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Smartphone 'Kill Switch' to curb growing theft problem in U.S.

Written by James Delahunty (Google+) @ 19 Apr 2014 6:06 User comments (8)

Smartphone 'Kill Switch' to curb growing theft problem in U.S. Can a pledge from the smartphone industry to include anti-theft features in all smartphones sold after July 2015 stop the 'apple picking' problem in U.S. cities?
Earlier this week, the CTIA trade association announced an agreement between smartphone manufacturers and wireless carriers to include anti-theft features in smartphones made and sold after July 2015 in the United States. The commitment is a response to a growing problem in U.S. cities of smartphone theft, sometimes with tragic consequences.

The announcement arrived as the debate about measures to protect smartphone users on U.S. city streets was heating up again.

The Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment

New smartphone models manufactured after July 2015 and sold in the United States will include anti-theft tools at no additional cost to the customer. These tools will offer smartphone owners a variety of options to avail of in the event that a smartphone is stolen to protect their data and privacy, and in a broader sense to disincentivize smartphone theft.

A victim will be able to remotely wipe data from the stolen device, such as personal information in the form of messages, e-mails, contacts and so forth, and can also render the device inoperable to an unauthorized user except to contact emergency services.

Factory reset attempts and re-activation will be blocked to unauthorized users to the extent technologically feasible, but in the event that a stolen smartphone is recovered, the rightful owner will be able to unlock and use the device again.

Extent of the problem

An astonishing amount of robberies in the United States involve mobile devices, with estimates reaching up to a third of all thefts in some places. Police and policymakers have often dubbed the problem "apple picking", and see a major disincentive being created for criminals if devices came with Kill Switches by default.

The cost to the consumer is also considerable. William Duckworth, a statistics professor at Creighton University, found that consumers spend around $500 million replacing devices that have been stolen per annum, as well as spending around $2 billion ever year on premium insurance plans obtained through their carrier, which would cost less if theft wasn't covered.

Some argued that the industry had little motivation to go down this road due to the potential lost sales and lost revenue from selling insurance policies. Indeed, that was a strong argument in favor of government mandated anti-theft measures.

Participants in the voluntary initiative

Generally speaking, private enterprise much prefer to self-regulate than have the government enforce rules, and just the threat of such enforcement can result in initiatives like this one with broad support from interested parties.

Among the participants in this program are Apple, AT&T, Asurion, Google, HTC, Huawei, Motorola Mobility, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung, Telecommunications America, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon Wireless.

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8 user comments

119.4.2014 12:50

So the next step for the criminals now is to just kill the person they are robbing then right? That way the dead can't deactivate the phone and stop the criminal from making use of the device.

219.4.2014 17:13

Originally posted by GryphB:
So the next step for the criminals now is to just kill the person they are robbing then right? That way the dead can't deactivate the phone and stop the criminal from making use of the device.
Interesting point.

319.4.2014 22:16

Originally posted by ryutenmen:
Originally posted by GryphB:
So the next step for the criminals now is to just kill the person they are robbing then right? That way the dead can't deactivate the phone and stop the criminal from making use of the device.
Interesting point.
Well, it was a draconian point to make and probably the least likely, though there are some that have already killed the owners of the devices in the robbery. I think what will happen is like any other criminal ring does; get the inside jobs. Pay for people in various different retail outlet to access the phone account information and get the phone restored.

425.4.2014 10:42

I could be wrong but is there not an App that already does all that? Like the AVG kill app etc I have on my Samsung?
Just a thought.


George M Monaghan

525.4.2014 10:47

Or maybe the kill switch is for agencies to block people who record or report things they shouldn't have witnessed. No doubt they will add the anti-terror spin as a positive.

This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 25 Apr 2014 @ 11:03

Trin - Making Digital Waves

626.4.2014 0:15

Originally posted by george123:
I could be wrong but is there not an App that already does all that? Like the AVG kill app etc I have on my Samsung?
Just a thought.
Yup!

728.4.2014 9:50

Originally posted by Mr-Movies:
Originally posted by george123:
I could be wrong but is there not an App that already does all that? Like the AVG kill app etc I have on my Samsung?
Just a thought.
Yup!
The key difference I see here is the statement:

"Factory reset attempts and re-activation will be blocked to unauthorized users to the extent technologically feasible, but in the event that a stolen smartphone is recovered, the rightful owner will be able to unlock and use the device again. "

I may be wrong, but I think the current anti-theft apps don't have this feature. I personally use AirDroid which includes a locator/lock service.

828.4.2014 17:40

Originally posted by BobShaft:
Originally posted by Mr-Movies:
Originally posted by george123:
I could be wrong but is there not an App that already does all that? Like the AVG kill app etc I have on my Samsung?
Just a thought.
Yup!
The key difference I see here is the statement:

"Factory reset attempts and re-activation will be blocked to unauthorized users to the extent technologically feasible, but in the event that a stolen smartphone is recovered, the rightful owner will be able to unlock and use the device again. "

I may be wrong, but I think the current anti-theft apps don't have this feature. I personally use AirDroid which includes a locator/lock service.

And they have been able to do that from the start, so once again YUP!!

Just another political nonsense push trying to make us believe they are doing something good, not....

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