US prosecutors want smartphone 'kill switch'

Jun 14, 2013 by Meghan Barr
Craig Federighi, senior vice president of Software Engineering at Apple demonstrates the new activation lock security feature in iOS 7 during the keynote address of the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference Monday, June 10, 2013 in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

U.S. law enforcement officials are demanding the creation of a "kill switch" that would render smartphones inoperable after they are stolen, New York's top prosecutor said in a clear warning to the world's smartphone manufacturers.

Citing statistics showing that 1 in 3 robberies nationwide involve the theft of a mobile phone, Eric Schneiderman on Thursday announced the formation of a coalition of devoted to stamping out what he called an "epidemic" of robberies.

"All too often, these robberies turn violent," said Schneiderman, who was joined at a news conference by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon. "There are assaults. There are murders."

The coalition, which is called the Secure Our Smartphones Initiative, will pressure smartphone companies and their shareholders to help dry up the secondary market in stolen phones.

The announcement came on the same day Gascon and Schneiderman were scheduled to co-host a "Smartphone Summit" with representatives from major smartphone makers Apple Inc., ., . and Microsoft Corp.

Schneiderman would not elaborate on how far his office might go to ensure that manufacturers comply with the coalition's demands.

He likened the functionality of a "" to the ability for consumers to cancel a stolen credit card.

The general public should not be forced to pay more for smartphones that have a "kill switch," Schneiderman said.

After the summit, Schneiderman and Gascon released a statement saying they "asked the companies to commit to develop effective solutions to this national and install them on all new products within one year."

Apple said at a developers' conference this week that such a feature would be part of its iOS7 software to be released in the fall. Gascon and Schneiderman said in a statement they were appreciative of the gesture but would reserve judgment until they could "understand its actual functionality."

"Apple has been very vague as to what the system will do," Gascon said at the news conference.

In New York City, nicknamed the Big Apple, police have coined the term "Apple-picking" to describe thefts of the popular iPhone and other mobile products, like iPads. Such thefts comprise 40 percent of all robberies in New York City, authorities say.

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User comments : 20

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Grallen
5 / 5 (3) Jun 14, 2013
I have a troubling feeling that this kill switch would be abused.
MikeBowler
3.4 / 5 (5) Jun 14, 2013
i hope that these kill switches won't be permanent, for example if a phone is recovered it would be better to make it operable again rather than waste it
VENDItardE
2 / 5 (8) Jun 14, 2013
this is for consumers to demand............not the cops business
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.6 / 5 (5) Jun 14, 2013
Perhaps by 'kill' it could break a vial full of HF or a small explosion. Or actually melt in a thiefs pocket. allrightallright how about some pepper spray? A little fluorescent dye in their faces at least??

Crime should be the most dangerous profession on earth.
The general public should not be forced to pay more for smartphones that have a "kill switch," Schneiderman said
Of course not the govt should be paying for these things.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (4) Jun 14, 2013
What's amatter VD? We can send some of our criminals up north to Canada for you as we know you have none up there. Except for poachers.
PPihkala
5 / 5 (1) Jun 14, 2013
If it is onetime fuse that is blown by command, then the phones just will be sold to other country. That can also abused by criminals to disable non-stolen ones. If it is software only solution, then it can be jail-broken.

Maybe the best system would involve international database of stolen phones IMEIs held by mobile operators who would relay the current location of such phones to that database. They could also deny service to any phones on that list.
PoppaJ
2.6 / 5 (5) Jun 14, 2013
Yea, just what the government needs. Additional social controls.
JohnGee
1 / 5 (7) Jun 15, 2013
All the crying going on with regards to the IRS and you paranoids honestly believe if even one person had his phone shut off to silence him politically it wouldn't be a national scandal?
baudrunner
2.1 / 5 (7) Jun 15, 2013
Stupid idea. Someone will just come up with a virus that kills all the cell phones that it infects.

Better idea: When a cellphone gets stolen, the service provider cancels the account so that it cannot be used unless a new SIM card is purchased. That happens anyway when the owner notifies the provider to do just that. Better to flag a cellphone's signature so that if someone reports it stolen, the GPS feature is turned on permanently by the service provider, and also anyone trying to activate the account through another provider on that flagged cellphone's signature will be caught red-handed during the "activation" process. The phone gets seized and law enforcement officials are called to the scene. The phone is reset and returned to the owner.

packrat
3 / 5 (4) Jun 15, 2013
All the crying going on with regards to the IRS and you paranoids honestly believe if even one person had his phone shut off to silence him politically it wouldn't be a national scandal?


Most people would just think their phone has died on them. It happens all the time but the big thing would be that in the event of a civil war or something along that line the gov could shut down large groups of people all at once. That would seriously disrupt something like that as cell phones have pretty much replaced all other person to person types of radio communications in the civilian parts of the population....Case in point... How many people still own a CB radio? Or even a pair of low power kids walky talkies? Very few these days......
btb101
5 / 5 (2) Jun 16, 2013
and if the population decide they wont listen to their lying and corrupt government, and decide to use their twitter account (etc) to organise...
Bye bye phones.
way too much power and not in the hands of the people...
Noumenon
1.3 / 5 (25) Jun 16, 2013
this is for consumers to demand............not the cops business


Exactly correct!!! This is more far left social engineering and market intrusion. If consumers want that functionality then phone makers will meet that demand themselves.

This is what 'progressive liberalism' is ALL about, ... intrusive gov using force and coercion to fix whatever minor social statistically based "problem", of which there is no theoretical end.

Many young huffington post and OWS types that associate themselves as liberal, and yet complain about the NSA illegally breaking the 4th amendment, don't understand that "liberal progressives" are all about such gov intrusiveness and coercion, all for the "greater good".

geokstr
2 / 5 (4) Jun 16, 2013
...all for the "greater good

And for the children. Musn't forget the children, because only leftlings care about them.
MikeBowler
not rated yet Jun 16, 2013
If it is onetime fuse that is blown by command, then the phones just will be sold to other country. That can also abused by criminals to disable non-stolen ones. If it is software only solution, then it can be jail-broken.

Maybe the best system would involve international database of stolen phones IMEIs held by mobile operators who would relay the current location of such phones to that database. They could also deny service to any phones on that list.


i wouldn't be so confident in your jailbreak theory, if well implemented they could make it near impossible for the thief to undo, for example they could send it a key and a command to make it encrypt itself and shutdown, the key would only be kept until the phone is encrypted so you cannot retrieve it, this would work because the routines to encrypt --continued in next post
MikeBowler
not rated yet Jun 16, 2013
previous post continued-- the storage could exist comfortably in the memory once encrypted the phone won't be usable because the phones operation software would in the storage unable to decrypt itself, also i guess you would want to disable the standard communications ports so that it cannot be reflashed

oh and btw IMEIs can be faked in the signal that the phone puts out so its not enough of a protection
TheGhostofOtto1923
2 / 5 (4) Jun 16, 2013
this is for consumers to demand............not the cops business


Exactly correct!!! This is more far left social engineering and market intrusion. If consumers want that functionality then phone makers will meet that demand themselves
So uh nou do you find stop signs intrusive as well? How about fences? Heck what good are cops anyways, they're always restricting our god-given right to be victims.

There outta be a law. Or if there is one then we outta get rid of it goddammit.
Noumenon
1.2 / 5 (24) Jun 16, 2013
this is for consumers to demand............not the cops business


Exactly correct!!! This is more far left social engineering and market intrusion. If consumers want that functionality then phone makers will meet that demand themselves
So uh nou do you find stop signs intrusive as well? How about fences? Heck what good are cops anyways, they're always restricting our god-given right to be victims.

There outta be a law. Or if there is one then we outta get rid of it goddammit.


I don't own any stop signs. What are you talking about? It is not the business of gov to "demand" product developers to add functionality. That is absurd.
JohnGee
1 / 5 (6) Jun 16, 2013
Most people would just think their phone has died on them. It happens all the time but the big thing would be that in the event of a civil war or something along that line the gov could shut down large groups of people all at once. That would seriously disrupt something like that as cell phones have pretty much replaced all other person to person types of radio communications in the civilian parts of the population....Case in point... How many people still own a CB radio? Or even a pair of low power kids walky talkies? Very few these days......

and if the population decide they wont listen to their lying and corrupt government, and decide to use their twitter account (etc) to organise...
Bye bye phones.
way too much power and not in the hands of the people...
Look, participating in a revolution means you'll have to get off the couch and talk to people face to face. Phones don't matter anyway. The government would tear down cell towers with tanks if it helped. Paranoid
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 17, 2013
I don't own any stop signs. What are you talking about ?
Road signs keep people from breaking laws, and make it easier to identify those who do. People may not appreciate road signs and think they are a pain until someone steals a road sign and they get hit as a result.

Road signs are designed by experts and you are forced to pay for them even if you are too dumb to appreciate their utility. It is the same for things like seat belts and kill switches.

Both keep people from sustaining unnecessary injury and insurance payouts. Kill switches, like road signs, make law enforcement easier. Crime should be difficult even if people invite criminals to victimize them through carelessness or stupidity. This makes things safer and cheaper for everybody.

So what have we learned here nou? We have learned that kill switches like road signs and seat belts, make sense and the govt has the right to impose them. Too bad if they are inconvenient for you.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2 / 5 (4) Jun 17, 2013
Soon enough phones will be able to recognize users and will only work for them. Soon after that, phones will be as cheap and disposable as credit cards and there will be no point of stealing them.

'Apple considering $99 iphone'

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