California Bill Proposes Anti-Theft Kill-Switch for Mobile Devices

#Telephone

Fri, Feb 7th, 2014 21:00 by capnasty NEWS

In an effort to deter an all-time high number of robberies of mobile devices, California lawmakers are proposing that all these devices come with a "kill switch", ultimately rendering it unusuable once stolen.

In 2012, smartphone thefts reached highs in several metropolitan cities, and they rose again last year. In San Francisco, 2,400 cellphones were stolen last year, a 23 percent rise from 2012, according to the San Francisco police. Phone thefts also grew in New York and Washington, D.C., last year, according to statistics from the police in those cities.

Senator Leno’s legislation will almost certainly face resistance from CTIA, the industry trade group that represents the cellphone carriers like AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile US. Last year, CTIA said in a filing to the Federal Communications Commission that “a kill switch isn’t the answer.”

CTIA said that a kill switch would pose risks, because hackers who took control of the feature could disable phones for customers, including the phones used by officials in the Department of Defense and in law enforcement.

And from CNET:

The bill is the latest step taken by regulators to force more aggressive action to crack down on theft. The thinking is that if all mobile devices could be rendered obsolete if stolen, thieves wouldn't bother to steal them, a sort of LoJack for smartphones. Gascon had previously attempted to push the kill switch alongside New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who together led the Secure Our Smartphone initiative.

By deterring smartphone theft, city officials are hoping to curb crime overall; half of all robberies in San Francisco and nearly three quarters of robberies in neighboring Oakland are related to smartphone theft.

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