Law enforcement officials hope kill switches will deter phone theft

By on June 14, 2013, 8:30 AM
smartphone, theft, phone, robberies, kill switch, activation lock

Law enforcement officials and consumer advocates have come together as part of a new initiative called Secure Our Smartphones. The goal here is to help to curb rising phone thefts by getting manufacturers and wireless carries on board with the idea of implementing a kill switch that would render stole phones useless.

While certain crimes are on the decline, those involving phones aren't. For example, 50 percent of robberies in San Francisco last year involved a handset. 20 percent of reported robberies during the same time frame in New York involved a phone which is a 40 percent increase over the previous year.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said the technology for such a kill switch already exists but thus far, getting manufacturers and providers to go along with the idea hasn’t been successful. San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said he met with Apple a year ago about the idea but was told it wouldn’t happen.

Perhaps that’s because Apple was working on a kill switch of their own. Earlier this week, Apple unveiled a new feature that’ll be part of iOS 7 called Activation Lock. This security feature is said to prevent a thief from reactivating a phone as they would need to know your Apple ID and password. Even if they turn off Find My iPhone and wipe the handset, they still won’t be able to reactive it.

Schneiderman said he hoped to get a kill switch installed in phones as early as next year.




User Comments: 29

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1 person liked this | Camikazi said:

Won't change much since even broken or not usble phones will sell well if only for parts.

1 person liked this | Guest said:

Are we sure the guy in that picture is trying to take her phone? Or is he just trying to cop a feel of dat ass

3 people like this | Guest said:

The NSA and others don't just want the ability to listen in, they want to interrupt communications as well. 'Stolen phones' is just the sales pitch for rolling out the capability. :(

2 people like this | MilwaukeeMike said:

Isn't a kill switch sort of like shutting the door after the horse left the barn? So a thief steals a phone and finds he can't use it, then what? The phone is already stolen, he's not going to return it even if he could. Plus, doesn't he now have to steal more phones to make up for it?

It might work if every single phone had one, but there are far too many already that don't. I'd think we'd need a software solution that could be rolled out to existing phones. Maybe an alarm that would go off if your phone was ever separated from your iWatch for an extended period of time.

1 person liked this | Guest said:

I agree, they just want a way to roll out this feature. If they want to stop crime, why don't they just use the phones GPS to track it to the thief.

Guest said:

Because the GPS feature can be turned off. And Apple would have user privacy complaints if they said they can track your phone.

1 person liked this | cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Kill Switch!

Do we really want a hacker, with capabilities to kill our phones before they attack?

Bad Idea!

Say no now before you get caught without a way to communicate with phone in hand.

1 person liked this | Guest said:

I think the current IMEI lost/stolen database is a good start to reducing phone theft. You steal the phone but can't activate because the IMEI has be put in a lost/stolen database that the carriers share. So the phone is only good for parts? Worth way less then a working phone. So in theory the thieves look for a more profitable target.

2 people like this | Guest said:

Bad idea, now they are wanting to kill mass communications in an area if need be. Strategic planning from the gov't liaisons to manufacturers and service providers. They know things are getting out of control, and want options in place. It's not hard to think from the point of view from a control state. WAKE UP PEOPLE.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Bad idea, now they are wanting to kill mass communications in an area if need be.
They can already do that by shutting down the cell towers.

MilwaukeeMike said:

Bad idea, now they are wanting to kill mass communications in an area if need be. Strategic planning from the gov't liaisons to manufacturers and service providers. They know things are getting out of control, and want options in place. It's not hard to think from the point of view from a control state. WAKE UP PEOPLE.

No kidding right... it's no wonder everyone is staring at their phones all day, they have to make sure they're still working. We check every minute or two to make sure the govt hasn't shut down all wireless communication and knocked us back into 1992. I carry a gas mask with me just in case the govt starts their comprehensive plan to brainwash us with airplane chem trails. I figure shutting off communication will be the first step. The ancient Mayans predicted that's how it'll happen.

Have a good weekend

Guest said:

If towers are down I can still connect my phone to wifi and communicate.

Guest said:

For parts? How many people do you know who are trying to repair a busted iPhone by themselves? There's hardly anything user-serviceable inside there (or at least there's hardly anything that you can service yourself without specialized tools and specialized repair skills.)

No, if it becomes harder to reactivate a stolen smartphone, then their theft will naturally decrease.

Guest said:

Overzealous members of law enforcement, professionally otherwise but caught in the passion of the moment, are tired of seeing themselves on youtube striking already restrained/repeatedly tased suspects/alleged perpetrators.

Tygerstrike said:

Isnt it amazing how paranoid the guests are.... There is no :wake Up" involved here. Stolen SmartPhones are a huge business. So much so that around christmas LOTS of cellphone companies get broken into. Handsets that can be taken down to Mexico and sold for around a grand a pop. Sooooooo....all your paranoia aside, it is a lucrative enterprise for thieves. Yes it may be too late after the thief has stolen the phone, but if I can frustrate that jackass by remote locking it out, then I will take justice where I can. Its not like I keep my life on my phone. I make it a rule to never do anything on my cellphone that I would have a problem with if someone stole or found it. But it is a giant pain in the ass to have to get a new one. So Im for this in the fact that it will SCREW the thieves, im just wondering if they will have steps in place that would allow you to get your phone back on the service if you got it back. That seems to be the only thing that would present a problem. Sending a killcode is easy, reversing it probably not as easy

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

If towers are down I can still connect my phone to wifi and communicate.
Do you think ISP's are somehow harder to shutdown than cell towers? Get real! If the government wants to shutdown widespread communications, there would be no way for you to do so period. This cellphone locking is a personal level lock, not an attempt at widespread lockdown.

Guest said:

Theres always morse code...lol

Tygerstrike said:

@Cliff

You are 100% CORRECT sir!! I certainly do love when someone else understands how the world works lol. PPl getting all butthurt over PRISM do not understand how cellphone companies work. THE GOVT IS THIER BOSS!! THE GOVT CONTROLS ALL COMUNICATIONS IN THE US!!! IF THEY WANT TO LOOK AT YOUR INFORMATION, THEY CAN! THEY ARE THE CELLPHONE COMPANIES BOSS!!

If the govt decided too they could cut all wireless communications. That means cellphones and broadband. Its thier game, weve just been fooled into thinking SOMEONE else is in control. The reality is that if the govt chose to they could screw an individual or EVERYONE all at once. And there wouldnt be much that ANYONE could do. Oh sure ppl would complain. How much business or money they lost because they couldnt call anyone. Or that they didnt get that last phone call from granny before she died. But they hold all the power. That smartphone in your hand is the biggest illusion out there.

Guest said:

Until police can't access your phone than they will want NO KILL

mailpup mailpup said:

Tygerstrike, ease up on the shouting please.

Camikazi said:

Because the GPS feature can be turned off. And Apple would have user privacy complaints if they said they can track your phone.

There are programs that let you silently turn on the GPS again (and even send coordinates without them seeing), the only way to stop them is to turn off all signals completely. Phone needs to be rooted but they work pretty well, I have one on my phone and have tried a few of them.

Guest said:

This sounds like one of Apple's great ideas to generate more iPhone sales.

Most likely scenario: Someone lost their cellphone under the couch cushions when it was turned off; they call to report it stolen; "kill switch" is activated and phone permanently disabled; person goes and buys another iPhone; 2 weeks later, they find the first iPhone under the couch cushions - now rendered permanently useless.

1 person liked this | cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

This sounds like one of Apple's great ideas to generate more iPhone sales.
You mean something along the lines of Apple electronically killing an iPhone after a contract expires?

Guest said:

How about a self-destruct button? If the phone is reported stolen, the thief tries to turn it on and it spontaneously combusts. Of course that is incredibly dangerous, but it is a funny thought.

1 person liked this | captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

How about a self-destruct button? If the phone is reported stolen, the thief tries to turn it on and it spontaneously combusts. Of course that is incredibly dangerous, but it is a funny thought.
I'm thinking more along the lines of a dye pack like the banks use. For cell phones, something like a 50/50 mix of squid dye and skunk piss oughta do the trick.

1 person liked this | TheBigFatClown said:

The NSA and others don't just want the ability to listen in, they want to interrupt communications as well. 'Stolen phones' is just the sales pitch for rolling out the capability.

Agreed. This is another bullshit campaign presented to consumers as a way to protect them, ultimately though, to be used and abused by the government to control the people. We live in an imperfect world people. Things get stolen. Accept that. You can either be more responsible about not making your property accessible to others or you can concede your responsibilities to other people. And let them control the things you own. I'll choose the first option.

If my phone is stolen am I actually gonna care that somebody can see some pictures I took or some text messages I sent? No, not me. Why put in a kill switch? How does that get my phone back?

Auto-delete all text messages? Sure, okay, Auto-delete all contact information at my request? Okay. A ******* kill-switch? For what? So I can laugh at the criminal? No thanks. Keep this technology out of my phone. And keep it out of my CPU Intel (*cough, cough*).

Skidmarksdeluxe Skidmarksdeluxe said:

How about a self-destruct button? If the phone is reported stolen, the thief tries to turn it on and it spontaneously combusts. Of course that is incredibly dangerous, but it is a funny thought.
I'm thinking more along the lines of a dye pack like the banks use. For cell phones, something like a 50/50 mix of squid dye and skunk piss oughta do the trick.

And if that fails to work, maybe a bit of C4 could help.

1 person liked this | Skidmarksdeluxe Skidmarksdeluxe said:

All types of thefts happen all the time that's why we have something called insurance.

Guest said:

Isn't a kill switch sort of like shutting the door after the horse left the barn? So a thief steals a phone and finds he can't use it, then what? The phone is already stolen, he's not going to return it even if he could. Plus, doesn't he now have to steal more phones to make up for it?

It might work if every single phone had one, but there are far too many already that don't. I'd think we'd need a software solution that could be rolled out to existing phones. Maybe an alarm that would go off if your phone was ever separated from your iWatch for an extended period of time.

The idea is the thief doesn't get to benefit from the stolen device making the theft pointless (unless they stole it for parts). If this (for what ever reason) increases the number of thefts, then that would increase the need for the anti theft system and the amount of devices it's implemented on.

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