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Google and Microsoft Plan Kill Switches On Smartphones

timothy posted about 5 months ago | from the ok-but-do-you-want-this-in-syria-or-china dept.

Cellphones 137

itwbennett (1594911) writes "Responding to more than a year of pressure, Google and Microsoft will follow Apple in adding an anti-theft "kill switch" to their smartphone operating systems. In New York, iPhone theft was down 19 percent in the first five months of this year. Over the same period, thefts of Samsung devices — which did not include a kill switch until one was introduced on Verizon-only models in April — rose by over 40 percent. In San Francisco, robberies of iPhones were 38 percent lower in the six months after the iOS 7 introduction versus the six months before, while in London thefts over the same period were down by 24 percent. In both cities, robberies of Samsung devices increased. 'These statistics validate what we always knew to be true, that a technological solution has the potential to end the victimization of wireless consumers everywhere,' said San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon."

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What about a kill switch for Google and Microsoft? (0)

Skarjak (3492305) | about 5 months ago | (#47272239)

We should be able to deactivate the companies when they do something evil. Although I guess these days, we'd be constantly pressing the button.

Re:What about a kill switch for Google and Microso (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47272271)

Especially Google. They're a plague on privacy :(

Re:What about a kill switch for Google and Microso (4, Interesting)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about 5 months ago | (#47272579)

Except that theyre the only one not cooperating with governments like China these days. Microsoft has been in agreements with them for years.

Its amazing the spin that people put on reality, whre Google is the one you need to worry about/

Re:What about a kill switch for Google and Microso (2)

LookIntoTheFuture (3480731) | about 5 months ago | (#47272901)

Bah. They are both terrible. Google gets the blame for pushing personal information gathering to new heights. Everyone else is seeing what they are getting away with and are following suit.

Re:What about a kill switch for Google and Microso (1)

Noah Haders (3621429) | about 5 months ago | (#47273959)

Diff is, ms may violate my privacy by sharing w china. Google violates my privacy by recording everything I do and analyze it to make money. More disturbing, they try to only show me the portion of the internet they think would be most profitable. Try doing the same google search on different computers.

this is why I don't use gmail, chrome, google docs, android, or nest.

Re:What about a kill switch for Google and Microso (0)

JazzLad (935151) | about 5 months ago | (#47274327)

So, making money off you is now more evil than turning your data over to a government that can (and has an alleged history of) make(ing) you* disappear? Interesting.


(Assuming you're Chinese, but even if not, remember the old poem:"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist.) [wikipedia.org]

Re:What about a kill switch for Google and Microso (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about 5 months ago | (#47274557)

Microsoft also records everything, and last time I checked their privacy policy was MUCH less robust than Google's.

And for the record Google offers you the option to opt out of targetted advertising. You'll still get ads, but they stop tracking all of that info.

Re:What about a kill switch for Google and Microso (1)

Noah Haders (3621429) | about 5 months ago | (#47274989)

My understanding is you can opt out of receiving targeted ads, but they still vacuum up all of your details. You can't opt out of this. All you can do is surf in private mode and not log in to google services, or take your business everywhere.

Re:What about a kill switch for Google and Microso (2)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 5 months ago | (#47274507)

Except that theyre the only one not cooperating with governments like China these days. Microsoft has been in agreements with them for years.

Keep up with current events, young'un - Google did an about-face on China over a year ago.

Google Shows China the White Flag of Surrender [telegraph.co.uk]

Google hasn't been the "don't be evil" company for quite a while.

Re:What about a kill switch for Google and Microso (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about 5 months ago | (#47274621)

In December, it got rid of the measure which notified Chinese users when keywords they were searching for would trigger the country's Great Firewall content blocking system – without telling its users

Sorry, thats not "cooperating" with China. They still do not provide any assistance for the Chinese government looking for dissident info, which is the source of continued strained relationships between the CCP and Google. In fact, China just this month has completly cut the cord to all Google services from mainland China because of Google's continued non-cooperation; there IS no "google.cn", becuase they moved all of their servers to Hong Kong (which still has some semblence of freedom), and apparently people outside of Hong Kong cant reach it. All they stopped doing in December 2012 is notifying users when their Google search terms were tripping the GFW-- and as I recall there were technical reasons for that.

Microsoft, on the other hand, continues to cooperate with China, particularly with their Skype program. The TOM group collaborates with them to release a backdoored version of Skype in China (bolstered by a DNS redirect for www.skype.com to skype.tom.com) that reports everything you do back to big brother.

There is no other big company out there which fights tooth and nail like Google does. Yahoo was the first to kow tow to China's demands, and at this point all of the major providers except for Google are in full cooperation.

Re:What about a kill switch for Google and Microso (2)

Penguinisto (415985) | about 5 months ago | (#47272559)

TFA is why I have a cheap-assed Android phone.

If it gets stolen, the thing gets remote-wiped five minutes later and I'm only out $150. less than an hour later I can mosey to the store, get another one, and be back on the network with the same phone number, with everything sync'd back up.

I actually don't mind it when other whip out the new shinies, because I know they're paying through the nose for 'em, and to be honest, there really isn't anything in latest/greatest that blows my dress up. *shrug*

Solving a problem that shouldn't exist (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47272353)

We need to get rid of the thieves.

Re:Solving a problem that shouldn't exist (2)

koan (80826) | about 5 months ago | (#47273075)

You're correct, lets start with the bankers and phone company CEO's.

They never answered the question... (4, Interesting)

roc97007 (608802) | about 5 months ago | (#47272429)

How does stealing smartphones relate to other types of crime? Is it really a thing at all? TFA gives percentage increases but no way to relate that to number of consumers, or actual monetary impact, so there's no way to tell if this is significant, or if it's a problem the average person is likely to run into.

People being hit by falling pianos up 100% this year!

It seems pretty obvious that this is being pursued because it gives the semblance of government helping consumers while at the same time giving government one more tool they can use to control the population. Because gee, that's never happened before...

Re:They never answered the question... (3, Insightful)

netsavior (627338) | about 5 months ago | (#47272477)

Not to mention consumer confidence. If Google/MS has consumers convinced that their phone is *safe* people will trust it with more and more stuff. It is the same reason the best antivirus out there for windows is free from microsoft, they realized consumer confidence is very very powerful.

If your phone is also your credit card and your medical records, and your financial planner, etc etc, well that is just more data for them to monetize.

Re:They never answered the question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47272507)

Is it really a thing at all?

Do you live under a rock? It's a pretty big deal in most large cities.

Re:They never answered the question... (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 5 months ago | (#47272617)

Is it really a thing at all?

Do you live under a rock? It's a pretty big deal in most large cities.

Is it really? Do you have statistics? My family were early adopters of smartphones (I used to work for a carrier) and none of us ever got one stolen, not even my daughter, who got her first one (a blackberry) at twelve years old. (It helped me keep track of her.) Since the turn of the century I've worked in a group which, being on call, were entitled to a company phone (iphone, samsung or until recently blackberry). You'd think in a moderately big city when you have to carry your phone all the time, we'd occasionally lose one to theft. But it's never happened. I know many instances where a phone was broken, but none, zero, of a phone actually being stolen.

So, maybe my experience has been extremely unusual (someone has to be at the end of the curve) and it's coloring my judgement. But I don't think so.

Re:They never answered the question... (1)

unrtst (777550) | about 5 months ago | (#47273093)

Is it really a thing at all?

Do you live under a rock? It's a pretty big deal in most large cities.

Is it really? Do you have statistics? My family were early adopters of smartphones ...

While I agree that useful statistics would help, following up your request with anecdotal evidence does not. FWIW, I've seen it happen first hand:
* myself and 3 friends at a dive bar mid-day-ish, which was otherwise empty
* one of us bartended there occassionally
* random guy comes in and sits a few seats down from us
* bartender friend leaves to go to the bathroom, and leaves phone on the bar
* random guy pays for his one beer, casually gets up and leaves
* friend comes back and notices his phone is gone ... we didn't see the guy take it, but we had seen it on the bar, and it was suddenly gone at the same time the only other person in the bar left.

Crime of opportunity (rather than robbery by force), but it does happen.
Say what you will about the situation (ex. why was his phone left on the bar, etc... we were regulars, and no one was there, and there was an expectaction that no one would mess with anyone in that place... still not the best idea, but that's what happened), but that does not change the fact that it happens.

Re:They never answered the question... (1)

mariox19 (632969) | about 5 months ago | (#47274119)

and leaves phone on the bar

But for the fact that "blaming the victim" is currently considered a mean-spirited social faux pas, I would point out to you where your friend went wrong.

Re:They never answered the question... (1)

alen (225700) | about 5 months ago | (#47273099)

try being single and going out to drink all the time and having it stolen while drunk because you leave it on a bar or just lose it or going home alone at 2am on a deserted subway train

Re:They never answered the question... (1)

Shakrai (717556) | about 5 months ago | (#47273241)

try being single and going out to drink all the time and having it stolen while drunk because you leave it on a bar

That sounds like a natural consequence to me.

Re: They never answered the question... (1)

Bender Unit 22 (216955) | about 5 months ago | (#47274209)

Falling a sleep in the train on your way home is a good way to get your phone stolen, even here in Denmark.
I don't use public transportation now but when I did, I always slept most of the time and woke up just before my stop. Overslept once in 8 years. Now it is unsafe to sleep in the train and the advantage is gone.
I didn't have a smartphone then but I did have a discman, a laptop and later on different MP3 players. We also didn't have open borders all the way through Europe and all the "lovely" people removing the borders brought us.

Re: They never answered the question... (1)

maccodemonkey (1438585) | about 5 months ago | (#47273235)

I know several people who this has happened to. Armed hold ups, people grabbing it and running, and people grabbing it when the owners back is turned.

So yes, in some cities this is a very real problem.

Re:They never answered the question... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47273673)

My family were early adopters of smartphones (I used to work for a carrier) and none of us ever got one stolen

I own a car. It has never been stolen.

And, yet, I know that car theft happens.

Your lack of knowledge of it is irrelevant.

Want stats? here [cnbc.com] .

About 3.1 million Americans had their phones stolen last year, according to a just-released national survey by Consumer Reports. That's nearly double the magazine's estimate of 1.6 million mobile phones stolen during 2012.

The real issue is just how juicy of a target this makes for hackers ... because the ability to destroy a large number of phones is likely to be a pretty tempting target.

Re:They never answered the question... (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 5 months ago | (#47274153)

That's one percent of the population. It's not that phone theft happens, it's whether it happens often enough to warrant this solution. I'm thinking no, it doesn't.

In a country this big, just about everything happens somewhere. But the smart effort is to fix the things that happen often, not the edge cases.

In point of fact, I think one could argue that vehicles (your example) are stolen much more often than smartphones. Not to mention that vehicles are generally worth more, and stolen vehicles are more likely to be used in the commission of a crime than stolen smartphones. Yet, the call for vehicle kill switches, although it exists, is not nearly as loud as the call for cell phone kill switches. I wonder why that is. I don't really wonder -- controlling movement is a good way to control a population, but to control information, in this day and age, is a lot more important.

Re:They never answered the question... (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 5 months ago | (#47274171)

> The real issue is just how juicy of a target this makes for hackers ... because the ability to destroy a large number of phones is likely to be a pretty tempting target.

This is a very good point. And even if the encryption keys (presuming they even use them) are impossible to derive (unlikely) they'd be so valuable that someone, somewhere will inevitably sell them.

Re:They never answered the question... (1)

KingOfBLASH (620432) | about 5 months ago | (#47274287)

I've seen people bike by and grab the phone out of people's hands while they're using it. Just try catching the thief on a bike.

But you know thieves are smart. Or at least they have specific targets. Nobody but business users own blackberries, and businesses don't buy on the black market, so there's going to be very little demand for blackberries. OTOH, if you have the shiny new Samsung Galaxy, worth almost a grand, people are going to try to take it if they are dishonest and see an opportunity.

The other thing to mention is in the US everyone's cell phone is subsidized by phone companies and locked. Here in Europe, most cell phones are unlocked, and when you have to pay 600 EUR for that iPhone, theft is much more common.

Re:They never answered the question... (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 5 months ago | (#47272653)

I hit send too soon. The point isn't even whether this is a problem or not, the point is that articles like TFA are using a standard ruse (percentage increase without context) to sell us on necessity. You don't find that at all suspicious?

Re:They never answered the question... (3, Interesting)

unrtst (777550) | about 5 months ago | (#47273193)

This was more-or-less my same thought when reading the summary. Lies, damn lies, and statistics.
* iPhone theft down 19%
* Samsung theft up by 40%

That means absolutely nothing without additional context.

What if prior to the change period, iPhone theft was at 100,000 units a month, and samsung was at 10 units a month?
What about ratios (N% of activiated iPhone devices stolen per month vs N% of activated samsung devices)?
What about device classes (they just say "Samsung devices", without qualifying if those are even phones, let alone if that's just their Andriod phones, let alone if that's just certain models, etc)?
What about market changes? (did samsung sales increase while iPhone decreased, meaning there is a corrolation to availability / supply-and-demand?)

I wouldn't mind having an option for a kill switch (done "right"), remote wipe (via always-encrypted storage and wipe the key... and abilty to restore the key), lowjack, etc, but these numbers are garbage. They don't deserve to be included in the summary.

Re:They never answered the question... (3, Interesting)

Talderas (1212466) | about 5 months ago | (#47272739)

The article only provides the percentages but doesn't include the raw numbers by which the percentages were derived. It is highly suggested by the article that since iOS has a kill switch the thefts of iOS were instead switched to non-iOS devices. That's where the raw data would be helpful and knowing how many of the thefts were iOS vs Android. Knowing the demographics of those who typically purchase iOS vs Android would also be helpful as well are those purchasing iOS less security savvy than those who purchase Android? Repeat victims that switched OSes is a factor that needs to be eliminated. You also need to know how the crime is usually perpetrated. Are these theft violent and using threats to get the phone from the victims or are they crimes of opportunity that occur because the device is left unattended?

Re:They never answered the question... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47272649)

How does stealing smartphones relate to other types of crime? Is it really a thing at all?

New iPhones are probably kept safe by extreme annoyances of iOS 7. If Apple allowed to downgrade iOS back to 6, the theft would go back up.

Re:They never answered the question... (3, Informative)

LetterRip (30937) | about 5 months ago | (#47272803)

3 million stolen last year, doubling compared to the previous year

http://thinkprogress.org/econo... [thinkprogress.org]

Re:They never answered the question... (1)

electrosoccertux (874415) | about 5 months ago | (#47274439)

Honestly, I don't know how this happens to people. You're walking around with a $600 bankroll. You keep it in your hands, or in your pocket, at all times. Don't just leave it places, and if you do, make sure it's not around sketchy folk.
The number of thefts where you're sitting on the train next to the door and the thief steals it and books it right as the doors close is...not 3 million. Not anywhere close.

watch my phone get stolen now.

Re:They never answered the question... (5, Insightful)

Bogtha (906264) | about 5 months ago | (#47273107)

there's no way to tell if this is significant, or if it's a problem the average person is likely to run into.

I spent approximately 5-10 seconds typing phone theft statistics into Google and it led me to the Office of National Statistics [ons.gov.uk] , which says that 4% of 14-24 year-olds were victims of phone theft in the 2011/12 year.

It seems pretty obvious that this is being pursued because it gives the semblance of government helping consumers while at the same time giving government one more tool they can use to control the population.

It seems pretty obvious that people carrying small, expensive gadgets around with them are a prime target for thieves, that this is a legitimate, pervasive problem, and that this solution is effective in combating this crime.

Re:They never answered the question... (1, Flamebait)

roc97007 (608802) | about 5 months ago | (#47273653)

4%, four out of 100, of very young people were victims of phone theft last year. With no knowledge of how many of these were teens losing their phones and telling their parents they were stolen, to save face. How is this a legitimate, pervasive problem? Compared to, oh let's go with, 20% of women getting raped on campus?

Re:They never answered the question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47274591)

Compared to, oh let's go with, 20% of women getting raped on campus?

Go back to Tumblr with the rest of the social justice warrior idiots.

Re:They never answered the question... (1)

N1AK (864906) | about 5 months ago | (#47273757)

It seems pretty obvious that people carrying small, expensive gadgets around with them are a prime target for thieves, that this is a legitimate, pervasive problem, and that this solution is effective in combating this crime.

Plenty of things can seem pretty obvious, it doesn't make them true by definition. Having said that, the figures look like a good enough reason for other manufacturers to follow suit. If it turns out it's a statistical blip then thieves are still left with less viable phones (proceeds from crime) and if it is working then great. Having said that, I do wonder what proportion of phone thefts are by people who don't make a living out of crime and so aren't being displaced into another form of crime? If we're getting less iPhones nicked but the criminals are just stealing wallets, house breaking or whatever instead it's hardly a step forwards...

Re:They never answered the question... (1)

drfool (1535489) | about 5 months ago | (#47274011)

Do you believe everything you read on the internet? What combats crime is good law enforcement, not self-destructing devices. Think of all the crime that this vulnerability (yes, it is a vulnerability by it's very nature - a remote activated DOS function) enables? You trust Apple to secure this interface? Yeah right, criminals have already turned your "crime-fighting" killswitch into ransomware. I highly doubt that ransomware fits your definition of "combatting crime". Cheers,

Re:They never answered the question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47273147)

How does stealing smartphones relate to other types of crime? Is it really a thing at all?

I did the stats for a major city and found one stolen iPhone reported for every 1200 residents per year. That's iPhone only, reported stolen only, and the average since 2007. It is very much a thing.

Re:They never answered the question... (1)

Matheus (586080) | about 5 months ago | (#47274473)

The whole correlation != causation deal... What else transpired in the period their number represent? For example Android has made huge strides in market share so maybe the 19 % decrease on the i-side and 40% increase on the Android side is just representative of the number of phones available for theft?

Piss poor analysis!

a more effective way is to look like the iPhone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47272443)

Samsung should be able to do that. no?

It's been awhile since the last patent storm... (2)

Kenja (541830) | about 5 months ago | (#47272503)

No really... Apple has a patent on the kill switch. http://siliconangle.com/blog/2... [siliconangle.com]

Re:It's been awhile since the last patent storm... (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 5 months ago | (#47272743)

It's not a real kill switch if it doesn't electrocute the thief, so doing that would improve the tech and avoid the patent at the same time!

Re:It's been awhile since the last patent storm... (1)

robsku (1381635) | about 5 months ago | (#47274415)

Seems like a different type of "kill" switch, in fact more like "mute" than "kill" - more sinister one at that too. From the article you linked it seems a bit unclear if this can be used for specific devices only or if it's a general "Mute" All Phones In 100m Radius only.

...even the less sinister use case examples of it sound unacceptable to me, for example: I'm generally against phone use in movie theatres, however I can stand a person who's work demands him to be "on call" (provided it's closer to "in case of emergency" than "I work on sex-line) to be in movies, phone set on vibrate, and excuse him-/herself in case there is a call.

It doesn't have to be one extreme or another, and I feel very strongly about missing information (such as who attempted to call at what exact time. Or perhaps SMS messages, which get delivered later but are easy to peek at without bothering others) because a movie theatre decides to ban phone use but are too lazy to actually do any work on it and too nazi to cut everyone's connection instead. Throw out people who disturb other customers (there's more to it than just phone use, and cutting the network still leaves those problems to be) and I'm all for it, but stay the fsck away from network connectivity of the silently active phone(s) in my pocket. Heck, I could be using it for a big download I didn't think of at home, expecting to have it finished by the end of the movie - even the strongest "do naught at movies or go home" purists should have nothing to say against that. Luckily where I live disturbing the network connectivity isn't something a private business can legally do to others - also the police aren't currently allowed to do anything like cutting off the network on area of police bru... I mean, riot, but these days such "rights" can be given to authorities and taken from people no matter where you live - or what your constitution says about it - unless people get/stay informed and active.

I do not trust you! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47272515)

And you have an awfully long way until I could even consider trusting you, so no, I do not want you to have final say over my phone. Do your job: Catch, prosecute and punish the criminals.

Re:I do not trust you! (1)

JazzLad (935151) | about 5 months ago | (#47274453)

Who, Google and Microsoft? I don't trust them either, but I didn't think either was responsible for catching, prosecuting or punishing criminals ... Did you mean the carriers? Phone cops? [youtube.com]

Re:I do not trust you! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47274581)

'These statistics validate what we always knew to be true, that a technological solution has the potential to end the victimization of wireless consumers everywhere,' said San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon.

This isn't coming from the tech companies.

Who has the big red button? (4, Interesting)

taikedz (2782065) | about 5 months ago | (#47272519)

Whilst all this may be valid and true, how are we going to prevent the "wrong people" from using this kill switch? Will it be hardware based, in which case, how will we be sure it won't be triggered/used remotely if we install a different OS on the device? Or if some script kiddie found a way of activating it by exploiting an insecure app?

(new hollywood armaggedon scenario: terrorists threaten to detonante a phone bomb that would activate kill switches around the world, bringing down entire civilizations)

Yes, a technological solution might exist for the problem; question is, is this one the right one? Are we going to stop looking for alternatives?

I'm sure the NSA wants their fingers on it. (1)

Darth Muffin (781947) | about 5 months ago | (#47272573)

You can bet the NSA and other government agencies are drooling over the prospect of getting access to this.

If there's a Boston-type bombing, they would want to shut down cell phones in the area. That might even be a legitimate use, but next they'll want to use it preemptively around the President, then at the Superbowl.... and suddenly we've got tyranny.

Re:I'm sure the NSA wants their fingers on it. (2)

gtall (79522) | about 5 months ago | (#47272629)

Stop watching TV. The NSA and government agencies would want to keep the cell phone structure working so that (1) people affected can use their cell phones and not sue the government because the government shut them down, and (2) attempt to find out the perpetrators, which would be hard to do if the perps weren't squawking about their latest "victory".

Re:I'm sure the NSA wants their fingers on it. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47272801)

Hahahahahahahahahaha. Stop trusting that "they" give a fuck about you. They don't. When crisis hits, they WANT people isolated, to control the story, to keep it isolated, off the grid, and in the fog of war. And 'sue the government'? Don't make me laugh. They'd either cite National Security, or just not allow you to.

Oh - you didn't realize you needed the government's PERMISSION to sue, did you?

Thought so.

Re:I'm sure the NSA wants their fingers on it. (1)

Darth Muffin (781947) | about 5 months ago | (#47272929)

First, I don't watch TV, except for Cosmos and it's over. The gov has no interest in you or I using our cell phone. There is no constitutional right to a cell phone, so no basis for a case. They would want to prevent further cell-activated devices from going off. They want to shut everything down so that only they have control of the situation. That's how SWAT teams, etc. work.

Re:I'm sure the NSA wants their fingers on it. (1)

BobMcD (601576) | about 5 months ago | (#47273159)

This is exactly right, and I believe this is the exact reason they so very much want this technology on phones and in cars.

Maybe they got the idea from TV, if you want to go there, but the idea being on TV doesn't automatically make it impossible.

Re:I'm sure the NSA wants their fingers on it. (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 5 months ago | (#47274027)

You don't shut down cell phones at the end point, you shut them down at the top. The carrier can do a better job of killing off cell phone reception at any given point and time than any 'kill switch' on the phone. Shutting down the towers and the C&C infrastructure assures that YOU have control and that grandma's iPhone 3GS (sans kill switch) is off as well as your Cyanogen mod super-clean-built-up-from-the-ground malware free, Google free, Apple free FreePhone.

It can already happen....

Re:I'm sure the NSA wants their fingers on it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47273505)

Phones don't usually work well when there's that many people present with phones. I attended the Super Bowl celebration parade this year and there were so many phones there that the network couldn't handle it.

I can only imagine how bad it would be if a majority of the people there had been trying to call 911.

Re:I'm sure the NSA wants their fingers on it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47272669)

Heh. Deus Ex.

Who has the big red button? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47272611)

Apple's solution, which is non-intrusive and leaves you in control: you register all phones with iCloud. When you have Find my iPhone switched on, the phone can ONLY be registered to another account by entering the password of the original account. No matter how much you reset it. Also, you cannot switch off Find my iPhone. If you reinstall, you won't even notice (except the prompt says you have to register with this account), and if somebody else takes it over, it tells you to switch it off (forcing password entry) beforehand.

There is no big red button.

Re:Who has the big red button? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47273531)

There is no big red button.

Up until iCloud rains on your parade.

Re:Who has the big red button? (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 5 months ago | (#47272681)

More likely is that the switch will be used during the next "Arab spring" by some not so friendly governments.

Re:Who has the big red button? (2)

Kjella (173770) | about 5 months ago | (#47272875)

The NSA's "kill switch" is to take a NSL to your carrier and tell them to kill your service or the whole tower or region for that matter. And if you're really bringing out the big guns there's jammers and missiles, those towers light up like beacons. And whatever exploits they have for the carrier's systems. Besides, I suppose in some WWIII-prelude knocking out the enemy's communications systems and throwing them into disarray may be useful, but I imagine 99.99% of the time they're interested in signals intelligence. Temporarily stopping me from making phone calls until I get on the Internet via fiber/cable/DSL and Skype doesn't seem like a significant objective. Turning the $500 phone that pickpocket or mugger ran off with into a brick on the other hand would have a quite significant effect on petty crime. Unless you observed my PIN and stole the card or force me to withdraw money at gun/knife point the smartphone is clearly the most valuable thing I carry around daily.

Re:Who has the big red button? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47272989)

You forgot: how does control pass from one person to the next? If you buy a phone on Craigslist how do you get the kill switch? This looks like a second-hand market kill switch.

Also, why shouldn't this be a alert/stolen beacon for police so they can see who's carrying a stolen phone?

Re:Who has the big red button? (1)

alen (225700) | about 5 months ago | (#47273123)

you don't
you trade your phone in to a legit business and they have a deal with apple and everyone else to reformat the phone and disable any kill switches

Re:Who has the big red button? (1)

Enigma2175 (179646) | about 5 months ago | (#47274229)

you don't
you trade your phone in to a legit business and they have a deal with apple and everyone else to reformat the phone and disable any kill switches

Sure, conducting a transaction with another citizen is doubleplusungood. What we really need is more middlemen inserting themselves into every transaction, because we don't have nearly enough of that.

Re:Who has the big red button? (1)

MachineShedFred (621896) | about 5 months ago | (#47273515)

In the case of iPhone, make sure the person you buy it from isn't an idiot and unregisters it from their iCloud account.

There is lots of incentive for them to do this, like not having you reading all their messages and digging through their photos.

Re:Who has the big red button? (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 5 months ago | (#47273621)

Whilst all this may be valid and true, how are we going to prevent the "wrong people" from using this kill switch? Will it be hardware based, in which case, how will we be sure it won't be triggered/used remotely if we install a different OS on the device? Or if some script kiddie found a way of activating it by exploiting an insecure app?

Well, let's see how Apple does it.

When you activate a phone, it gets associated with an Apple ID. That Apple ID is required to erase, restore, and recover a phone. But only initially - to get to a stage just before running the new phone setup. So when you erase, restore or recover for sale, iTunes will ask for the old Apple ID before it lets you continue. Once that's entered, the phone can then be associated with a new Apple ID.

So that takes care of the simple "just format the hard drive" style solution - to initiate the process on the phone requires entering the Apple ID, and attempting to bypass it using DFU mode requires entering an Apple ID before iTunes will unlock the OS. Once unlocked, it's free to associate with a new Apple ID (allowing you to sell/transfer it).

That's one method. The other one is logging into iCloud, clicking "Find my iPhone", then clicking "Erase", which erases the phone's data and pops up the dialog asking for the Apple ID.

The common thread is you need an account - and if that account is compromised, you're SOL. But it's the same for Google or Microsoft - you'll need a Google/Gmail account, or a Microsoft Live account.

Not done through the carriers or anything (except maybe the Verizon Samsung phones).

Now, what happens if the person dies/etc. and the devices lock? Well, for Apple, you need to get your evidence and file a court order so Apple can unlock it. Presenting the evidence to Apple doesn't work so presumably the courts will verify the documents aren't forged and that also raises the effort required from simple document forgery to actually having to go to court. It's worth it for family members (I can buy an iPad for myself, but the iPad my aunt had is special it's something I can remember her by).

And since Apple did it, if it falsely locked continually, well, we'd have heard about it within days of the iOS 7 release.

The only real annoyance is when you're debugging something and continually restoring it - where you have to keep entering in your Apple ID.

Are thieves that selective? (2)

jfengel (409917) | about 5 months ago | (#47272531)

Certainly it would be to your benefit to know if the device you're risking your freedom for is worth the effort. But I had thought that phone thefts were largely crimes of opportunity: you see the phone unguarded and you take it. I wouldn't think you have all that long to judge what kind of phone it is.

I suppose maybe these are just professionals, good at their jobs, who have heard that the fences aren't taking some brands any more because it's not worth it. But I wonder if there's some other factor besides the kill switches that accounts for the data.

Re:Are thieves that selective? (4, Insightful)

Russ1642 (1087959) | about 5 months ago | (#47272549)

This isn't to prevent theft of the phone. It's to protect theft of the information stored on the phone, which is generally far more valuable than the phone itself.

Re:Are thieves that selective? (1)

Shakrai (717556) | about 5 months ago | (#47272917)

It's to protect theft of the information stored on the phone, which is generally far more valuable than the phone itself.

You can already do that with encryption and PIN locks. My /data partition is encrypted, with a six word diceware password, and the phone is auto-locked with a five digit PIN after five minutes of idleness. Ten failed PIN attempts wipes the device. Powering off the device removes the encryption keys from memory. It's entirely possible (probable even) that a well resourced organization could extract the encryption keys from the phone but that's really not a pressing concern for most people. If it's a concern for you then you should probably re-evaluate your decision to use a smartphone in the first place.

Re:Are thieves that selective? (2)

Kjella (173770) | about 5 months ago | (#47272959)

No, the point of a kill switch is to destroy the resale value. Same as an IMEI ban, once reported stolen nobody should* give you service

* not actually implemented worldwide, yet

Re:Are thieves that selective? (1)

electrosoccertux (874415) | about 5 months ago | (#47274467)

FCC will step in and regulate if the carriers actually try to do this with all sales. I'm pretty sure there will always be a legitimate used phone market for the next 25 years or so probably. We've got enough people with their heads still screwed on straight to prevent this doomsday scenario.

Re:Are thieves that selective? (1)

asylumx (881307) | about 5 months ago | (#47274345)

You may be right, but the summary & article both pretty strongly imply that the kill switch is reducing theft numbers for the device. I can't help but wonder if this is actually a result of there being more samsung phones in the wild now than before, and/or less iOS phones.

Are thieves that selective? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47272639)

People stopped using the original iPod/iPhone headsets (which are very recognizable) because of the risk of theft a couple years ago. Now, it's more of a safeguard.

Re:Are thieves that selective? (2, Interesting)

fermion (181285) | about 5 months ago | (#47272697)

I would tend to agree. It may be that people are simply not using the iPhone. To show that the reduction in theft is caused by kill switch, one would have to show the rate of theft is not correlated to the rate of use, or to some other variable such as where of who the phones are used. For instance, if Android is used by younger or older population, it could be that the phones might just be left unprotected or easier to steal. Or if the Android phones are insured,it could be that people 'lose'. I know that some of these warranties cover theft but not screens. That said, there one can easily tell one phone from another if it is out being used. It makes little sense to steal an iPhone, not only because many are shipped out of the US and iPhones are not the most popular phone outside of the US, but also because of the ability to disable the phone. So while the hypothesis is not proven, it makes some sense. There are some stories about phone theft and loss of life. It may be apocryphal, or it may be a repeat of the shoe crisis of the late 20th century where kids were killed for their Jordans. We will see what happens when all phones have the kill switch. It could be a common sense way to make us safer. It could just be a way to stop warranty fraud.

Re:Are thieves that selective? (1)

jfengel (409917) | about 5 months ago | (#47272949)

iPhones do have the advantage of being particularly distinctive. Android phones come in a stunning array of models and colors, but iPhones are rather restricted. If you're going to invest brain cells in "Don't take that phone" it would be easiest for it to be iPhones.

If so, it sounds as if you'd need a fair bit of "herd immunity" to make other phones safe. Either that, or some highly distinctive branding, which is not the way Android manufacturers tend to work; they make their living offering everything to everybody.

Re:Are thieves that selective? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47272973)

What about the other side of the coin? Why are thefts are occurring in the first place? Is it for the thrill, greed, or poverty?

Re:Are thieves that selective? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47273137)

If there is any effect, it's far more likely because of the "find my iPhone" feature than because of a killswitch. Potential thieves or people who buy the stolen goods don't want police showing up at their door.

Re:Are thieves that selective? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47272769)

Thieves are that selective. Black market of stolen phones crosses national borders and there are studies linking theft of mobile phones to murders.

At Fault (1)

Jim Sadler (3430529) | about 5 months ago | (#47272541)

With the data collected there is reasonable proof that failure to provide an "off" capability is actually a cause of incidents and just might mean that people who were injured might be entitled to relief from the manufacturer.

Hooray! (2)

LookIntoTheFuture (3480731) | about 5 months ago | (#47272571)

Coming soon to Android and Windows devices: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/tec... [telegraph.co.uk]

Re:Hooray! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47273313)

Apple has been known to let unauthorized people access to other people's accounts. There was an article the other day about that... which now I can't find. It basically said that Apple doesn't follow their own policies with regards to letting people reset their passwords, effectively letting hackers gain unfettered access to all your accounts.

You Know, for Stopping Protesters (1)

BrendaEM (871664) | about 5 months ago | (#47272695)

So much for peaceful demonstrations, and out Right to Assembly.

BTW, are you wondering, why instead a national database of stolen phones is not created, so no stolen phone cannot be activated?

Technological solution (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 5 months ago | (#47272725)

I added an IO device that overloads the battery so the phone explodes.

Re:Technological solution (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about 5 months ago | (#47272891)

I added an IO device that overloads the battery so the phone explodes.

How'd you test it?

Re:Technological solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47273025)

Through peaceful demonstrators who'd secretly been criminally terroristically packing explosive incendiaries all along.

Unintended Victim (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 5 months ago | (#47272889)

There goes the right of first sale.

Perhaps my post title is wrong, and 'right of first sale' is actually the intended victim after all...

Anyway, this makes my work for the pawn shop, unlocking devices people lost to hock, a bit more challenging.

Of course, it would help if they'd stop taking in iPads without getting the iCloud password... damn college kids... /rant

So much theft! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47272963)

Especially in large group demonstrations, it's amazing how everyone's communication devices are just magically whisked away, dump all personal data straight onto a criminal-record-like autocomplete form, and shut down from having been stolen!

Laugh (1)

koan (80826) | about 5 months ago | (#47273043)

that a technological solution has the potential to end the victimization of wireless consumers everywhere

Does that include the victimization the phone companies are doling out with their 2 year plans, termination fees, data caps and generally shitty service?

Really? (1)

dcw3 (649211) | about 5 months ago | (#47273067)

'These statistics validate what we always knew to be true, that a technological solution has the potential to end the victimization of wireless consumers everywhere,' said San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon."

Correlation? Probably.

Causation? Possibly, but I'd argue that the ubiquitous nature of smart phones, and significant decrease in pricing has just as much, if not more to do with it.

ORLY? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47273141)

It's really a way for the Gov to be able shut off large numbers of phone should an event happen that they
don't want people to be able to use their phones during - thus making the subjects unable to coordinate their
activities via cell phones. my 2 cents. Think about it...

Who holds the key? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 5 months ago | (#47273407)

If only the owner holds the key to kill a device, ( and can be given to a new owner.. ) then i'm ok with it as its my device, my control.

If i dont get total control over its use, then leave it off my phone/tablet/etc.

Too bad they can't put a kill switch on hand guns (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47273501)

Too bad they can't put a kill switch on hand guns. That would stop a lot of crime.

Re:Too bad they can't put a kill switch on hand gu (1, Offtopic)

Enigma2175 (179646) | about 5 months ago | (#47274365)

Too bad they can't put a kill switch on hand guns. That would stop a lot of crime.

They can. [wikipedia.org] Unfortunately the NRA is against such technology because "Obama wants to confiscate our guns!".

Who controls the switch? (1)

erroneus (253617) | about 5 months ago | (#47273847)

If the user/owner controls the switch? Great. But if the carrier/government does? No.

I'd love to have a kill-switch in my phone that, when receiving a code that only I have would result in a wipe and disabling of the device. That way if the government comes along and steals my property, I can do something about it. "Tampering with evidence?" No, that was a "malfunction" and we just lost the hard drives.

Am I missing something? (1)

Godai (104143) | about 5 months ago | (#47273875)

Doesn't Google already have this? The Android Device Manager lets you remotely locate, lock or find your device. Is there something more to this 'kill switch'? Does it permanently disable the phone?

Kill the thief, not the phone. (1)

mtthwbrnd (1608651) | about 5 months ago | (#47273925)

Nothing more to say.

Killswitch is Turn Key Tyranny (1)

drfool (1535489) | about 5 months ago | (#47273943)

Well this is a truly disheartening decision -- not that I own a smartphone, but the "principal" behind the move is scary indeed. What's to prevent law enforcement from arbitrarily hitting the kill switch on political dissidents? What's to prevent a criminal from hitting the kill switch on prospective victims before they can call the police? What's to stop a telecomm provider from hitting the killswitch on delinquent accounts? This move by the government to mandating killswitch technology in cellphone is an unhidden attempt to usurp even more power from the citizens in the digital age. The move of cellphone manufacturer's to voluntarily impliment such technology shows a wholesale failure to protect consumer interests. Is iphone theft really that big of a problem? A few solutions: don't use them in sketchy places -- Aside from your iphone, do you usually flaunt valuable possessions worth upwards of hundreds of dollars in public? No? So then why is your iphone the exception? Please excersize more practical thinking in public. An industry-wide solution? Stop inflating the prices of these portable computers to the point where criminals are incentivized to steal them. I can buy a better computer than the iphone for half the price, let's get real for a second, there is no credible reason why the iphone is so expensive other than Apple is greedy for the money. You want iphone thefts to decrease? Instead of arming every single iphone with a killswitch, why not lower its price? You don't believe me that the price is inflated? Have you ever stopped to wonder why smarthphones come standard with TWO cameras now? No thanks, I only need one camera at a time. If you want to inflate the price of my phone by introducing arbitrary camera enhancements, give me ONE camera which is twice as good, not TWO cameras which are just as shitty. At this rate, I will never buy a "smartphone" -- Not worth my time, not worth my money, not worth the spying, not worth the change in personality. Get real, people.

Re:Killswitch is Turn Key Tyranny (1)

mick129 (126225) | about 5 months ago | (#47274911)

> What's to prevent ... (the wrong person using a killswitch)?

Well, on an iPhone, you have to log in using your Apple ID. So there's that.
Find My iPhone: http://www.apple.com/ios/featu... [apple.com]

As for the Google & Microsoft implementations that the story is discussing, you'll have to wait and see, I guess.

> don't use them in sketchy places

Another option is using an app that will automatically call 911 when needed:
SafeTrek: https://itunes.apple.com/us/ap... [apple.com]

> do you usually flaunt valuable possessions?

My car is highly visible in public. It's not unreasonable to have a smart phone. Why are you blaming the victims? "It's your fault if you get robbed, not only because you were flaunting it / asking for it, but also because only fools buy smart phones in the first place." Are you just trolling?

Getting calls from new "owner" (1)

Bender Unit 22 (216955) | about 5 months ago | (#47274117)

We are starting to hear stories about people who had their phones stolen in Scandinavia, getting calls from Eastern Europe where the new "owners" of the phone wants the password for iCloud so they can use the phone.
Some have offered a small amount of money to get their password others have been angry with the rightful owner that they couldn't use their phone. Go figure.

iOS7 release = less thefts...? (1)

asylumx (881307) | about 5 months ago | (#47274375)

if the drop in theft of one device and the rise in theft of a competing device both seem to hinge on the same event, then it does stand to reason that the event (the release of iOS7) is the reason... but why would we believe it is this specific feature? Given the security issues and complaints that accompanied iOS7 when it released, isn't there another reasonable explanation? Perhaps iOS devices became somewhat less popular and the Samsung devices filled that void? I'm just saying, there is a correlation for sure, but there's not compelling evidence that the implied cause is correct.

People are Stupid (1)

hackus (159037) | about 5 months ago | (#47274567)

Having government institutions with control over something as private as a cell phone is not a good idea.

This idea that government will make you safe, as long as you have no rights seems to be on the menu of the times we live in.

It will end up serving the same ole dish:

Death, misery and more chaos.

Bye bye Human Race, was really nice knowing you, don't forget to write about it in the fossil record.

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