Would a “kill switch” help prevent smartphone theft? NY and SF prosecutors think so

June 13, 2013
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emergency kill switch Credit: dumbledad

Possibly one of the best upgrades shown off at the iOS7 unveiling was the enhanced security features which help prevent thieves from using stolen iPhone’s. Extra security is certainly a deterrent to would be thieves, and we were also recently wondering what other manufacturers could do to improve the security of their own handsets.

So sticking with the theme of device security, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon are set to co-host a Smartphone Summit with representatives from Apple, Google, Samsung and Microsoft today. The main objective of the summit will be to discuss the introduction a “kill switch”, which should be capable of completely deactivating a smartphone should it be lost or stolen. Afterwards they’ll also be launching the “Save our Smartphones” initiative, aimed at promoting their cause.

But I am hesitant to agree that a master one time “kill switch” is the perfect solution. Part of me is convinced that it will probably end up causing problems for owners who could fall victim to the system themselves, especially when it comes to used handset sales. That’s not to say that something probably doesn’t need to be done about phone theft, as one report suggests that 113 smartphones are lost or stolen every minute in the US, with 1 out of every 3 robberies involving the theft of a mobile phone.

In the meantime, Android users can fortunately install third party applications, like Cerberus for example, which can lock, report the location of, and even erase data on your smartphone remotely if you’re unlucky enough to be a victim of phone theft.

What do you think about the prospect of a “kill switch”: an excellent, much needed idea or a solution which could causes more problems than it solves?

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