dslreports logo
site
spacer

spacer
 
   
spc
story category
AGs, DAs, Police: Industry Not Doing Enough About Cell Theft
Wants Handset Makers to Institute 'Kill Switches'
by Karl Bode 04:25PM Thursday Jun 13 2013
Both state and city prosecutors around the country are forming a new coalition aimed at thwarting cell phone theft, in the process taking aim at carriers and handset makers for not doing enough to help. The coalition includes attorneys general from New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, Delaware, Minnesota and Hawaii -- as well as DAs and police officials from New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Boston. A main focus on the group is to push handset makers to include "kill switches" that a user could use to make their stolen phone useless:
quote:
The group intends to probe why Apple and other smartphone makers have failed to create a so-called "kill switch" that would render their devices inoperable if stolen -- a feature that could undercut the value of stolen gadgets now trading on a global black market. The officials also plan to investigate whether smartphone manufacturers have not adopted effective anti-theft measures out of simple financial interest -- a stolen phone generates new business as crime victims buy replacements.
Replacing stolen cell phones is estimated to cost U.S. consumers some $30 billion annually. Apple did recently announce an anti-theft activation lock to pre-empt government action, though the coalition claims the new functionality doesn't go far enough. Carriers have already been feeling the heat for doing too little to thwart cellphone thefts.

Last year you might recall that AT&T was sued for enabling and profiting off of the theft of cell phones, the plaintiffs alleging that AT&T and other carriers intentionally don't do a very good job tracking and shutting down stolen phones, so that they can sell new service to both victims and thieves that bring the stolen devices into stores. After the lawsuit brought attention to AT&T's failure to do much about theft, they and other carriers launched a nationwide database to track stolen phones by IMEI number. AT&T also launched a stolen phone website with safety tips.

view:
topics flat nest 

JimMcCoy

join:2011-08-20
Jacksonville, NC

A Simple Answer

A "kill switch" doesn't allow for continued revenue from a "new" customer.

PapaMidnight

join:2009-01-13
Baltimore, MD

Re: A Simple Answer

Nor does it allow GameStop to make a killing on selling stolen smartphones.
zod5000

join:2003-10-21
Victoria, BC
Reviews:
·Shaw

Isn't there a kill switch already?

My phone provider told me if I recorded down a number from my phone (I think its the IMEI number) they can send a command to permantly disable the phone if I lose it. The drawbacks being that I actually have to record the number somewhere so I can provide it to them and if the thief pulls the SIM card there isn't much they can do.

I suppose they could improved that by keeping the number on their own records. I'm not sure how you handle the pulling of the SIM though. Should they be given access to disable phones running on other carriers? IE If I used Virgin Mobile, someone pulls the SIM and goes on T-Mobile, should Virgin Mobile be able to disable phones on the T-mobile network? That gets a little shaky

ArrayList
netbus developer
Premium
join:2005-03-19
Evanston, IL

Re: Isn't there a kill switch already?

they lied to you.
cramer
Premium
join:2007-04-10
Raleigh, NC
kudos:8
There's the SIM that holds the numbers identifying you as a specific customer -- you can generally put that SIM in any phone and it'll work. (provider locks aside) BUT, the phone itself also has an identification presented to the network. GSM providers don't record that because they don't care; they aren't provisioning the *phone*. If you give them that number, they can block it from their network, but reporting the phone as stolen to them, all they can do is deactivate that SIM as they don't record IMEI's.

Other (non-GSM) phone vendors (eg. Sprint and Verizon in the US) provision the phone, so they do have the necessary information at hand to kick it off the network forever.

I can understand operators not wanting to have to maintain a "stolen phone" database, as over time, that thing is going to be H-U-G-E!

FFH
Premium
join:2002-03-03
Tavistock NJ
kudos:5

Re: Isn't there a kill switch already?

said by cramer:

I can understand operators not wanting to have to maintain a "stolen phone" database, as over time, that thing is going to be H-U-G-E!

There already is a shared database of stolen devices:
»www.rcrwireless.com/article/2012···hones/#_
--
"If you want to anger a conservative lie to him.
If you want to anger a liberal tell him the truth."

Hall
Premium,MVM
join:2000-04-28
Germantown, OH
kudos:2
said by zod5000:

My phone provider told me if I recorded down a number from my phone... The drawbacks being that I actually have to record the number somewhere so I can provide it to them...

I suppose they could improved that by keeping the number on their own records.

They have that identification number already.
en103

join:2011-05-02

1 recommendation

I'm sure

that the likes of the NSA would love a kill switch
I could imagine a 'bulk' kill against any group that is organizing a protest or during events that the police/gov't don't want information tranmitted.

jjoshua
Premium
join:2001-06-01
Scotch Plains, NJ
kudos:3

Recourse?

And what happens when the phone company or the government negligently "kills" your phone?
cramer
Premium
join:2007-04-10
Raleigh, NC
kudos:8

Re: Recourse?

Or some hacker finds a way to SMS the kill command to millions of phones...

Apple has a way for the owner to remotely erase their iDevice, in the event it's lost or stolen. I think Google (android) has a similar mechanism.

We don't need ways to break the phone. We need the d***ed phone companies to not let anyone ever use it again.

Sht4Brns

@78.129.148.x

Re: Recourse?

said by cramer:

Or some hacker finds a way to SMS the kill command to millions of phones...

OR AL QAEDA! ...*pisses pants* ...Please spy on everything I do for freedom and to fight terrorism!

NOCTech75
Premium
join:2009-06-29
Marietta, GA

Re: Recourse?

ZOMG THE TERRORISTS HAVE WUN!!!!1111111

FFH
Premium
join:2002-03-03
Tavistock NJ
kudos:5
said by cramer:

We don't need ways to break the phone. We need the d***ed phone companies to not let anyone ever use it again.

There already is a national database of stolen phones - if the person actually reports it stolen. Many don't. And the carriers have to refuse to allow the reported stolen phone on their network. It seems it isn't in their best interests to religiously enforce that.
»www.rcrwireless.com/article/2012···hones/#_
--
"If you want to anger a conservative lie to him.
If you want to anger a liberal tell him the truth."
mrwiggles

join:2013-06-10
Sherman, TX

Extent of DB?

Wouldn't this essentially only work if the stolen device is connected to the same network? So if a thief stole a phone from an AT&T customer and pulled the battery until using on the T-Mobile network, for example, the block wouldn't work?

Hall
Premium,MVM
join:2000-04-28
Germantown, OH
kudos:2

Re: Extent of DB?

said by mrwiggles:

Wouldn't this essentially only work if the stolen device is connected to the same network?

Ideally, all the carriers would share this "list".

FFH
Premium
join:2002-03-03
Tavistock NJ
kudos:5

Re: Extent of DB?

said by Hall:

said by mrwiggles:

Wouldn't this essentially only work if the stolen device is connected to the same network?

Ideally, all the carriers would share this "list".

They already do:
»www.rcrwireless.com/article/2012···hones/#_
--
"If you want to anger a conservative lie to him.
If you want to anger a liberal tell him the truth."
zefie

join:2007-07-18
Hudson, NY
Reviews:
·DSL EXTREME

Security

There is going to need to be someone one can contact when their phone is unlawfully (via 3rd party hack, untrusted agency, or even as lame as a typo at the manufacturer/carrier/whoever) destroyed by this "kill switch".

Think of it this way, if someone at the carrier messes up and bans your IMEI, they can easily undo it in under 10 seconds and you would probably never know it happened.

If they accidently fire the kill switch on your device, its over.

In a technological world, nothing ever works only as desired, and humans make mistakes.
Stumbles

join:2002-12-17
Port Saint Lucie, FL

Look, a wookie.

If anyone thinks this really has to do with cell phone theft probably owns one to many bridges.

ArrayList
netbus developer
Premium
join:2005-03-19
Evanston, IL

1 recommendation

Goes both ways.

I don't think AGs, DAs, or Police have done enough to look for stolen cell phones. Maybe they should get to work on that.
--
A sane approach to our federal budget: Ignore the tea party

Guspaz
Guspaz
Premium,MVM
join:2001-11-05
Montreal, QC
kudos:23

1 recommendation

Apple's kill switch

The committee's complaints about the Apple kill switch are not that it won't be effective, but that:

1) the user must have an iCloud account
2) the user must install the "Find my iPhone" app

I think that's a bit pedantic. On the first point, all iOS users have iCloud accounts; the phone won't do much without it (even installing free apps from the app store requires it), so I really don't think that one is valid. The second point is really a complaint of "kill switch activated by default" versus "kill switch activated by user".

I don't think that it's a problem if the user has to activate the kill switch themselves by installing the app. If a user wants to have this protection, they can use it. If they don't want the protection, they don't have to use it...

Of all of the things to accuse Apple of doing, giving users too MUCH choice is rarely one of them...
--
Latest version of CapSavvy systray usage checker: »CapSavvy v4.2 released!

Hall
Premium,MVM
join:2000-04-28
Germantown, OH
kudos:2

Morning news show discussion

I had to go to work late this morning and saw a discussion about this on one of the morning news/talk shows (Good Morning America ??). One of the hosts asked one of the "experts" why the phone companies or manufacturers haven't provided the ability to do this in the past. He called them flat out on why not.... He stated that they simply sell more phones with the way it is today.

buddahbless

join:2005-03-21
Premium
Reviews:
·AT&T DSL Service

was it realy stolen or lost.

This is The firsT quesTion you have To ask yourself as mosT people RepoRt there phone stolen instead of lost. I'd say almost 50 percent say its stolen instead of lost so they don't look like such an irresponsible idiot. Also the truth is if you hAve A police report most cell phone compAnies will give you A discount on A new or refurbished phone. I believe this new cell phone database is more than AdequAte for the Amount of stolen phones Are. More people should be AccountAble for their own phones.

Apple now hAs A new App that lets you lock and erace your iPhone to let the user be responsible for their own device. ThaT should have been available on smarTphones from The beginning, let' s not forget Android. Android users can always use The AVG app. It has sImIlar functIons to Apple software. Where you can remotely lock your phone Or erase your phone's information from another cell phone or computer. All of which is simple enough. I do support a stolen IMEI and ESN database however I believe in this case you should let the users take more care of their device then pinning this on the cell phone companies.
biochemistry
Premium
join:2003-05-09
92361

Sounds good in theory

Sounds good in theory, but the NSA has turned me into a tinfoil hat wearing conspiracy theorist. I don't know that I want anyone to have the ability to use a kill switch on my phone. I'll use insurance and if my phone is stolen, get a replacement.
kevinds
Premium
join:2003-05-01
Calgary, AB
kudos:3

How long

How long until,

a) Carriers start using it on overdue accounts
b) Someone else 'hacks' this kill switch and starts using it
c) Data entry error and wrong phone gets killed
d) Over-zealous law-enforcement to someone they have a bad-feeling about
e) Custom-rom developers disable it

Kill switch would be death, non-recoverable
--
Yes, I am not employed and looking for IT work. Have passport, will travel.
Rekrul

join:2007-04-21
Milford, CT
Reviews:
·AT&T U-Verse

Control...

Yes, we'll all be so much better off when we hand even more control of our devices over to the companies who made them. How about a kill switch for computers? Let's build killswitches into all computers, including government ones and then watch the fun ensue.

meeeeeeeeee

join:2003-07-13
Newburgh, NY

Re: Control...

Let's build kill switches into self serving bureaucrats that only do things for that are in their own best interest.

If they really wanted to help the public, they would charge/sue the service providers for knowingly facilitating the use of stolen property, but that might cut into their donations.

cork1958
Cork
Premium
join:2000-02-26

Not doing enough?

The phone industry may be able to do something about this, but to say the police aren't doing enough, is totally stupid. To even think the cops need to be out policing things up like your cell phone, would be a total waste of man power!

How about the people who own the phone take a little responsibility and put their damn phone anyway, so it's not so easy to steal?
--
The Firefox alternative.
»www.mozilla.org/projects/seamonkey/