The Kill Switch Debate

Mobile phone theft is an epidemic that is sweeping the world and affects every country that has a mobile phone capability. One country that is affected more than most is the United States where 113 mobile phones are stolen every minute and $7 million worth of smart phones are stolen daily.  There are pressure groups in the US which are trying to get a smart phones pre-loaded with special “kill software” which can be initiated via a text message to that phone in the event of that phone being stolen.
There has reportedly been some opposition to a kill switch initiative by some manufacturers and network suppliers for reasons that are not very clear, and are in fact disputed by some, but the only solution a user has today is that if their phone is stolen then it’s their responsibility to contact the carrier and request disablement, or to add a mobile app which helps you track down your phone (if its switched on that is).
There are concerns raised by the US CTIA is that such emails carrying kill code can be hacked and used by dishonest people to kill phones remotely; this is distinctly worrying in the case of people engaged in law enforcement or defence occupations.

Kill switch supporters however cite reluctance to invoke kill software because of the huge amount of money spent on insurances against theft; $7.8 billion in protection policies in 2013.
However there is momentum now by the kill software movement and the state of Minnesota has recently passed a law ruling that all new smart phones and tablets sold must have a remote shutoff feature loaded, to enable the disablement of a phone or tablet, that falls into the wrong hands. The states of California, Illinois and New York are also looking at similar legislation whilst at the same time Federal legislation is being considered.

In the UK there are 700,000 phones stolen every year so it probably won’t be long before we have kill software added by default.

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