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NY AG Claims Cellphone Thefts Dropping Due to 'Kill Switches'
by Karl Bode 02:23PM Thursday Jun 19 2014
Police in New York, San Francisco and London claim they've seen a dip in smartphone thefts, something police are claiming is courtesy of a new push for "kill switch" technology that can render a phone useless if stolen. NY Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman tells the New York Times the reduction in thefts is courtesy primarily of Apple's new Activation Lock anti-theft measure.

Six months after Apple introduced the measure, and police say iPhone robberies dropped 38 percent in San Francisco, 24 percent in London, and 19 percent in New York. It would, of course, be nice to check law enforcement's math and include all smartphone thefts to confirm whether this data is accurate. Smartphone thefts doubled in 2013 after all, and the drop could be just a dip back to normal after a spike -- or related to other efforts entirely.

Schneiderman, for whatever it's worth, has no doubt kill switches are to thank:
quote:
"The introduction of kill switches has clearly had an effect on the conduct of smartphone thieves,” Mr. Schneiderman said in an interview. “If these can be canceled like the equivalent of canceling a credit card, these are going to be the equivalent of stealing a paperweight."
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 and San Francisco lawmakers recently started pushing laws that mandating kill switches, and Minnesota recently became the first state to require them. 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. Though profit may be their primary motivation, 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.

Handset OS makers are also at work on the issue. Microsoft this week stated they'd be including a kill switch for Windows Phone in a future update. Google is also promising kill switch technology will soon make it into a future version of their Android operating system.

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Flyonthewall

@206.248.154.x

Maybe people stopped being so stupid

After all, once you have a phone stolen you tend to wisen up and pay more attention to your belongings. You lock your phone with a password, you keep an eye on it, you don't just leave it alone.

That alone would reduce thefts. Old customer not buying phones cause they know they are flakes that can't be attentive, newer customers that are.
elefante72

join:2010-12-03
East Amherst, NY

1 recommendation

Re: Maybe people stopped being so stupid

You could also purchase theft insurance.

A friend just had her phone stolen. They can track it down to the apartment (find my iphone) but the police refuse to get the phone.

So I would say that the tech is good, but law enforcement has not caught up to the times, and is letting these criminals roam free.

Here in NY if you go any try to get back your phone YOU can be prosecuted. So let the police do nothing: you lose. You do something: You lose.

So its not just tech that needs to be improved, but recovery...

LoJack works for cars. Maybe the police charge $200 for recovery... Whatever, but the knucklehead who lost it is at fault unless it is strongarm.
patt2k

join:2009-01-16
kudos:1
Before iOS 7 pass code meant nothing.
All you had to do is put iphone into recovery mode restore and bam no lock.

IOS 7 fixed. There is many people on internet wanting to ise stolen phones and they cant. Its a win for us!

fiosultimate

join:2014-06-09
San Antonio, TX

1 recommendation

IPhone

Its OK , they are just IPhones, maybe now the owners can upgrade to a real smartphone,like a Samsung

pumpkinhead7

join:2002-06-14
Clarksburg, WV

Re: IPhone

A real smartphone wouldnt have needed to steal every innovation (not gimmick) from apple

Subaru
1-3-2-4
Premium
join:2001-05-31
Greenwich, CT
kudos:1

Re: IPhone

Hmm Xerox...
mab349

join:2004-03-25
Brea, CA

Re: IPhone

You should read this article from the LA Times or this one from Stanford.

»latimesblogs.latimes.com/technol···arc.html

»www-sul.stanford.edu/mac/parc.html

rit56

join:2000-12-01
New York, NY

Big deal

How about filing a brief to stop the Time Warner/Comcast merger in New York State? Apparently according to NY law it can be blocked in the State. Do something that would really help the people you represent.

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

Re: Big deal

said by rit56:

Apparently according to NY law it can be blocked in the State.

Maybe, unless you consider interstate commerce.
NY may not have the rights it thinks it does, but that has nothing to do with this thread.

rit56

join:2000-12-01
New York, NY

Re: Big deal

Sure it does mister industry cheerleader. There's also NYC cable franchise agreements.

RichInCT

@198.228.200.x

1 recommendation

Kill switch blues

Just wait until hackers find a way to trigger these kill switches. Better yet, wait until the Gov decides to start triggering them. Either or both scenarios are sure to happen.

I don't want a remote kill switch in my phone. I'm responsible enough to protect my stuff. Then again, I don't use an iPhone either.

tshirt
Premium,MVM
join:2004-07-11
Snohomish, WA
kudos:5

Re: Kill switch blues

Hackers, domestic dispute or clerical error, someone will sue if they are shut off, or if somebody else isn't.
Trimox

join:2012-09-24
Anywhere

Re: Kill switch blues

You are missing the point of when someone turns your phone off. Whether it is when you want to stream your favorite video (hacker kills it), or alert your friend that you see a boat load of armed troops crossing the road (gov kills it, lets hope I don't have to wait for someone sue on that one). If you are willing to give either of these scenarios any chance to happen, that is your prerogative. Will these happen, most likely not. Can I protect my own property and not let the previous even be an option, Damn right.

As far protecting property you can only go so far. If someone wants your car they will get it. Should we put explosives in cars, so when stolen you can "kill" them? Might cause a few problems. Protect what you have as much as you can. Don't think someone can do it better than you.
mab349

join:2004-03-25
Brea, CA
I agree that it has the potential to be abused, but I still think it needs implementation. The only one that should have access to the kill switch is the end user similar to how Apple's system is.

dnoyeB
Ferrous Phallus

join:2000-10-09
Southfield, MI
kudos:1
We can't be paralyzed by fear. Its a smart thing to do. Its not permanent and its opt-in so if it gets hacked it will just get unhacked.

RichInCT

@24.2.225.x

Re: Kill switch blues

If it's not permanent than how is it useful? Couldn't someone steal your phone and just factory reset or reflash it?

Flyonthewall

@206.248.154.x
I'm sure government and law enforcement would use kill switches in their arsenal (interesting that arse is in that word). Terrorist giving you grief, shut off their cellular comms...

jhacker

join:2001-12-11
Peoria, IL

My new S5 has the 'kill switch'

The Galaxy S5 I bought yesterday from US Cellular has the 'reactivation lock'. It says that only the original owner can restore the phone when they put in the password to their Samsung account. I wonder how long it will be before it's hacked.