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US prosecutors encourage users to upgrade to iOS 7 for Activation Lock security feature

The Activation Lock anti-theft feature Apple built into iOS 7 has earned slight praise from government officials, who are now urging iOS device owners to upgrade to the latest version of the operating system in order to head off device theft.

The Attorneys General for New York and San Francisco issued a joint statement on Thursday following the launch of iOS 7. The statement praised iOS 7's Activation Lock feature as "an important first step towards ending the global epidemic of smartphone theft."

"In the months ahead," the statement reads, "it is our hope that Activation Lock will prove to be an effective deterrent to theft, and that the widespread use of this new system will end the victimization of iPhone users, as thieves learn that the devices have no value on the secondary market. We are particularly pleased that – because Activation Lock is a feature associated with Apple's new operating system as opposed to a new device – it will be available to consumers with older phone models who download the free upgrade."

San Francisco District Attorney General George Gascón and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman have been calling on Apple, Google, Samsung, and others to build better security features into their devices and the operating systems that run them in order to head off smartphone theft.

Specifically, Gascón and Schneiderman have been calling for the addition of a "kill switch" on the OS or device level that would render a phone inoperable if it is stolen. Apple's Activation Lock — which requires that a user's Apple ID and password be entered before anyone can turn off Find My iPhone, erase data, or re-activate a device after it has been remotely erased — implements many of the changes the Attorneys General had been asking for.

Still, though, the two officials were sparing in their praise for iOS 7, pointing more to "months of pressure from a global coalition of elected officials and law enforcement agencies" as the reason for the new feature.