Cell Phone Carriers Reject a 'Kill Switch' for Preventing Cellphone Theft
Samsung Electronics proposed installing a built-in anti-theft measure known as a “kill switch” that would render stolen or lost phones inoperable, yet the nation’s biggest carriers have rejected the idea.
Samsung Electronics has proposed installing a built-in anti-theft measure known as a “kill switch” that would render stolen or lost phones inoperable, but San Francisco’s top prosecutor says the nation’s biggest carriers have rejected the idea, said Time.
District Attorney George Gascon said that AT&T Inc., Verizon Wireless, United States Cellular Corp., Sprint Corp. and T-Mobile US Inc. rebuffed Samsung’s proposal to preload its phones with Absolute LoJack anti-theft software as a standard feature. The wireless industry says a kill switch isn’t the answer because it could allow a hacker to disable someone’s phone, Time reported.
Gascon, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and other law enforcement officials have been demanding that manufacturers create kill switches to combat surging smartphone theft across the country.
Almost 1 in 3 U.S. robberies involve phone theft, according to the Federal Communications Commission. Lost and stolen mobile devices — mostly smartphones — cost consumers more than $30 billion last year, according to a study cited by Schneiderman in June.
Samsung said it is cooperating with Gascon, Schneiderman and the carriers on an anti-theft solution.
“We are working with the leaders of the Secure Our Smartphones Initiative to incorporate the perspective of law enforcement agencies,” said Samsung spokeswoman Jessica Redman. “We will continue to work with them and our wireless carrier partners toward our common goal of stopping smartphone theft.”
CTIA-The Wireless Association said it has been working with the FCC, law enforcement agencies and elected officials on a national stolen phone database scheduled to launch Nov. 30.
The CTIA says a permanent kill switch has serious risks, including potential vulnerability to hackers who could disable mobile devices and lock out not only individuals’ phones but also phones used by entities such as the Department of Defense, Homeland Security and law enforcement agencies.
One Silicon Valley technology security expert said he thinks Apple’s activation lock is the first kill switch that meets law enforcement’s desire to protect iPhone users and other smartphone manufacturers should follow suit, said the New York Post.
“Thieves cannot do anything with the device unless they have the user’s ID, which they don’t,” said Ojas Rege, vice president of strategy at Mobile Iron, a technology software security company in Mountain View, Calif.