I struggled for a while to find which group I might ask this question in. Figured engineering minds would be the best.

Some time ago I discovered a good friend was in an abusive relationship. This discovery was made in dramatic fashion as I witnessed an escalation and was able to quickly remove said friend (we'll call her Sara) from a dangerous situation. On the drive to my home she frantically turned her iPhone off, telling me her abuser was able to find her if it was turned on.

After an evening of discussion with my wife it was decided she would spend the night in our guest room and seek help the next day. She felt safe at our home because she knew her location was a secret. She slept 12 hours that night.

The next morning I was cooking breakfast as Sara was washing up. I am an Android guy, my wife is an iPhone lady so we have a few lightning cords. I hadn't had my coffee yet and when I saw Sara's iPhone sitting on my counter I thought "I should charge her up so she has a full battery for what will be a tough day ahead."

I plugged her iPhone in and to my horror, it started booting.

First, I'd like to curse whoever decided that plugging in an iOS device meant it should immediately turn on. My Android phones have never done this! In their wisdom Google figured "if they wanna turn it on they will press the power button" which objectively makes a lot of sense.

I stared, panicked, as it turned on. I pressed and held the power button - that did nothing. There was no way, in that moment, to prevent it from reaching the point at which a cell tower negotiated with it and within 3 seconds a message "your iphone has been located" popped up. The phone immediately began ringing. HUNDREDS of texts came streaming in. Dozens of new voicemail notifications.

Suffice it to say, the other party knew Sara's exact location. We took immediate action and got her the help she needed but I am "the one that caused her to leave" so I've had to take some measures I wish I didn't have to take in order to bolster my home's defenses (namely ipcams and firearms).

In hindsight, I'm wondering what, if anything, I could have done once I realized the iPhone was beginning to start up. I tried everything I could to interrupt that process and was moments away from destroying the phone. What ideas do you have? I have phenomenal reception in my home, always full-bars thanks to a large cell tower a couple hundred feet away. Would quickly wrapping it in tin foil have made a difference? Throwing it in the microwave and closing the door? They're waterproof now right - throw it in a pot of water?

Thanks for any ideas!

  • $\begingroup$ sorry to hear that. I second your preference on the phone, iPhone is designed to do simple tasks automatically and prohibits power users by designing an opaque architecture. all to make money for the apple. $\endgroup$ – kamran Jan 20 at 7:05
  • $\begingroup$ I'm an electrical engineer and I would have tried the microwave. ..nope never mind just tried it and even that won't stop the signal. ..damn. $\endgroup$ – Drew Jan 20 at 8:59
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    $\begingroup$ @Drew was that with the microwave on defrost or full power? $\endgroup$ – Solar Mike Jan 20 at 12:23
  • $\begingroup$ well with a droid you can pop out the battery . . . <sigh>. a big ol' overlapping ball of tinfoil would do it in theory but it would have to be tight. $\endgroup$ – Pete W Jan 20 at 19:40
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    $\begingroup$ @SolarMike I know you're joking, but just in case anyone reads this later: I did not turn the microwave on! $\endgroup$ – Drew Jan 20 at 21:48

The stereotypical tinfoil hat (or the equivalent) would allow you to create a faraday cage, preventing the signals being sent/received. Of course, it would have to have been done prior to turning it on, or in this case, plugging it in.

Why Does Aluminum Foil Block Cell Phone Signals?


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