Google says next Android version will feature antitheft kill switch

by: Bogdan PetrovanJune 20, 2014

big red button kill switch stop Wikipedia

Smartphones are highly desirable items that pack a lot of value in a small package. In other words, they are ideal goods for thieves and robbers to lift and turn into a nice little profit.

With large proportions of theft incidents now involving a smartphone, federal and state legislators in the US have been pushing for mandatory kill-switches that would render stolen devices useless, thus removing the incentive to steal the device in the first place.

Apple has taken the lead here, by including a kill-switch in iOS 7, and it looks that Google will follow suit soon. Talking to Bloomberg, Google stated that the next version of Android will include a “factory reset protection solution,” in other words, a permanent lock feature that can’t be bypassed with a simple factory reset. Microsoft will implement a similar feature in its own mobile OS, reports Bloomberg.

Google already has a built-in security app in Android Device Manager, which currently allows users to locate their device on a map, ring it remotely, and erase it to protect personal data. But ADM offers no protection against a simple factory reset. When the next version of Android arrives, Google will presumably update ADM to include a kill-switch, with changes to the underpinnings of the OS required to enable the feature.

Back in April, Google agreed to an initiative grouping large phone makers and carriers to implement a kill switch feature in all devices by the middle of 2015. Other companies that signed the pledge include Samsung, HTC, Microsoft, and Apple.

It’s worth noting that the kill-switch feature will probably not render the phone permanently unusable, as owners will be able to restore its functionality in case they recover the device.

  • wedjat

    i think its a much better option to have a mode that you can open from pc that turnes on all gps and location functions on a phone so we can or the police can locate it without the preson who took it knowing

  • Luka Mlinar

    About time

  • MasterMuffin

    Password protected fastboot and recovery would be nice too. Computers have this with BIOS

    • Jayfeather787

      I hate when I find a computer that has a BIOS password though. I’d just take the motherboard out and snap it in half. I AM THE BOSS OF THE COMPUTER! Unless it is a 500 buck Asus board. Then maybe snapping it in half is a bad idea.

      • MasterMuffin

        “Find”, are you a thief? :D

        • Jayfeather787

          Sure. I meant friend’s computers and other computers in the house, but thief works too.

          • MasterMuffin

            Well o.O

      • The Lion

        or you could just take the motherboard battery out??

        • Corbin Crutch

          Not violant enough

          • Jayfeather787

            Yep. That’s the exact reason.

      • Abd

        I remember there were ‘Master Passwords’ for different AWARD BIOS versions. I used to assemble PCs long time ago

        • Jayfeather787

          I wish I had the money to assemble PCs. I have a custom built one, but my Dad put it together for me several years ago. I want a new graphics card. Now. My power supply is enormous, somewhere between 600-700 watts, and I have some crummy little graphics card that barely runs.

    • Marco Lancaster

      Absolutely agreed, actually to be honest i time ago I’ve tried hard to find a solution to password protect my recovery, but all I’ve find about this is the default answer “If the thief is smart enough to know about recovery, he is smart enough to flash a complete ROM via PC.”

      • MasterMuffin

        But the thief can’t do that if fastboot is password protected!

        • Corbin Crutch

          Yeah, again going back to the fixed problems. The password would have to be encrypted though…. None of this Dominos/YO app crap

          • MasterMuffin

            No, it definitely should be in plain text in a text file called “fastboot_and_recovery_password.txt” in SD card ;)

          • Corbin Crutch

            Naturally xD

  • Yersinia pestis

    I wonder how this will affect Odin for Samsung devices.

    • Samsung actually has this on the GS5’s. I believe most carriers had it removed or it may be blocked though. They also have embedded solution like LoJack thank to a partnership with Absolute Software.

      I’d imagine the more and more security we start seeing added, the harder it will be to root devices. So Google adding it at the base level might make thinks worse than they already are for those looking to root.

      • Victor_Creed

        Needn’t worry. George Hotz will save us.

  • Sunny

    I use Prey

  • The Lion

    hmm wont be much point unless the kill switch is at an integrated chip level as all you would need to do is flash a version of android with no software kill switch in it , again its down to manufacturers not so much android itself to build it so the chip works independently of the OS so the phone provider can send a special command which shuts it down.

    • Stunkuf

      Exactly unless the hardware itself has a kill switch baked in what’s the point??

  • Norman Zaczyk

    A backup tool would be a great improvement for Android…