Smartphone “Kill Switch” to Deter Cell Phone Theft?

March 12, 2014 - 2 minutes read


There was a time when you could really be in for a major headache if your credit card was stolen. The thief could theoretically tally up hundreds or thousands of dollars in unauthorized purchases, leaving you on the hook for the bill.

Then, credit card companies made it possible for customers to cancel stolen cards within minutes. Though the shift didn’t spell an end to credit card theft, it did deter thieves and save consumers untold millions of dollars.

If a New York congressman has his way, the same principle could soon be applied to stolen smartphones.

Citing a recent rash of violent smartphone robberies, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman championed the introduction of a bill which would require smartphone manufacturers to include a so-called “kill switch” on their devices. Once activated, the kill switch would completely shut down the stolen smartphone, rendering it valueless to a thief.

This isn’t the first time such a notion has been tabled. In November of 2013, various officials revealed to CBS News that last year, five major U.S. cell phone carriers refused to support a new Samsung smartphone model with a kill switch. Lawmakers claim that most telecom companies are not eager to adopt smartphone kill switches because they could potentially erode profits. Replacement phones and anti-theft insurance policies are major moneymakers for cell phone manufacturers.

However, a Verizon official told a Senate committee that his company was working closely with mobile app developers to develop kill switch and other anti-theft technologies. Numerous telecom industry executives recently spoke up, claiming their opposition to kill switches is motivated more by security issues than profits. Phone hackers could conceivably activate kill switches remotely, rendering a smartphone useless even though it is still in the possession of its owner.

These developments could mean great opportunities for New York City iPhone app developers and software engineers around the country. Smartphone users clearly need secure, effective anti-theft protection options.

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