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Carriers Rejecting Plan To Add Smartphone Kill Switch

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November 21, 2013 9:59:45 AM

I'm no lawyer... but it seems to me that carriers stonewalling a needed safety feature to protect profits are at risk of exposing themselves to legal expenses that could dwarf those protected profits. How many successful wrongful death lawsuits would it take for them to feel the pain? How many mothers crying and telling the jury "my son would be alive today if his phone had been worthless to thieves... and THEY (trembling finger point) decided that their profits were more important than my son's life". Penny wise pound foolish.
November 21, 2013 10:01:24 AM

when will we strop this stupid carrier controlled oligopoly in the US?

I'm not a big fan of big government, but there need to be some regulations on what the carriers can and can't do, as well as how much they should be allowed to charge us for data
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November 21, 2013 10:05:38 AM

instead of instituting a kill switch how about manufacturing a auto destruct function within the processor of the phone where once triggered it would literally render either the memory or specific section of the processor useless there by eliminating some one recovering or reusing the phone. make it to where it can be user implemented. only with specific passwords. kind of james bond but really it couldnt be to hard to implement something that would fuse or over volt a section of a processor or memory block.
November 21, 2013 10:21:49 AM

goodguy713 said:
instead of instituting a kill switch how about manufacturing a auto destruct function within the processor

You misplace your phone, report it stolen, it gets killed, you or someone else finds it the next day, now you have to buy a new one because you fried it for nothing.

A better thing to do would be to have phones report their major components by serial number so when a phone gets stolen and resold for parts, stolen parts can be tracked individually when they get used so authorities can hopefully track down the common origin of those stolen parts and get the thieves. If the stolen phone is sold whole, then the phone can be recovered and return to its original owner.

If you just kill the phone, you lose the ability to track it for investigation and recovery.
November 21, 2013 11:04:46 AM

I think it's a little ridiculous to call this a "life or death" situation. People will still get mugged regardless of a kill switch.
November 21, 2013 11:06:55 AM

With the way our government is now, I would reject a kill switch too. You know one day the government will want access to it to protect against terrorism or something.
November 21, 2013 11:12:19 AM

Can't we already do this with 3rd party apps?
November 21, 2013 11:15:56 AM

rawoysters said:
Can't we already do this with 3rd party apps?

It wouldn't be half as effective as if it were built into the hardware, software and carrier systems.

Without ban enforcement on the carrier's end of thing, all a thief needs to do is be smart enough to wipe the device to remove any anti-theft/tracking/remote-lock software that might be on it.
November 21, 2013 11:23:46 AM

and what problem does a kill switch fix?

unless it fries everything in the phone it can still be sold for parts, data recovered from it, etcetera.

all a kill switch does is add grief to people who lost a phone and then had it returned.
November 21, 2013 11:36:15 AM

"The group also supports a legislation by Senator Charles E. Schumer that proposes to make it a crime to modify smartphones to circumvent the stolen phone database."

So it would be illegal to install ROMs that don't include this goverment mandated back door? It could be argued that this would actually make it ilegal to root your phone. If you think this is about protecting the consumer you are retarded. This is about the NSA et al. having a guaranteed method of accessing your phone remotely.

If this is such a problem, let the free market figure it out. Don't let the same people who can make a website slower than the mail be in charge of your smart phone's OS.
November 21, 2013 11:41:12 AM

ssddx said:
unless it fries everything in the phone it can still be sold for parts, data recovered from it, etcetera.

Parts from a stolen phone can be tracked if serial numbers are added to each component's SoC for assemblies that have their own chip(s) on-board... all it takes is a little bit of extra software to read and report them. Data recovery is easily prevented by enabling device encryption with a reasonably strong password.

Things would be much simpler if they weren't getting tied up in politics and other nonsense that almost always make things much more complicated than they should be.
November 21, 2013 11:49:51 AM

Quote:
Yet the CTIA, the industry trade group that represents the carriers, has a point: what if the kill switch is installed and a hacker gains control of the phone?


Ehh, no they don't. Think through your statement for a second. You use the kill switch if you lost the phone, if someone else has the phone then you kill it. Second the carriers would finally need to implement some real security and an easy way to unkill the phone. This is a good thing. Cars are stolen and recovered all the time, doesn't seem to be an issue with that system.
November 21, 2013 1:38:40 PM

Equipment blacklists already exist (based on ESN/IMEI), and it's not hard to add or remove a number from a list. It's just not directly in the consumer's hands, and lists likely are not shared between carriers. So, report your loss to (e.g.) AT&T, and it's down. If it's unlocked, someone needs to tell TMobile. But then it can still go to Europe. In contrast, Apple does it at level Apple controls, the OS, not the network, controlled by the carrier, so one take-down call does them all. Google might be able to do the same.
November 21, 2013 1:39:24 PM

The idea is that the kill switches will make phone theft disappear. Why steal something that can't be easily monetized? Even if a "hacker" got the phone, there's nothing they could do if the signal was sent to the device the moment it powers on. Also, how many phones are found after they are "stolen?" This is very important to protect people from getting mugged which is a very real safety problem.


To hell with the carriers. I would like to see Google start implementing this on all Nexus models right away.

Also, this is a very poorly written article.

"Even more, if the customer deactivated the phone and then later retrieved it, the phone cannot be deactivated."

Kevin, do you even read this stuff before you post it?
November 21, 2013 2:34:35 PM

JD88 said:
The idea is that the kill switches will make phone theft disappear. Why steal something that can't be easily monetized? Even if a "hacker" got the phone, there's nothing they could do if the signal was sent to the device the moment it powers on. Also, how many phones are found after they are "stolen?" This is very important to protect people from getting mugged which is a very real safety problem.


To hell with the carriers. I would like to see Google start implementing this on all Nexus models right away.

Also, this is a very poorly written article.

"Even more, if the customer deactivated the phone and then later retrieved it, the phone cannot be deactivated."

Kevin, do you even read this stuff before you post it?



So let the private sector handle the problem, if it is infact a problem. If people want that as an option, phone manufactures could easily implement something at the hardware level that completely bypasses any carrier involvement.

Guess what? People don't want to pay extra for such an option. Now, if there is anything that I am certain about, it is that a government mandated option would be the most expensive option for the consumer. Anyone who thinks any added costs for the carriers wouln't be passed down directly to the consumer is a fool who knows nothing about business.
November 21, 2013 2:46:00 PM

I wonder if this is a little. would it not allow law enforcement to do the same to targeted phone through a software backdoor. do we actually need such software since each device has a known id and could simply be blocked from a common database of stolen phones. I really don't see a purpose to this software unless there is more to it than we see
November 21, 2013 9:40:13 PM

'Even more, if the customer deactivated the phone and then later retrieved it, the phone cannot be deactivated.'

Did anyone else catch that? It should read:

"Even more, if the customer deactivated the phone and then later retrieved it, the phone cannot be *reactivated*."
November 22, 2013 3:44:34 PM

I am on the "no kill" side of the fences, data is important, remotely wiping it out and/or locating perpentrator is suffice, is insurance mandatory in US? In either case Kill Switch is a misguided effort in reign in theft, there's no Kill Switch on laptops, wallets, you-name-it but they get stolen just as often.
November 22, 2013 4:10:06 PM

actsai said:
In either case Kill Switch is a misguided effort in reign in theft, there's no Kill Switch on laptops, wallets, you-name-it but they get stolen just as often.

If you could remotely lock-out your laptop, wallet, phone, tablet, you-name-it, their theft value would drop drastically since the risk of getting caught fencing stolen good is much higher and the value of stolen goods also becomes much lower: what are the thief's chances of selling a stolen phone or tablet if the devices display a nice little "This device has been reported lost or stolen and is currently locked-out" message when people attempt to turn it on within minutes of being reported lost/stolen?

The device becomes practically unsellable even for parts if the lock-out gets propagated to all components with built-in microcontrollers.
November 22, 2013 7:12:07 PM

InvalidError said:
actsai said:
In either case Kill Switch is a misguided effort in reign in theft, there's no Kill Switch on laptops, wallets, you-name-it but they get stolen just as often.

If you could remotely lock-out your laptop, wallet, phone, tablet, you-name-it, their theft value would drop drastically since the risk of getting caught fencing stolen good is much higher and the value of stolen goods also becomes much lower: what are the thief's chances of selling a stolen phone or tablet if the devices display a nice little "This device has been reported lost or stolen and is currently locked-out" message when people attempt to turn it on within minutes of being reported lost/stolen?

The device becomes practically unsellable even for parts if the lock-out gets propagated to all components with built-in microcontrollers.


If people wanted this option there would be a manufacturer marketing such an option.

Guess what? No one wants to pay extra for a safety measure they will most likely nevey use. The chances of getting something stolen are extremly small. This just doesn't make sense, unless you are a three letter government agency wanting deeper access to mobile operating systems.

You should be at least some what skeptical that the Feds want to make this mandatory.
November 22, 2013 7:52:00 PM

Grandmastersexsay said:
If people wanted this option there would be a manufacturer marketing such an option.

Guess what? No one wants to pay extra for a safety measure they will most likely nevey use.

Google is 90% of the way there with their Device Manager. If they wanted to, they could implement the little extra bit to prevent thieves from re-activating devices by simply tying the lock-out to the device ID instead of the account so it cannot be re-activated by someone else once reported lost or stolen.

Why they do not do it? Because they benefit from it: lost and stolen devices that somehow come back on the network generate more ad views, apps sales, etc.
November 22, 2013 9:39:02 PM

Not a fan of the attitude of the Carriers.. however I am more in favor of a disable, like on the Iphone, that can easily be used via icloud that doesn't destroy the phone. What percentage of phone thieves are competent computer "hackers".... not many.

Law enforcement would abuse this as well, they always do. I'd rather see implementation to secure our phones from the government, law enforcement, etc.

This type of deal is never going to go through.
December 2, 2013 12:58:40 PM

Geez, that's what's wrong with this country. You can't force a company to do something just because the law authorities and the politicians think it is a good idea. What's wrong with you people? WAY, WAY, WAY too much government in our country. All in the name of "National Security". Well, one day law officers will be able to just walk into your house in the name of "National Security". People are SO naive to think that YOUR government does what it does because it cares about you. Please.... This country has turned into a joke of "Free Enterprise" and "Freedom" in general. The government has their hands in every single thing you do every single day. They will do what they want no matter what. They already do.
December 2, 2013 1:50:47 PM

jgfontenot60 said:
You can't force a company to do something just because the law authorities and the politicians think it is a good idea.

Of course the can. That's why there are construction codes, safety codes and other regulations about how people and companies can conduct certain activities to guarantee a minimum of safety. If something becomes a big enough economic or safety issue and manufacturers refuse to implement relatively inexpensive counter-measures to prevent it on their own, governments often step in to impose far less cost-effective implementations.
January 28, 2014 11:46:00 AM

The reason the carriers don't want this is because they want to have control over the hardware at all cost.
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