Kill Switch Necessary to Cut Smartphone Thefts, 31 State AGs Say
NEWS ANALYSIS: Attorneys general from 31 U.S. states issued a joint call for some form of "kill switch" that would render stolen smartphones useless as the best way to cut thefts.The attorneys general from 31 states jointly sent a letter on Nov. 12 to the heads of four major smartphone manufacturers calling for the rapid implementation of a "kill switch" in their phones. The letter went to the heads of Google, Microsoft, Motorola and Samsung. Apple was not included in the list because the company recently implemented a feature in the "Find my iPhone" app in iOS 7 that locks the device and requires a pass code to unlock it. For other smartphones, the situation is somewhat less clear. BlackBerry includes a free application, "BlackBerry Protect," that allows the phone to be locked and wiped. But the phone can still be used once it's wiped by a thief for resale. Likewise, Microsoft smartphones can be locked by a system administrator, but again they can be wiped and reused. Android phones have a variety of apps, some free and some not, that provide the same capability. But whether the phone delivered to a given user contains an app that can act as a kill switch depends on the carrier as much as anything.
However, the AGs are now jointly stating is that such a capability should be included as a default, and that a thief should not be able to defeat the locking capability and wipe the phone so that it could be resold. The goal is to dry up the secondary market in stolen phones, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said in a press release.