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Apple releases iCloud tool to check device Activation Lock status

Adding to its collection of Web-based security tools, Apple on Wednesday published a webpage that allows users to check a device's Activation Lock status, ensuring safe and smooth transfer of ownership for used iPhone, iPad and iPod touch models.

The new iCloud tool, first spotted by iDownloadBlog, is part of Apple's Find My iPhone service and comes presented as a dedicated page on the company's website.

Users are asked to enter an iOS device's International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) or serial number, which is then cross-checked against an internal database to ensure Activation Lock is not currently turned on for that unit. The process is useful for those purchasing secondhand iPhones, iPads or iPod touches, who need the security feature disabled to gain access to the device.

As a side note, Apple has opted to use a CAPTCHA phrase to protect the site from bots.

Introduced as part of iOS 7, Activation Lock prevents theft and protects lost iOS devices by locking out users who do not know the Apple ID and password registered to that specific device. When activated, the feature prevents nefarious users from disabling Find My iPhone, performing a data wipe or reactivating the device under a different name.

Metropolitan law enforcement agencies have lauded the security feature, saying its implementation contributed to a noticeable drop in iPhone thefts over the first five months of 2014.

As a precautionary measure, Activation Lock is turned on by default with Apple's latest iOS 8, as is a new feature called "Send Last Location," which pushes out an iPhone or iPad's last known coordinates before its battery dies.