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Cybersecurity

Carriers nix proposed ‘kill switch’ solution to problem of rampant smartphone thefts

Posted Nov 20, 2013 2:05 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Throughout the United States, almost one in every three robberies involves the theft of a telephone, often a pricey smartphone.

Yet the industry has rejected a proposal by the biggest cellphone maker, Samsung Electronics, to equip mobile phones with "kill switch" software that would allow the devices to be shut off if they were stolen, the Associated Press reports.

A phone carrier trade group, CTIA-The Wireless Association, says installing kill switches as standard features would leave phones—including those used by military and law enforcement officers—vulnerable to hackers who could shut them off without users' permission, according to the AP and the Bits blog of the New York Times (reg. req.).

District Attorney George Gascón of San Francisco and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman are among those who have called for a technological solution to surging phone thefts, and Gascón expressed frustration at carriers' rejection of the kill switch idea.

Recent emails between Samsung and a software developer suggest that carriers are blocking the kill switch idea in order to avoid losing revenue from the insurance premiums customers pay to cover the cost of replacing lost or stolen phones, Gascón told Bits. “Corporate profits cannot be allowed to guide decisions that have life-or-death consequences. This solution has the potential to safeguard Samsung customers, but these emails suggest the carriers rejected it so they can continue to make money hand over fist on insurance premiums.”

See also:

ABAJournal.com: "Should the cellphone industry do more to end the trade in stolen smartphones?"

ABAJournal.com: "Man charged in cellphone robbery after police say he accidentally emailed his photo to victim"

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