Apple quietly removed the Activation Lock Status checker feature leaving some speculating the feature may have been used for hacking into stolen phones rather than only deterring theft.
Over the weekend, researchers at MacRumors noticed the removal of the purported safety feature which allowed users to check if their missing devices were linked to an iCloud account. SC Media attempted to reach Apple for comment but have yet to receive a response. While the firm has yet to state its reasoning for the removal, some say it's because the Activation Lock Status made it easier for a hacker to unlock a stolen or bricked device that had been locked by the feature.
In July 2016, REWA Technology researchers posted a video demonstration of a proof of concept displaying how the feature could be used to verify valid serial numbers that are still associated with Apple IDs to ultimately unlock an iPad or iPhone that had previously been bricked by the Activation Lock. This method is suspected to have been used in a series of bugs affecting iPhone owners since September 2015, according to SlashGear.
Users are now advised to manually check a device themselves to ensure it doesn't belong to someone else by attempting to turn it, and if they are met with a passcode, the devices belongs to someone else.