Mobile phone theft could be a thing a past after both Google and Microsoft agreed to add remote operated ‘kill switches’ to their smartphone operating systems.
The feature allows owners the chance to render a phone completely useless if the device is stolen; essentially making any potential phone thefts pointless.
The move from Google and Microsoft follows in the footsteps of both Samsung and Apple, who implemented a similar kill switch feature on their latest phone models earlier this year.
Currently, a user without the kill switch would have to report a stolen smartphone to their network carrier, requesting to have it disabled.How does it work?
The new kill switch, depending on method, would render a phone unusable if, either a tracking feature was turned off (like the iPhone), or a secure ‘kill code’ was sent from the true owner.
How a kill switch will be implemented would be up to the individual manufacturer or operating system. On new the new iOS7, the phone is shut down if a thief attempts to turn off the “Find My iPhone”, a program that locates missing devices.
The Samsung S5 can be automatically locked by authorized technicians, and data can be remotely deleted if requested by the original owner.Corruptible
There is, however a downside to the kill switch idea. In the current climate of hackers and malicious software security specialists believe a ‘kill switch’ would be an attractive target to hackers.
With a few select logins or code crackers could find out the kill message on a phone and disable it remotely, possibly en masse. Naturally, this is a particular risk for workers in the military, government or law enforcement.But will it deter thefts?
Whether or not a kill switch will directly deter thefts is a little difficult to predict. Will thieves actually consider a kill switch in the act of stealing? Or will they simply ignore it and sell the phone on in pieces, for higher value components inside?
Some cities have begun measuring crime rates in relation to phones. In San Francisco, robberies of iPhones were 38 percent lower in the six months after the iOS 7 ‘kill switch’ introduction, compared to the six months before.
Many believe that for the kill switch to be true deterrent, the technology needs to be introduced to all new phones. A blanket policy that will mean there is no doubt any phone, if stolen, is useless and cannot be sold. With Google and Microsoft now on board this may be coming closer to a reality.
What do you think, will a kill switch eradicate phone theft, or will criminals simply ignore it and sell the phone for its valuable parts?