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Qualcomm bringing hardware-based kill switch tech to its chips

Qualcomm recently announced SafeSwitch, a hardware-based kill switch solution for devices powered by compatible Qualcomm chipsets.
September 16, 2014
Qualcomm Logo aa (3) - 600px

As more folks are relying on mobile devices for not just their personal needs but professional ones as well, security has grown to be an important topic in the mobile world. Good security is about a lot more than just having a strong pin or password in place, it is also about setting up device security measures that will let you track and even disable your phone in the event of its theft (or even if you simply lose it).

An even more extreme method for theft protection is the integration of kill switch technology, which will effectively make a phone useless in the event of a theft. Back in 2013, Korea made changes that would require new smartphones to ship with kill switches. More recently, the state of California passed a similar law that will require new devices sold starting July 1st 2015 to have either a hardware or software kill switch built-in.

Unlike some software solutions, Qualcomm says its solution can’t be hacked, though it can be reversed if the device is returned to its rightful owner.

Now that the ball is rolling, we doubt it will slow down, even if many carriers and likely many OEMs aren’t so keen on the idea. With this in mind, it seems that Qualcomm wants to get in on the action and over the weekend announced a few changes in the way it handles security with its chips, including the introduction of SafeSwitch — a hardware based kill switch technology.

Qualcomm doesn’t go into a lot of details about how its tech works, other than it will be integrated into certain chips. It also doesn’t highlight which existing chipsets support the tech already, if any. So why hardware over a software kill switch? Unlike software solutions that can sometimes be bypassed by wiping the software altogether, Qualcomm says its solution can’t be hacked, though it can be reversed if the device is returned to its rightful owner. This could make Qualcomm’s implementation more secure than others, and considering the majority of smartphones already use Qualcomm chips, it could be pretty easy for OEMs to bring such tech to their future devices.

While Qualcomm stresses the importance of kill switch tech, in its blogpost the company also highlighted the fact that they are now part of FIDO (Fast IDentity Online Alliance) and are committed to supporting and working to develop biometric standards for security as well. Here’s a video detailing the many security measures that Qualcomm takes to protect those mobile users rocking a device with its chips inside:

What do you think of the idea of building kill switches into all mobile devices? A smart move or unnecessary? Additionally what do you think of the increasing role that biometrics is starting to play on select mobile devices?