There’s been a lot of talk lately about the implementation of “kill switches” in mobile devices. With California and other jurisdictions mandating the inclusion of theft-deterring features in new smartphones and the skyrocketing incidence of phone thefts, there’s been a lot of pressure on Google, Apple, and other OS makers to include kill switches on their devices.
Apple has already added theft deterrence features to their devices, and Google announced that it would do the same starting with Android L.
We don’t have details for now, but the much awaited kill switch may not be exactly what we imagined. Presumably, the feature coming in Lollipop would simply prevent unauthorized factory resets by asking for the user’s Google credentials.
This Factory Reset Protection feature will reportedly be opt-in, so it will still depend on the user to activate it in the first place, which isn’t exactly ideal.
It’s not clear yet what defense Factory Reset Protection will offer against more determined attackers – unlocked bootloaders could be exploited by thieves and fencers to easily bypass this security measure. Still, most people don’t unlock the bootloaders on their devices, so the feature could still work as intended – if enough devices out there are difficult or impossible to wipe, the incentive for stealing them could go down dramatically.
Combined with the remote lock, find, and wipe features offered by Android Device Manager, Factory Reset Protection could finally bring comprehensive security to modern Android devices.
We’ll probably learn more about Factory Reset Protection works in the coming days. What do you think of this solution?