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California Governor Signs Cell Phone Kill Switch Law
by Karl Bode 06:41PM Tuesday Aug 26 2014
California this week became the first state in the country to pass a law requiring that cell phones include so-called "kill switch" functionality to deter theft, enabled by default (the full law is here, pdf). Minnesota passed a similar law earlier this year, but in that version of the law, the functionality is turned off by default. "California has just put smartphone thieves on notice," bill backer and State Sen. Mark Leno said in a statement.

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The kill switch push only came about after other efforts repeatedly failed to impact smartphone theft.

Two years ago wireless carriers and the government announced that they'd be collaborating on building a new nationwide database to track stolen phones (specifically the IMEI number, not just the SIM card ID). The goal was to reduce the time that stolen phones remain useful, thereby drying up the market for stolen phones and reducing the ability of criminals to use the devices to dodge surveillance.

The move came after AT&T was sued for doing little to track or stop theft, the lawsuit alleging it was more profitable to do nothing and cash in on stolen phone re-activations. The lawsuit (and government prodding) spurred AT&T to develop new anti-theft tools and FAQs, and carriers in general have been working hard to try and prove they care about cell phone theft.

Still, law enforcement has complained the database has proven ineffective because many phones wind up overseas, and stats rose regardless. As a result, New York, California and Minnesota lawmakers have lead the charge on new laws mandating the kill switch. Carriers however have fought the idea for years because, again, they tend to make money on the re-purposing of stolen devices.

After several years of such resistance, carriers recently agreed to begin implementing kill switch technology sometime in 2015. The full voluntary anti-theft systems they'll implement are outlined here, with a focus on opt in services that can wipe personal data, render the device inoperable (reversible if recovered), and prevent re-activation.

Some of the states and politicians behind kill switch laws complain the plan doesn't go far enough because the systems will be opt in. Opt in was the big point of contention with the California law, with lawmakers worrying that thieves will only be deterred if they know the kill switch is active on all phones.

Though profit may be their primary motivation, on the flip side carriers are joined by a number of people who correctly argue that if a user can remotely cripple a device using these tools -- so could a hacker. With the BART cell shutdowns in memory, there's also concerns that the kill switch could be abused by governments as a way to disrupt and disconnect protestors.

California's law requires that all cell phones (not tablets) have kill switch technology included and turned on by default as of July 1, 2015. The state will impose a $500 to $2,500 fine for the "knowing retail sale" of every phone not in compliance.

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RadioDoc
Premium,ExMod 2000-03
join:2000-05-11
La Grange, IL
kudos:2

Well...

The prevalence of exploding dye packs hasn't really deterred bank robbers so I'm not sure how this deters smartphone thieves. The only way to make it universal is to require the carriers to block stolen phones from their systems, and with that we're right back to the useless database again.

Kasoah

join:2013-08-20

Re: Well...

How did this possibly get passed? This is an insanely dangerous service as malfunction could render cellphones inoperable or be abused.

tshirt
Premium
join:2004-07-11
Snohomish, WA
kudos:5
Reviews:
·Comcast

Re: Well...

said by Kasoah:

This is an insanely dangerous service as malfunction could render cellphones inoperable or be abused.

Gotta' make people upgrade their iPhone somehow, 25% of California's economy is supported the float people get off of Silli valli's imaginary wealth, which relies on the never ending need for MORE, once the market saturates, replacement might become optional, and that can't be allowed to happen.

PlusOne

@73.160.110.x
And we will have to wait and see if hackers figure out a way to kill a smartphone without the owners consent. I think that is a real possibility. I'd like to see this law stay in Calif until hacker defenses to the kill are implemented.
bop75

join:2013-11-08
Rochester, NY
said by RadioDoc:

The prevalence of exploding dye packs hasn't really deterred bank robbers so I'm not sure how this deters smartphone thieves. The only way to make it universal is to require the carriers to block stolen phones from their systems, and with that we're right back to the useless database again.

To funny. A local bank of a national chain has been held up three times in under a year. I asked the teller about the so called dye packs. She told me the corporate officers did away with the dye pack due to the cost it takes to keep them operational. They give out real money instead.
Rekrul

join:2007-04-21
Milford, CT

Signal?

So is the killswitch signal going to be sent continuously for days or weeks?

If not, what's to stop thieves from using a jammer (or taking out the battery) to prevent the phone from being able to receive the shutdown command and holding onto it for a week or a month?
98778011

join:2014-08-24
Charlotte, NC

Re: Signal?

It does nothing if the phones are being taken to a MVNO or a small operator or even to another country.

Thinkdiff
Premium,MVM
join:2001-08-07
Bronx, NY
kudos:11

Re: Signal?

Depends on the implementation. Apple's solution is carrier independent and persistent (if the phone is off, next time you turn it on and it connects to any network, it'll pick up the kill signal).

It is possible to keep using the phone (in airplane mode, for example), but common operations a thieve would have to do to resell the phone successfully (wipe the phone, restore the OS, change the user accounts, etc) require a check-in with Apple's servers to see if the device has been reported stolen.
--
University of Southern California - Fight On!
Kearnstd
Space Elf
Premium
join:2002-01-22
Mullica Hill, NJ
kudos:1

1 edit

awaiting abuse now.

First time an area faces some kind of unrest I bet they get tempted to kill switch phones broadly to prevent video getting out of rights violations.

Because I am sure the system will just be so abuse resistant

Or even worse. Hackers find a way in and hold a subscriber base hostage unless the provider pays up or the killswtich all the phones.

IowaCowboy
Iowa native
Premium
join:2010-10-16
Springfield, MA
kudos:1

Re: awaiting abuse now.

I wonder if this law will get struck down as cell phone providers are interstate commerce.
--
Stop the Comcast-Time Warner merger, I'd rather Time Warner buy out Comcast.
clone

join:2000-12-11
Portage, IN
Reviews:
·T-Mobile US

Root, root, root...

Jailbreak, jailbreak, jailbreak...

First order of business with ANY new mobile device I get. Then, second order of business is removing as much crapware, adware, spyware, and "helpware" as I like to call it as I possibly can without affecting basic functionality.

Especially troublesome are the on-by-default upload all your pictures and texts to the cloud apps, "backup assistants", "performance information uploaders" and crap such as this "brick your phone remotely" app. These are the ones I call "helpware". They seem so happy and helpful and my gosh! Why wouldn't anyone want all of their data backed up into the magical cloud and why wouldn't anyone want their phone to be able to be bricked from a remote server?

Installing AOSP ROMs are an option on Androids, but as much as I love things like Cyanogen, you lose a ton of tweaked functionality of the stock ROM, so I prefer my method of rooting, doing a backup, and then start deleting everything in sight.

IowaCowboy
Iowa native
Premium
join:2010-10-16
Springfield, MA
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Verizon Broadban..
·Comcast

Re: Root, root, root...

California regulates everything from cars to lawn equipment. I'm glad I don't live there. Massachusetts is the seventh highest in the country in terms of cost of living but I'm sure we're cheap here in the commonwealth compared to California.

I'm sure my next iPhone will say on it Designed by Apple in California Made in China and below Not for sale in California.
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Time
Premium
join:2003-07-05
Irvine, CA

Re: Root, root, root...

said by IowaCowboy:

California regulates everything from cars to lawn equipment. I'm glad I don't live there. Massachusetts is the seventh highest in the country in terms of cost of living but I'm sure we're cheap here in the commonwealth compared to California.

I'm sure my next iPhone will say on it Designed by Apple in California Made in China and below Not for sale in California.

California is one of the best states I've ever lived in.

IowaCowboy
Iowa native
Premium
join:2010-10-16
Springfield, MA
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Verizon Broadban..
·Comcast

Re: Root, root, root...

said by Time:

said by IowaCowboy:

California regulates everything from cars to lawn equipment. I'm glad I don't live there. Massachusetts is the seventh highest in the country in terms of cost of living but I'm sure we're cheap here in the commonwealth compared to California.

I'm sure my next iPhone will say on it Designed by Apple in California Made in China and below Not for sale in California.

California is one of the best states I've ever lived in.

And zero lead time warning with those earthquakes. At least with the rare tornadoes and tropical weather we get advance warning.
--
Stop the Comcast-Time Warner merger, I'd rather Time Warner buy out Comcast.

PapaMidnight

join:2009-01-13
Baltimore, MD

Re: Root, root, root...

said by IowaCowboy:

said by Time:

said by IowaCowboy:

California regulates everything from cars to lawn equipment. I'm glad I don't live there. Massachusetts is the seventh highest in the country in terms of cost of living but I'm sure we're cheap here in the commonwealth compared to California.

I'm sure my next iPhone will say on it Designed by Apple in California Made in China and below Not for sale in California.

California is one of the best states I've ever lived in.

And zero lead time warning with those earthquakes. At least with the rare tornadoes and tropical weather we get advance warning.

I'm sure people in Virginia and the surrounding states thought the same up through 2011.

Rambo76098

join:2003-02-21
Columbus, OH
Reviews:
·WOW Internet and..
Not the case anymore: »www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-m···ory.html

moldypickle

join:2009-01-04
Haughton, LA
kudos:3
Reviews:
·Suddenlink
said by clone:

First order of business with ANY new mobile device I get. Then, second order of business is removing as much crapware, adware, spyware, and "helpware" as I like to call it as I possibly can without affecting basic functionality.

Especially troublesome are the on-by-default upload all your pictures and texts to the cloud apps, "backup assistants", "performance information uploaders" and crap such as this "brick your phone remotely" app. These are the ones I call "helpware". They seem so happy and helpful and my gosh! Why wouldn't anyone want all of their data backed up into the magical cloud and why wouldn't anyone want their phone to be able to be bricked from a remote server?

Installing AOSP ROMs are an option on Androids, but as much as I love things like Cyanogen, you lose a ton of tweaked functionality of the stock ROM, so I prefer my method of rooting, doing a backup, and then start deleting everything in sight.

The massive irony of this entire text, that I believe you are missing, is that android is a google beast. All these backups and uploaders are baked directly into the functionality of android itself. And if you did manage to get all of the reporting and uploading and tracking all cleaned out, you may as well go get a feature phone and a ds/psp since that's all you'll have.
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clone

join:2000-12-11
Portage, IN

Re: Root, root, root...

So rather than having just Google doing their thing, I should let Verizon and every third-party app I know nothing about track me as well? No, thanks. Better the enemy you know, as they say.

IowaCowboy
Iowa native
Premium
join:2010-10-16
Springfield, MA
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Verizon Broadban..
·Comcast

You're not going to like this

But I'm going to stand behind my idea of hardware based region locks so they can only be activated on a carrier in the country in which the device was sold. The bootleg export market drives smartphone theft, particularly with iPhones. If the region lock is hardware based, then the only way to remove it is to modify the hardware. I do support allowing the phone to roam overseas but it would just be cheaper to buy a cheap throwaway phone at your overseas destination.

I think region locking phones would deter many smartphone thefts.

What I'm saying is region locks (country of sale) not carrier locks (carrier of sale).
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Stop the Comcast-Time Warner merger, I'd rather Time Warner buy out Comcast.

cb14

join:2013-02-04
Miami Beach, FL

good

The very fact that Tea and Verizon hate it tells me that it is a good law .
In any case, something had to be done and I hope it will be done in other states as well.
xQim

join:2003-09-20
01234
Reviews:
·Time Warner Cable
·Fairpoint Commun..

Re: good

How is this good? Elaborate on your statement please, "In any case, something had to be done and I hope it will be done in other states as well."

So you want cell companies to charge you more to make sure your outrageously priced dumb phone can be "killed/crippled" while companies and government hold your cell phone hand and snatch away your privacy? How is this beneficial? Seriously? I'm not that old, or so I think, but WTF happened to personal responsibility?

cb14

join:2013-02-04
Miami Beach, FL
Reviews:
·callwithus
·T-Mobile US
·localphone.com
·Google Voice
·Callcentric
·AT&T U-Verse
·magicjack.com

Re: good

How it's good? Because it WILL reduce the phone thefts, snatching and robberies in california. And it WILL reduce the profits Tea and Verizon make on the thefts. And the hackers? if you are concerned about hacking do not use any internet capable phone in the first place. And the government? If push comes to shove, government has zillion possibilities to take control /limit/shut down communication. And privacy? LOL. You live in the wrong country.
xQim

join:2003-09-20
01234
Reviews:
·Time Warner Cable
·Fairpoint Commun..

3 edits

What? More Illogical Laws.....

People are ridiculous! Does anyone take responsibility for themselves anymore? How the H*LL is it the Cell Phone companies fault for anyone getting their cell phone stolen? Typical Sheeple.

Dear Government: I need you to pass new laws that make me feel more safe and secure while taking away even more rights and privileges. Thank you for stomping on my rights as an American, but at least if my dumb phone is stolen I can have it killed and hopefully have a non-violent individual sentenced to an absurd amount of time behind bars for a phone.

Here's an idea: You are not that import! Get off your dumb phone. What did you do before cell phones? Furthermore, don't get a dumb phone and you won't need to worry about someone jacking it. Good Ol' Motorola Tundra flip phone. It is the best reception phone and flipper, plus no one will steal it. And Randy Johnson could throw my phone at a brick wall and I would just walk over, put the battery back in and clip the back on, and poof, it would be working. Best cell phone every made. Stick with Motorola....Why? Does Motorola make TV's, Washers/Dryers, etc??? Nope. Just communication devices, unlike LG, Samsung, Sony, etc....

AND: Where is the "Kill Switch" for vehicles without Satellite Navigation? If my car gets stolen then I should be able to sue Mazda for not doing there job of making sure my locked car, parked in the driveway, doesn't get stolen. Oh, and buy a manual transmission vehicle in America. Statistically, you have a significantly reduced chance of your car getting stolen.

No new "Law" that destroys rights and privileges is a good "Law" unless it abolishes all other illogical laws.

moldypickle

join:2009-01-04
Haughton, LA
kudos:3
Reviews:
·Suddenlink

Re: What? More Illogical Laws.....

said by xQim:

AND: Where is the "Kill Switch" for vehicles without Satellite Navigation? If my car gets stolen then I should be able to sue Mazda for not doing there job of making sure my locked car, parked in the driveway, doesn't get stolen.

Except in that analogy, ATT was sued more so because they were purposefully doing nothing so they could make a killing on activation fees from the stolen phones. Stolen cars aren't profited from a second time.
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Join Suddenlink Line Monitor!

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dslcreature
Premium
join:2010-07-10
Seattle, WA

Risky business

From my read users are allowed to disable kill switch feature at any time.

Roll ahead to a future where kill switch is ubiquitous. Further assume it technically works and cannot be bypassed. Now imagine a thief is taking your smart phone from you by force.

The only way they get paid is either hawking for parts or compelling owners to disable kill switch. All for invocation of technical solutions to fix social problems when they work. Unfortunately they rarely do and I can see scenario whereby this law while well intentioned makes problem worse by unnecessarily endangering owners.
decifal

join:2007-03-10
Bon Aqua, TN
kudos:1

protection

Protection, we must have protection from everything!! Quick everyone in the states put on your whole body condoms. There might be virus's lurking!!!!!!!

Seriously though, wtf is going on with our country?

CaliSun

@68.228.64.x

So Proud Of My State!

Yeah California!

Almost as proud as when I saw the impressive new solar plant out in the desert! It's inspiring!
npcizy

join:2011-10-22
Los Angeles, CA

meh...

more work for me