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Google, Microsoft Will Include Kill Switches in Next OS

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said on Thursday that Google and Microsoft have agreed to add a kill switch to the next version of their mobile operating systems, namely Windows Phone and Android.

The news arrives after the Secure Our Smartphones ("S.O.S.") Initiative released a report revealing that once Apple added a "kill switch" to the iPhone, robberies and grand larcenies related to the device "plummeted." However, crimes against individuals who carry a phone without the kill switches have surged.

"The commitments of Google and Microsoft are giant steps toward consumer safety, and the statistics released today illustrate the stunning effectiveness of kill switches," said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. "In just one year, the Secure Our Smartphones Initiative has made tremendous strides towards curtailing the alarming trend of violent smartphone theft."

Apple released the iPhone's Activation Lock on September 18, 2013. In the first five months of 2014, iOS-related thefts and grand larceny incidents in New York City dropped 19 percent and 29 percent, respectively, when compared to the same time frame in 2013. However, thefts and grand larcenies involving a Samsung phone increased by over 40 percent, which was before Samsung added kill switches (Reactivation Lock) to its Verizon-based phones in April.

"Statistics from San Francisco and London show similar outcomes. In San Francisco, iPhone robberies declined 38 percent while robberies of Samsung devices increased by 12 percent," states the PR. "In London, Apple thefts declined by 24 percent while Samsung thefts increased by 3 percent. (In both cities, data from six months leading up to Apple's Activation Lock was compared to the six months following its introduction.)"

Microsoft and Google's move to add kill switches to their platforms means that the anti-theft solution will be on the three dominant smartphone operating systems, which account for 97 percent of the smartphones in North America, reports Schneiderman.

Microsoft goes into more detail in a Technet blog, reporting that the "Find My Phone" feature will be extended to include a number of new features. These include remotely erasing data from the phone, rendering the device inoperable, preventing reactivation or setup, and reversing the inoperability if the phone is recovered.

"The new theft deterrent features will be offered as an update for all phones running Windows Phone 8.0 and newer, though availability is subject to mobile operator and phone manufacturer approval. Additional details on functionality and availability will be provided closer to the official release," writes Fred Humphries, Vice President of U.S. Government Affairs at Microsoft.

Google spokesman Christopher Katsaros told the Associated Press on Thursday that Android's next build will have a factory reset protection solution. Additional details will be provided shortly.

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  • LostAlone
    This is probably a bit previous at this point but... How the hell has Android not had this? I had remote lock down on my blackberry in 2008.
    Reply
  • Integr8d
    Microsoft's kill switch will be to just make the phone blue screen every five seconds.
    Reply
  • BewareOfButtlice
    They already have this on android phones. You can locate, lock, delete, and send an alarm to your android phone through google. https://www.google.com/android/devicemanager
    Reply
  • qlum
    While I can see the use of a kill switch I don't really feel comfortable with a company like google apple or microsoft holding the key. I much rather be the only one capable of killing my phone.
    Reply
  • WithoutWeakness
    I'm starting to think that the zombie-phone-guy image is just a placeholder for when the author is too lazy to find a relevant thumbnail.
    Reply
  • WyomingKnott
    The next ransomware: "Send $250 or your phone will be bricked."
    Reply
  • joddy466
    Could it be that thieves simply perceive Samsung phones as more valuable with no connection whatsoever to a kill switch. After-all correlation does not imply causation.

    Just a thought.
    Reply
  • Christopher1
    The next ransomware: "Send $250 or your phone will be bricked."
    Bingo. That is what I am concerned about, someone will get access to this functionality and use it illegtimately.
    Reply
  • SteelCity1981
    microsoft already has a kill switch for their phones it's called windows 8 mobile. as soon as a thief finds out it's running windows 8 mobile they give it back. lol
    Reply
  • becherovka
    The next ransomware: "Send $250 or your phone will be bricked."

    This is already done. iPhones held ransom in Australia.
    http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/consumer-security/australian-apple-idevices-hijacked-held-to-ransom-20140527-zrpbj.html
    Reply