I remember correctly, 112 is the emergency phone number in most of Europe already and will be in all of Europe, soon.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    @David Simpson

    "A lock code is far from secure anyway, if someone stole your iPhone with the intention of stealing free minutes as well as a phone, they could just remove your sim, stick it in their own phone and run you up a huge bill."

    And switching the SIM lock on like I've been doing since my first mobile phone circa mid-90's?

  18. Timothy Luoma

    It's a problem, but not my main concern

    As the aforementioned "typical user" allow me to respond:

    Sure, that’s annoying. But I can call AT&T and have them cancel the service on the phone.

    But I don’t have to worry about my 1Password data, my email passwords, my OmniFocus info, my calendar and contact information from my address book, etc.

    My iPhone a lot of important data on it. The ability for someone to use it as a phone is fairly minor.

  19. SkippyBing


    How an f**k up like this in an Apple product is 'hardly newsworthy' and yet in an MS product it would be a sign of their inability to write decent software.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    112, 999, etc on other phones.

    Nokia phones will still allow you to dial 112 as an emergency. But that's usually where it ends. There may be special features requested by operators (like using 999 instead of 112), but the emergency settings are usually left as is.

  21. tony trolle

    arrr 112

    should work in the uk, hello hello hello

  22. Nev Silver badge

    Emergency calls

    You don't even need a SIM to make 112 calls from a handset.


    @David Simpson

    Not heard of the locking the SIM with a PIN to stop people using it in another phone then?

  23. Steve Evans
    Paris Hilton

    @Urs Keller

    What do other ("Real") phones do?

    Easy, they only let you dial 999,112 or 911 (depending on where you are), and they've been like that for years, ever since someone first came up with the key lock idea, and someone else pointed out that it might be useful for someone else to be able to use your phone to call for help if you're not able to following an accident. Although these days the odds are that the other person will have their own phone. Gives you an idea how long this has been standard for "Real" phones.

    So yet again the outside "Ooooh, pretty" laminate of the iPhone has been scratch to reveal a pitiful understanding of what exactly a phone does, and how people use them... Did Apple not think to have a look at another telephone to see if they could learn something before making their attempt? Then they might have given it a flash, more than a 2 megapixel camera, and MMS support too.

    Honestly, the "know your customer" department in Apple must consist of an empty room with a mission statement across the wall saying "Don't worry, they'll buy anything with a fruit logo stuck on it".

    Paris: Cos even she could come up with a better design draft.

  24. Curtis
    Thumb Up

    US too

    Just tried it on a co-worker's phone. Had her lock it, then hit emergency call, and dialed my own cell phone...

    On the other hand, she now knows that calling her favorite tech for home support wualifies as an emergency...

  25. Rolf Howarth

    Big problem?

    Come on, is this a big problem? Phone calls are so cheap these days (free even, up to whatever limit your package has) that I doubt anyone is too worried about unauthorised calls. On the other hand, you might well be worried about your wife picking up your phone and fiddling with it while you go to the bathroom and then finding all those smutty texts from that affair you've been having!

    In other news, have you heard about the rather embarrassing bug in the Google phone software? Everything (and I mean *everything*) you type in is executed in a console behind the scenes running as root. So... if you happen to type "reboot" or "shutdown" in a text message, don't be too surprised if your phone spontaneously turns itself off! But don't worry, there's an easy fix. Just type "cat" and the root shell will sit there harmlessly consuming the input.


  26. Adam Hart
    IT Angle

    @steve evans

    If i want a decent camera I wouldn't buy a phone ;)

    The emergancy call thing is as non issue, if your phone is lost/stolen then you report it to the network operator who can block the SIM immediately.

    People don't steal phones to make free calls - you get them anyway with most deals on the highstreet! You steal a phone for the phone - an iphone is worth £400 (or £100 down the pub)

  27. Thomas Bottrill

    @Rolf Howarth

    Yes, it is a big problem.

    I seem to remember an episode of The Real Hustle where bluejacking was used to dial a premium rate number owned by the hustlers, making them lots of money.

    Now imagine if someone pick-pocketed your locked iPhone, dialled a premium rate number owned by them, and put it back in your pocket. They're making money until you check your phone, and they don't have to worry about your phone being blacklisted were they to steal it.

    I don't know how likely this scenario is, but it's possible with this vulnerability.

  28. Shakje

    @Adam Hart, Rolf Howarth


    So if you want a decent phone you'd buy a call-dropping, high-premium, utter MMS fail iPhone? I'd have thought of all the reasons to get an iPhone, it being a "good phone" would be at the very bottom of the list. In fact, as Timothy sagely said:

    "The ability for someone to use it as a phone is fairly minor."


    That's as naive as saying some burglars will break into your house and only nick a plate because it would make a good xmas present for their mum. Do you really think they'll steal free minutes by calling their mates on a nicked SIM? Far more likely is that your bill will end up with lots of 40 quid calls to smut-lines.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What a feature

    Got to love that

  30. Lloyd
    Thumb Down

    @Webster Phreaky - Denile?

    Isn't that in Africa?

  31. Bruno Girin

    Make a note of your network's support number and your EMEI number

    OK so a thief could call any number. Well, the solution to that is to make a note of your network's support number. I had my phone stolen a few weeks ago (not an iPhone, a Nokia but that's irrelevant). It took 10 minutes to call my network's support number and get them to cancel the SIM and disactivate the phone (you can do that if you know the EMEI number) so the thieves now have a nice brick. Good for them!

    And while you're at it, go to your friendly police station, ask them for a UV marker pen and write your postcode on the phone. It will only show under UV light but if the ne-er-do-well who nicked your handset ever gets stopped by police with your phone in the pocket, he's in trouble.

  32. The BigYin
    Thumb Down

    In Europe...

    ...all you need is 112.

    Apple strikes again!

  33. druck Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    More numbers than you'd think

    There are more emergency numbers than you think. I was washing my car one day when I heard a faint "hello which emergency service do you require" coming from my pocket. I fished out the phone an quickly cancelled the call. I then looked to see what number I'd accidentally dialled while leaning against the car, expecting to see 999 or 112, but was surprised to find it was 08. I rashly dialled it again to check, and it did put me through to the emergency services. That only happened on one particular Nokia phone, which for some reason had 08 enabled for Bosnia or somewhere.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    emergency balls only

    all phones are dumb in this respect, in the way that they will still allow dialling of 999, 111, or 112 while the keypads are supposedly locked.

    i can think of no emergency so vital that the extra second required to unlock the keypad before dialling will make the dfference between life and death. i can however think of plenty of times when i've been a keypress away from unwittingly ringing the emergency services, due to my ostensibly 'locked' phone bumping or pressing against something in bag or pocket which causes '999' or '111' to be typed in on the keypad.

  35. Andy Nugent

    SIM lock

    @David Simpson

    Most phones I've used have 2 lock codes, one that blocks access to the SIM that requires it to be entered on any phone that SIM is used in, and one that blocks access to the phone.

    Normally the SIM lock is entered once at startup and the phone lock is entered at startup and whenever the phones been out of use for a specified period.

    I'm hoping the iPhone lock is just the equivelent of a phone lock on other handsets with a big hole in it. If not, then this would mean the iPhone is ignoring the SIM security and could potentially be used to make calls on any locked SIM.

    @Bruno Girin:

    I had my phone stolen and it took about 36 hours from when I reported it for the block to come in. I know this 'cos I got the itemised bill and an explanation from Orange that they would refund the calls but that was as fast as it worked. The IMEI number can also be changed (illegally), so I wouldn't be so certain the thieves would be left with a brick.

  36. Andy Worth

    Re:I seem to remember this...

    Yeah, and in fact I think it was even reported on this very website several weeks ago.

    To Andy Nugent - yes the passcode lock IS just a phone lock, and the iphone has a separate option for a simlock. But then the simlock on most phones only activates if the phone is switched off, and not just when the keypad locks anyway.

    It IS a pretty large hole though to be honest, and I don't really see the purpose of being able to make even emergency calls without unlocking the phone. Where most people these days carry a mobile, the chances of not being able to find a phone which can be unlocked are pretty small.

    Oh and just as a comparison here, my particular model of Sony Ericsson has the ability to lock the keys, but as far as I can tell there is no option to put a pincode lock on it. I have the sim locked of course, but then that only asks me when I power the phone on. So if someone nicked it from my pocket, they would be able to make calls in exactly the same way.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022