In order to further curb the rampant theft of smartphones, Google and Microsoft, will be implementing their own “kill switch” features in upcoming versions of Android and Window Phone operating systems. They will be joining Apple whose kill switch was lauded to be an effective deterrent to such crimes.
The rate of iPhone theft in the US has been so high that law enforcers have come to refer to it as “Apple picking”, though of course the situation applied to devices from other brands as well. With the kill switch, however, robberies were noted to have dropped by 19 percent in New York in the first five months of this year and down 38 percent in San Francisco and 24 percent in London. This kill switch, aside from wiping out the user’s data, also locks down the phone so that any attempt to reactivate it, even after a factory reset, will require the owner’s Apple ID credentials. Removing the incentive for resale has effectively discouraged would-be thieves from even attempting the crime.
A kill switch isn’t exactly new to Android. Google’s own Android Device Manager feature allows users to remotely locate, lock, and in the worst case scenario, wipe the device from a web browser. What will be new, however, is the ability to re-activate the device from a dead state. Naturally, it will require some careful planning and execution to ensure that only the valid owner of the device will be able to unlock and restore a smartphone that has been killed. Last week, LG and security vendor McAfee announced their partnership to bring and activate such a kill switch feature to LG G3 smartphones, via the free McAfee Mobile Security app.
It is not yet known when Google and Microsoft will roll out their kill switch implementations. CTIA-The Wireless Association said that members who signed its anti-theft voluntary commitment that it announced last April will be adding such features next year. Of course, in the case of CTIA’s document, vendors are only required to not impede, or charge, users from installing and activating such features. Lawmakers, however, want to make it actually mandatory to have it installed and running by default, fearing that leaving it simply as an option for users will nullify the benefits of a kill switch.