Beta

Slashdot: News for Nerds

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

California Bill Proposes Mandatory Kill-Switch On Phones and Tablets

Soulskill posted about 5 months ago | from the they-forgot-pagers dept.

Cellphones 341

alphadogg writes "Politicians and law enforcement officials in California will introduce a bill on Friday that requires all smartphones and tablet PCs sold in the state be equipped with a digital 'kill-switch' that would make the devices useless if stolen. The bill is a response to a rise in thefts of portable electronics devices, often at knife or gunpoint, being seen across the state. Already half of all robberies in San Francisco and 75 percent of those in Oakland involve a mobile device and the number is rising in Los Angeles, according to police figures. The trend is the same in major cities across the U.S. and the California bill, if it passes, could usher in kill-switch technology nationwide if phone makers choose not to produce custom devices for California. California Senate bill 962 says all smartphones and tablet PCs sold from Jan. 1, 2015, should have 'a technological solution that can render the essential features of the device inoperable when the device is not in possession of the rightful owner.'"

cancel ×

341 comments

in other news (4, Insightful)

rr_at_slashdot (1924306) | about 5 months ago | (#46185757)

dice trying out kill-switch on /. Boycott!

Re:in other news (1, Troll)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about 5 months ago | (#46186113)

You know, it's amazing that they have time to downmod all these beta threads, while frantically listening to us (the audience) and working to implement our valued suggestions all at the same time. Dice employees are such incredible multi-taskers.

Re:in other news (3, Insightful)

DickBreath (207180) | about 5 months ago | (#46186229)

Calling us the Audience is like the Bee Keeper calling the Bees the audience.

Bees make honey. You can set up bee boxes and have bees live in the boxes and make honey that you can harvest. But the bees are free to leave at any time. The only reason the bees stay is because the boxes are less trouble than building a beehive. Try making the bee box unusable and the bees will just go build a beehive elsewhere. Don't believe it? They've been building beehives for a lot longer (*cough* Usenet *cough*) than bee boxes (*cough* Slashdot *cough*) have been around.

The Beta should have a killswitch! (-1, Offtopic)

runeghost (2509522) | about 5 months ago | (#46185765)

Don't forget to boycott Slashdot entirely for the week of the 10th thru the 17th!

Re:The Beta should have a killswitch! (-1)

tsalmark (1265778) | about 5 months ago | (#46185847)

Fuck off with your spam.

Re:The Beta should have a killswitch! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46185877)

why?

Re:The Beta should have a killswitch! (0)

soliter (1672520) | about 5 months ago | (#46185969)

Die Beta.. die...

Re:The Beta should have a killswitch! (0)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 5 months ago | (#46186097)

Don't forget to boycott Slashdot entirely for the week of the 10th thru the 17th!

Even if people did, the extra traffic generated by the I hate the Beta fanatics this week has shot their analytics through the roof. Maybe they are hoping all the haters will boycott next week. With reduced traffic, it would make it much easier to roll out the beta.

Slashdot Beta: Day Three (-1, Offtopic)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about 5 months ago | (#46185769)

I've befriended what looks like a Borg icon last night and have named it "Taco". Taco washed ashore last night with the tides. A faint red glow coming from an eyepiece afitted to the head. The glow, a much welcome relief from the woeful CSS and monochromatic green and white hues thrust upon me for the past 2 moons. The glow seems not without it's own mortality however; it grows dimmer by the hour. I fear what will be left of my mental capacity if left to deal with "Beta" alone. Such a wretched creature... It knows NOT the decency of man nor the sense of reason. I am left wondering if Beta is to be living beast or.. dare I say.. apparition....

Re:Slashdot Beta: Day Three (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46186053)

       

Please post this to new articles if it hasn't been posted yet.

       

On February 5, 2014, Slashdot announced through a javascript popup that they are starting to "move in to" the new Slashdot Beta design.

       

Slashdot Beta is a trend-following attempt to give Slashdot a fresh look, an approach that has led to less space for text and an abandonment of the traditional Slashdot look. Much worse than that, Slashdot Beta fundamentally breaks [reddit.com] the classic Slashdot discussion and moderation system. If you haven't seen Slashdot Beta already, open this [slashdot.org] in a new tab. After seeing that, click here [slashdot.org] to return to classic Slashdot.

        We should boycott stories and only discuss the abomination that is Slashdot Beta until Dice abandons the project.

        We should boycott slashdot entirely during the week of Feb 10 to Feb 17 as part of the wider slashcott [slashdot.org]

        Moderators - only spend mod points on comments that discuss Beta
        Commentors - only discuss Beta
        http://slashdot.org/recent [slashdot.org] - Vote up the Fuck Beta stories

        Keep this up for a few days and we may finally get the PHBs attention. Links of note:

        Discussion of Beta: http://slashdot.org/firehose.pl?op=view&id=56395415 [slashdot.org]
        Discussion of where to go if Beta goes live: http://slashdot.org/firehose.pl?op=view&type=submission&id=3321441 [slashdot.org]
        Alternative Slashdot: altslashdot.org [altslashdot.org]
        IRC Discussion: freenode #slashdot-refugees
        IRC Discussion: slashnet.org #slashdot

Re:Slashdot Beta: Day Three (1)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about 5 months ago | (#46186137)

Beta makes Taco cry.

Kill-switch? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46185771)

Put the kill switch on the beta...

Re:Kill-switch? (0, Flamebait)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 5 months ago | (#46186111)

It's already there you moron. If you would read the posts instead of posting crap, you would know that you can turn the beta off by going to classic mode at the bottom of the screen.

Re:Kill-switch? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46186225)

Why not turn off Classic by going to the bottom of the screen?!

Re:Kill-switch? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46186259)

That doesn't really work. It takes me to the classic front page and then when I click on an article I'm back to beta. Scroll down, click on classic, and go back to classic front page. Google recursion for a similar experience.

Re:Kill-switch? (2, Informative)

ConceptJunkie (24823) | about 5 months ago | (#46186289)

That would be fine, except Dice has stated its clear intention to eliminate classic mode. If classic mode weren't going away, most people wouldn't care.

Beta delenda est.

They've got it wrong (5, Funny)

Doug Otto (2821601) | about 5 months ago | (#46185781)

Already half of all robberies in San Francisco and 75 percent of those in Oakland involve a mobile device and the number is rising in Los Angeles, according to police figures.

Really, what we need, is a kill switch for Oakland, San Francisco and LA.

Re:They've got it wrong (-1, Offtopic)

GameMaster (148118) | about 5 months ago | (#46185825)

And the Slashdot Beta, don't forget the Slashdot Beta.

Re:They've got it wrong (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 5 months ago | (#46185947)

Already half of all robberies in San Francisco and 75 percent of those in Oakland involve a mobile device and the number is rising in Los Angeles, according to police figures. Really, what we need, is a kill switch for Oakland, San Francisco and LA.

We also need some insight into whether those robberies were for the mobile device, or whether they were somebody pulling a knife and saying 'gimme your shit', combined with the fact that cellphones are at least as common as wallets at this point.

Re:They've got it wrong (3, Interesting)

gnick (1211984) | about 5 months ago | (#46186057)

I'd suspect the latter. And instead of a kill switch, wouldn't a switch forcibly enabling GPS tracking be more effective? Of course, misuse could be an issue.

Re:They've got it wrong (-1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 5 months ago | (#46186135)

You're assuming Police care at all about catching muggers. Unless the cops standing right there, these crimes are way too hard to deal with so they ignore them and instead focus their efforts on finding reasonable cause to search Minorities as they're easy targets.

Re:They've got it wrong (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 5 months ago | (#46186199)

I'd suspect the latter. And instead of a kill switch, wouldn't a switch forcibly enabling GPS tracking be more effective? Of course, misuse could be an issue.

I'm pretty sure they can do that now. The know exactly what cell tower I am hitting and they can even triangulate my location from multiple towers. It would seem that if your device were reported stolen to the cell company, they block the ESN from being used. Sure, they would have your phone, but other than the data that is on it, what could they get. And as for the data, if that is their goal, they will get it before you even have time to alert the phone company to kill the device.

Re:They've got it wrong (4, Insightful)

Beorytis (1014777) | about 5 months ago | (#46186093)

...cellphones are at least as common as wallets at this point.

For comparison, we should see the statistic for how many robberies involved a wallet, and then perhaps some legislation to require mandatory kill switches on our money.

Re:They've got it wrong (1)

PastTense (150947) | about 5 months ago | (#46186175)

There are various proposals around to eliminate cash. Eliminating cash would eliminate lots of crime, but would also have other problems.

Re:They've got it wrong (2)

ConceptJunkie (24823) | about 5 months ago | (#46186335)

I rarely carry money these days already. I remember having a conversation in the barber shop around 1987 and someone suggested that money would become uncommon in 4 years or so. I said that I agreed, but that it would be more like 40 years. By 2027, I'd bet that physical currency will be either completely gone or rare... assuming civilization doesn't collapse and we're all using only barter.

Re:They've got it wrong (1)

mbone (558574) | about 5 months ago | (#46186187)

For comparison, we should see the statistic for how many robberies involved a wallet, and then perhaps some legislation to require mandatory kill switches on our money.

Oh, they would love to do that too, by getting rid of cash.

Re:They've got it wrong (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46186201)

and then perhaps some legislation to require mandatory kill switches on our money.

We have this for credit cards (I'm not sure if it's legally mandated, but I can't imagine there are too many people who want companies to be able to refuse to cancel a stolen credit card)

Re:They've got it wrong (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 5 months ago | (#46186241)

The issue is obviously a dead letter, since any expensive structural change would probably involve moving away from little paper rectangles with dead guys printed on them; but for any serialized currency, it wouldn't be rocket surgery to add a little OCR to certain choke-points in the system to increase the difficulty of handling bills with an other-than-honorable chain of custody. Not much you could do about less official channels; but just dumping them in the ATM could get hazardous.

Re:They've got it wrong (0)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 5 months ago | (#46186161)

We also need some insight into whether those robberies were for the mobile device, or whether they were somebody pulling a knife and saying 'gimme your shit', combined with the fact that cellphones are at least as common as wallets at this point.

Exactly! If I had any mod points left from downmodding the "F*ck the beta" posts, I would mod you up. Statistics are meaningless without context. Statistically 100% of people who have sex will die, doesn't mean people should quit have sex. Likewise, the theft of mobile devices where it isn't the primary target, doesn't mean that all mobile devices should have a kill switch. Besides, if the public felt this was a need, the manufacturers would include it (and many have). It doesn't require the government to make the decision.

Re:They've got it wrong (2)

mbone (558574) | about 5 months ago | (#46186173)

Yes, "involve" is a favorite police weasel word, as it means more or less whatever they want it to mean.

Re:They've got it wrong (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46186061)

Already half of all robberies in San Francisco and 75 percent of those in Oakland involve a mobile device and the number is rising in Los Angeles, according to police figures.

Really, what we need, is a kill switch for Oakland, San Francisco and LA.

Point taken, but it's a rather dubious statistic these days. 95% of people carry around a cellphone at minimum, so if you're looking to rob any particular person of something of value what the hell else are you gonna ask for when robbing someone? "Gimmie all your cash" will likely result in a laugh, no one even carries that around anymore.

Re:They've got it wrong (1)

sycodon (149926) | about 5 months ago | (#46186223)

Better would be a kill switch that actually killed the perp [wikia.com] the first time they tried to use a stolen device.

It will be used against you (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46185807)

It will be used against you. Next "bigger" protest they will kill switch the entire area. Record away ...

Re:It will be used against you (4, Insightful)

ConceptJunkie (24823) | about 5 months ago | (#46186387)

What people fail to consider is what happens when any particular bit of power given to the government is misused, because it _will_ be misused. There are plenty of things I think it would be great for the government to be able to do, but would never support it because it could be abused. That's why we need as little government as we can get away with and still maintain order.

What could go wrong? (5, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about 5 months ago | (#46185819)

If you start making phones with kill switches, that is going to be a very attractive target for hackers.

Imagine if you could wholesale destroy thousands of phones in one go?

And since legislators only barely understand their intended outcomes, and not the unintended consequences, they won't be mandating any proper security with this -- and it will be badly implemented.

But, really, what black hat isn't going to be giddy with glee at the prospect of wiping out a whole bunch of phones in an area?

Yeah, yeah, offtopic because I didn't say 'fuck beta' ... I'm just tired of the nerd rage, it gets old after a while.

Re:What could go wrong? (2)

AJH16 (940784) | about 5 months ago | (#46185867)

I have less of a problem if they make it a kill switch that can be cryptographically turned off by the manufacturer after verifying the purchaser or even with some kind of a special key that you get with the purchase and keep at home. It should also be something that can be turned off by the end user.

If you can ensure that it can be reverted securely when triggered and can be prevented from triggering by the legit user (possibly using the same mechanism as unlocking a locked device) then I don't see a problem with it, but without those two caveats, there are so, so many thing that could go wrong.

Re:What could go wrong? (5, Insightful)

Shoten (260439) | about 5 months ago | (#46186025)

I have less of a problem if they make it a kill switch that can be cryptographically turned off by the manufacturer after verifying the purchaser or even with some kind of a special key that you get with the purchase and keep at home. It should also be something that can be turned off by the end user.

If you can ensure that it can be reverted securely when triggered and can be prevented from triggering by the legit user (possibly using the same mechanism as unlocking a locked device) then I don't see a problem with it, but without those two caveats, there are so, so many thing that could go wrong.

I love this..."crypto," the magic "c" word that makes everything secure just by talking about it. In reality, it's not quite that simple. Authentication in Windows, for example, works like what you just described...and yet look at the flaws in NTLM and NTLMv2 authentication that turned up. That covers over a decade of time, before MS adopted Kerberos. Then, to that, add all the vulnerabilities in the software that governs authentication...I've lost track of how many times LSASS [wikipedia.org] has been patched.

And yes, I hear it now...the retort: "But that's Microsoft! They suck at security!" Maybe, maybe not, but the fact that they also dominate the desktop space should be a warning that you have to consider: functionality to be placed in ubiquitous consumer devices may not have the world's best security controlling them. And that is just a simple empirical fact as demonstrated by the recent past and current reality.

Re:What could go wrong? (2)

dmbasso (1052166) | about 5 months ago | (#46186127)

You're talking about system authentication, which uses symmetric crypto. The GP was talking about asymmetric / a.k.a. public key crypto, which is an entirely different beast. If you could break it, your targets would be much more valuable than mere cell phones.

Re:What could go wrong? (5, Insightful)

iguana (8083) | about 5 months ago | (#46185875)

Better yet, imagine how useful a phone kill switch would be during widespread citizen protests?

"For public safety, we have to shut off everyone's phone. And because terrorism."

Re:What could go wrong? (3, Interesting)

gstoddart (321705) | about 5 months ago | (#46185975)

*sigh* Yeah, you're probably right.

This will be both misused by malicious entities, and misused by the malicious entities we call governments.

It seems like every time people try to legislate solutions to these kinds of problems they just create more problems due to their stunning lack of understanding of the technology.

Re:What could go wrong? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46186067)

Better yet, imagine how useful a phone kill switch would be during widespread citizen protests?

"For public safety, we have to shut off everyone's phone. And because terrorism."

Terrorists use phones as detonators -- therefore since we have classified security intelligence (that we can't share with you) detailing the possibility of "phone-bomb related program activities" in your area, we are killing all cell phones in the greater San Francisco area...

Re:What could go wrong? (1)

DickBreath (207180) | about 5 months ago | (#46186279)

> Better yet, imagine how useful a phone kill switch would be during widespread citizen protests?
> "For public safety, we have to shut off everyone's phone. And because terrorism."

You forgot to Think of the Children!

Re:What could go wrong? (2)

Karl Cocknozzle (514413) | about 5 months ago | (#46186281)

Better yet, imagine how useful a phone kill switch would be during widespread citizen protests?

"For public safety, we have to shut off everyone's phone. And because terrorism."

Actually, they don't need a kill switch for the phones to do this--there are a lot fewer devices to shut off if you simply shutdown the cell-towers in the area to cutoff communication.

Re:What could go wrong? (0)

gstoddart (321705) | about 5 months ago | (#46186347)

Ah, but if your phone is wrecked and you have to go in to get it fixed, they'll be able to identify if you were one of the people in the demonstration, and therefore be able to prove you were there and charge you.

It's one thing to just shut down all comms, it's another thing to be able to have some persistent evidence you were one of the people who they targeted.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to add another layer of tinfoil to my hat.

Re:What could go wrong? (-1, Offtopic)

amiga3D (567632) | about 5 months ago | (#46185879)

The Beta has already gotten old. Time to kill it.

Re:What could go wrong? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46185941)

I've ordered a couple of tablets from China in the past. It would suck if I couldn't buy something because of a moronic government mandate designed to protect me. I don't live in California, so hopefully this only ever applies to them, like most other moronic government mandates.

Re:What could go wrong? (2)

Iamthecheese (1264298) | about 5 months ago | (#46185955)

Crackers are just the beginning of the danger. Imagine a government with the power to shut off any phone (any portable data transfer device?) at any time using the T word as an excuse and not having to even justify it for several months. The laws that allow the latter are already in place, enacted, and only awaiting the ability.

This is one of the most dangerous laws imaginable.

Why would a gov't disable a phone ... (1)

davidwr (791652) | about 5 months ago | (#46186071)

... when they can just locate it and make it connect to a fake tower instead?

It's just DRM. Doomed to fail. (3, Interesting)

wvmarle (1070040) | about 5 months ago | (#46186015)

It sounds very much like some kind of DRM to me.

It's a digital lock - which can be activated remotely, so certainly can be activated (and deactivated) locally. It may be hard to unlock, but it will be possible.

Like DRM, it'll inconvenience the casual offender, who has limited technical ability. And sooner or later people will get accidentally locked out of their genuinely owned devices. Indeed maybe due to a ransomware type malware, maybe due to a simple error at the manufacturer's server, whatever. It can happen, so it will happen.

Re:What could go wrong? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46186041)

Yeah, yeah, offtopic because I didn't say 'fuck beta' ... I'm just tired of the nerd rage, it gets old after a while.

And it doesn't get old to hear that the government will abuse a killswitch when it never has before for the umpteenth time? Beta is a reality. You're just talking sci-fi dreams of abusive authority.

Re:What could go wrong? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46186149)

If you start making phones with kill switches, that is going to be a very attractive target for hackers.

Imagine if you could wholesale destroy thousands of phones in one go?

Well, have they attacked Apple's phones? They already require you to enter your apple ID and password after reboot when you wipe the device - you simply can't reset the device without it, so it's effectively "dead".

Re:What could go wrong? (2)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 5 months ago | (#46186167)

Many phones already have this capability. Google and Apple can be remotely delete apps from user's phones, and many carriers can lock out SIM cards. We know Apple can perform remote wipes too, as a few people have already fallen victim to hackers doing just that after gaining access to their accounts.

Most PCs have a similar vulnerability. If an app gains root it could set a random ATA password for hard drive, making the machine unbootable and unrecoverable even by trying to do a full format. You would need a special tool capable of issuing a low level ATA wipe command to un-brick it, and of course you data would be gone.

Re:What could go wrong? (4, Informative)

mlts (1038732) | about 5 months ago | (#46186189)

Even if a phone can be killed, it likely won't drop crime that much. Unlike car radios which were pretty much made useless by the fact that OEMs have decent audio from the factory, smartphones will still make money when parted out. In fact, if an iPhone is just stripped and just the screen sold, that is at least a couple C-notes right there, which is good money.

An iPad or tablet is even more cash for parts.

So, with this in mind, yes, killing the device might stop it from being sent to Mexico and used there, but for the most past, IMEI blacklists have similar functionality.

To boot, we already have that functionality in place. Any device running iOS 7.x will require the user's AppleID and password before it will activate, so stealing an iPhone in order to resell the unit is an exercise in futility.

PS: Insert beta rant here.

Re:What could go wrong? (2)

east coast (590680) | about 5 months ago | (#46186329)

an iPhone is just stripped and just the screen sold, that is at least a couple C-notes right there

What? You can get good ones with a warranty from Amazon for 60-90 USD.

Not to say that people won't steal them to part them out but I think you need to go and see what the parts are really worth. Samsung Galaxy screens are worth a bit more but they're OEM whereas the Apple replacements seem to be knock offs. Either way, you're still getting a warranty out of either purchase but you still need to do the job yourself.

Re:What could go wrong? (2)

DickBreath (207180) | about 5 months ago | (#46186265)

Your concerns about hackers can be addressed by using proper security.

Make the kill switch feature only work by visiting a secret URL. Remember, it is secret, therefore totally secure.

The tail end of the URL is the phone number digits. But not in plaintext -- those digits would be protected by ROT13 applied an ODD number of times to ensure security.

Re:What could go wrong? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46186277)

But, really, what black hat isn't going to be giddy with glee at the prospect of wiping out a whole bunch of phones in an area?

The ones who aren't incredibly stupid. Why put yourself at risk for absolutely no benefit to yourself? Why waste the time when you could be doing something that actually pays?

Re:What could go wrong? (1)

aviators99 (895782) | about 5 months ago | (#46186379)

The bill doesn't specify the technology (according to TFA). I would assume this would be implemented using the "push" mechanism (which is actually "pull", in reality). At the same time it checks for alerts, the device would check for the kill "signal". This mechanism would be controlled by the carrier or OS provider, and shouldn't be vulnerable in this way.

Should mention that I'm against it, though!

IMEI blocking (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46185839)

Isn't this what IMEI blocking is supposed to do?

Re:IMEI blocking (2)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 5 months ago | (#46186085)

Not all tablets have IMEIs. Other than that, it's a pretty good solution. The one problem with IMEI blocking is that you can't enforce a worldwide block, so devices can still be shipped out of the country. Also, many of the devices are still useful even without cellular service. Turn off the cellular radio, and you still can use wifi connectivity. You can still listen to music, play your apps, and do a lot of other fun things with it.

This sound like a good idea... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46185841)

...but so enterprise people might hack all way to kill, say, all the phones in California in a mass attack.

Now with Oppression Inside; Do Not Want! (4, Interesting)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 5 months ago | (#46185861)

I'm sorry. A remote kill-switch is unacceptable. The big time thieves already put your cellphone in a Faraday cage when they swipe it. The real purpose of this device remote kill switch is to allow a more target approach to the Internet kill-switch -- Which as we've recently seen is what oppressive governments do to silence public opposition. Keep in mind that the USA has a long history of silencing public activism, [wikipedia.org] and they are actively planning to ensure their capability to silence activists. [theguardian.com]

It's quite telling indeed that this would be made mandatory, and not present at the user's option. Why not let the market decide whether this feature is wanted? This mandatory oppressive non-feature creep is anti-capitalism, anti-freedom, and anti-American.

Re:Now with Oppression Inside; Do Not Want! (2)

mark-t (151149) | about 5 months ago | (#46186263)

The big time thieves already put your cellphone in a Faraday cage when they swipe it.

This can be mitigated by tying the kill request to the physical device, and not just the sim card it contains, and also a special code that can be set by the user of the device, and which will not be reset just by changing the sim card. A person who is legitimately selling their device would either have to explicitly clear that code from the device or reset it to a default state before transferring it, or tell the person they are selling it to what the code is. Changing the code or clearing it would require that the person enter the current code first... if they have forgotten it, then they cannot change it for that device. Ever.

Yeah, No. (5, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 5 months ago | (#46185871)

This would be a disaster. Even if the objective is noble, there's an ugly architectural fact: as with any other DRM scheme, you can't have effective control unless the 'owner' of the device is no longer the most privileged user of the device. Whether you bake it into the OS, some sort of hypervisor, the firmware, or whatever, there has to be an agent one level higher to enforce restrictions on the user.

The only exception (in this bill's case, not in that of DRM generally) would be if the control mechanism were cryptographically keyfilled by the user, leaving them as the root of control but still providing for strong lockout of third parties. I'm just guessing that that concept won't be a big hit in consumer electronics, though...

In practice, this would make it illegal to sell a tablet or smartphone that isn't tivoized and locked down, since anything that lets you reflash the firmware would be overwhelmingly likely to allow a modestly competent attacker to neutralize a killswitch. Fan-fucking-tastic.

Find my iphone already does this. (1)

wiredog (43288) | about 5 months ago | (#46185987)

You can nuke your iThingy remotely if you've enabled that.

Re:Find my iphone already does this. (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 5 months ago | (#46186117)

And iDevices are pretty much the cool, shiny, face of the contemporary DRM lockdown appliance. Exactly the state of computation that is bad enough without legal mandate.

In a different context (4, Interesting)

ExXter (1361251) | about 5 months ago | (#46185883)

This perfectly covers the need of police and secret agencies for a simple "switch off method" for mobil phones and devices in particular areas of interest in which officials, independant of reason, want to shut down public spread of information at all cost. Censorship at its best, Orwell would have jumped of joy ^^.

The device list for such a maneuver is easily obtained through the telecommunication companies which already give free acess to NSA & Co.

Spawning from riots which have to be covered up.
To civilian killings + shut down of areas.
Etcetc ... you can all count. If you want information to leave an area in which you are active, just switch off any device thats not yours. (Good I still can make photos with my analog camera).

The idea is good but the use for others is terrifying.

No Unintended Consequences, I Promise (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46185901)

Malware couldn't possibly brick massive quantities of consumer electronics this way could it? Nah, that's as far fetched as Slashdot forcing us all onto a buggy "Beta" no one likes.

Oh, I get it, 25% of /. readers have been hacked (1)

davidwr (791652) | about 5 months ago | (#46186129)

Malware couldn't possibly brick massive quantities of consumer electronics this way could it? Nah, that's as far fetched as Slashdot forcing us all onto a buggy "Beta" no one likes.

Oh, I get it, 25% of all /. viewers are infected with malware that DNS-poisons *.slashdot.org so they land on this fake "Beta" site. Wait until Dice's technical team locates the malicious crackers and sics the legal team on them. There will be hell to pay, I tell you, hell to pay.

There are better ways (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46185921)

Between the gov. possibly abusing this, hackers having a field day, etc. wouldn't it just be easier to use the ESN and not provide service to a reported phone?

#fuckbeta

But there already is a built in kill switch. (1)

plebeian (910665) | about 5 months ago | (#46185925)

You just have to drop the phone from higher than 3 feet. I have had 8 smart phones in the past 10 years. They are all designed to fail. The last decent phone that I had was a Nokia 6200 series.

Re:But there already is a built in kill switch. (1)

N1AK (864906) | about 5 months ago | (#46186069)

You just have to drop the phone from higher than 3 feet

Bollocks. Both my current phones have been dropped god knows how many times. The most recent one was ~6 foot onto a concrete step before going over the edge and falling a floor onto tiles without any damage and it wasn't even in a case. Not sure I'd trust my S4 to survive that admittedly. I've never had a smartphone break, I've replaced them due to a combination of network incentives and desire for new functionality.

A More Effective Killswitch (4, Insightful)

Akratist (1080775) | about 5 months ago | (#46185935)

Someone tries to rob or kill you for your phone, you switch from "Safe" to "Fire."

Just passing by... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46185949)

Hey guys. I heard that around here they sell some kind of feta meal for just one buck. I'll take one, please.

Bad idea - use IMEI instead (1)

KDN (3283) | about 5 months ago | (#46185953)

Oh gee, our enemies are going to love this, the ability to nuke all the cells phones in the US at one shot. How much do you think a cracker could sell this exploit for?

Better solution: create a database of stolen IMEI numbers. In that way it can be reversed if/when the eventual screwup occurs.

Fuck Beta (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46185957)

Please post this to new articles if it hasn't been posted yet. (Copy-paste the html from here [pastebin.com] so links don't get mangled!)

On February 5, 2014, Slashdot announced through a javascript popup that they are starting to "move in to" the new Slashdot Beta design. Slashdot Beta is a trend-following attempt to give Slashdot a fresh look, an approach that has led to less space for text and an abandonment of the traditional Slashdot look. Much worse than that, Slashdot Beta fundamentally breaks the classic Slashdot discussion and moderation system.

If you haven't seen Slashdot Beta already, open this [slashdot.org] in a new tab. After seeing that, click here [slashdot.org] to return to classic Slashdot.

We should boycott stories and only discuss the abomination that is Slashdot Beta until Dice abandons the project.
We should boycott slashdot entirely during the week of Feb 10 to Feb 17 as part of the wider slashcott [slashdot.org]

Moderators - only spend mod points on comments that discuss Beta
Commentors - only discuss Beta
  http://slashdot.org/recent [slashdot.org] - Vote up the Fuck Beta stories

Keep this up for a few days and we may finally get the PHBs attention.

-----=====##### LINKS #####=====-----

Discussion of Beta: http://slashdot.org/firehose.pl?op=view&id=56395415 [slashdot.org]

Discussion of where to go if Beta goes live: http://slashdot.org/firehose.pl?op=view&type=submission&id=3321441 [slashdot.org]

Alternative Slashdot: http://altslashdot.org [altslashdot.org] (thanks Okian Warrior (537106) [slashdot.org] )

It's their own fault (1, Funny)

ilsaloving (1534307) | about 5 months ago | (#46185959)

People who have their cell phones stolen were just asking for it. They shouldn't be flashing their bling around like some technoslut. It's not the thieves fault. They can't help themselves.

Re:It's their own fault (1)

Kierthos (225954) | about 5 months ago | (#46186031)

That's an astounding level of ignorance. Congratulations.

Re:It's their own fault (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46186345)

...wait for it:

www

whhhh

whooo

whoooosssshhhhh

Re:It's their own fault (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46186359)

***whoooooooosh***

fuck beta

Re:It's their own fault (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46186371)

I think someone needs to retune their sarcasm detector. Congratulations.

Another Beta complaint (-1, Offtopic)

satuon (1822492) | about 5 months ago | (#46185971)

Beta looks pretty bad on Open Mini on my phone. Check out the whitespaces, here's a screenshot - http://imgur.com/bYvaNdo [imgur.com]

60% of the screen width is whitespace, and that's when the phone is in landspace.

Choices... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46185993)

1) I could know that all phones/tablets have a kill-switch and decide it's not worth the bother to steal them anymore.

2) I can steal your tablet, then you can go home, report me to the police with my description, etc., which has a low chance of resulting in my arrest, then log-in to a website and tell it to kill the tablet, making my free tablet worthless.

3) I can take the tablet and kill you, then you won't go home and report me to the police with my description, etc., you won't log-in to a website to disable my tablet, and I can play Angry Birds.

I'm not sure adding a kill-switch to a device is going to have the effect on sociopathic criminals that these lawmakers think it will.

iPhones/iPads already have this option, has theere been studies done that show that iPhone/iPad theft is less than that of Android based devices (no one will steal a Windows device)?

I think we should leave this up to the market since we have a choice already (if you want this feature you can get an iPhone/iPad), and I'd rather not give criminals any additional reason to kill me while they are committing other crimes (theft) against me.

Missing Stats (5, Insightful)

Bob9113 (14996) | about 5 months ago | (#46186003)

Already half of all robberies in San Francisco and 75 percent of those in Oakland involve a mobile device and the number is rising in Los Angeles, according to police figures.

Some missing stats here: How many robberies is that, how many were there five years ago, and what percentage of robberies involved a wallet? Is this a sign of increasing crime due to cell phones, or are cell phones just a thing of value that most people carry that is taken along with the victim's wallet and watch? What percentage of these crimes will be prevented if a kill switch is implemented?

Without that information, this is just another case of, "Bad things happen, therefore we need more laws!" Effective laws do an excellent job of reducing crime. Crime stats in the US have been on an impressive and near continual downward trend, and that is an excellent thing to achieve. Ineffectual laws do not solve problems, however, and they weaken the system.

Also: Fuck beta. I am not the audience, I am one of the authors of this site. I am Slashdot. This is a debate community. I will leave if it becomes some bullshit IT News 'zine. And I don't think Dice has the chops to beat the existing competitors in that space.

Re:Missing Stats (1)

bickerdyke (670000) | about 5 months ago | (#46186197)

Is there still anything of value in a wallet? I'd guess the amount of cash went down with everything going credit card, nfc and all that stuff. Likewise: who still wears an expensive watch?

They must have Apple stock. (1)

wiredog (43288) | about 5 months ago | (#46186007)

Since this bill would make Find My iPhone's [apple.com] "Activation Lock", which I would bet money is patented, a requirement for Android and Windows devices.

Re:They must have Apple stock. (1)

DickBreath (207180) | about 5 months ago | (#46186295)

Ah, but all of a sudden Apple's Activation Lock patent becomes a Standards Essential patent. And we all know how much Apple thinks Standards Essential patents are worth. Zip. Zilch. Squat. Not even worth negotiating over at any price.

Why not just blacklist? (2)

davidwr (791652) | about 5 months ago | (#46186055)

A "kill switch" will just brick devices the first time they connect to the network in California or a network that transmits "kill switch" orders outside of California. I wouldn't expect it to work if the thief dropped the phone in a metal-lined bag until it was safely outside of the country.

Blacklisting the ESN is just as effective and doesn't require special phones.

Besides, if the phones are being bagged and stripped for parts in a shielded room, neither blacklisting nor a kill switch will do much good.

Ahhhh, Californication (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 5 months ago | (#46186059)

These are the people who gave us Dianne Feinstein, the old witch who would put a camera in your toilet.

'Cause it's round-up time, a-way out west
When the cactus is in bloom...

Politicians destroying jobs again (1)

JoeyRox (2711699) | about 5 months ago | (#46186081)

Criminals have to eat too.

Re:Politicians destroying jobs again (1)

DickBreath (207180) | about 5 months ago | (#46186357)

At the risk and possible personal embarrassment of being called a shameful name like Republican, I'll just say this. But I'll only apply it to criminals.

2 Thessalonians 3:10 [biblegateway.com]

I would not apply it to people who don't work through no fault of their own.

None of us own our phones. (2)

Vixe (1846608) | about 5 months ago | (#46186105)

"...can render the essential features of the device inoperable when the device is not in possession of the rightful owner."?

Well the rightful owners of our phones are technically still Samsung / Apple / LG /

Does that mean they can arbitrarily decide which phones to disable remotely whenever they'd like?

Re:None of us own our phones. (1)

DickBreath (207180) | about 5 months ago | (#46186399)

> Well the rightful owners of our phones are technically still Samsung / Apple / LG /
> Does that mean they can arbitrarily decide which phones to disable remotely whenever they'd like?

Yes it means that. Technically. Not necessarily legally. You could also include which PC's that Microsoft could remotely disable whenever they like.

Beta delenda est! (1, Offtopic)

emmagsachs (1024119) | about 5 months ago | (#46186131)

Nobody buys Playboy for the articles. They do it for the hot, nude women (sadly, sans grits). It just so happens that /. is exactly the same. No one reads /. for the articles. The articles were news two days ago. And no one reads /. for the summaries. The summaries are almost always wrong.

Everyone reads /. for the comments. The comments are the /. equivalent of Playboy's naked chicks, with one crucial difference. Without the gentlemen at Playboy, there will be no naked chicks to look at. The service they provide is, for the most part, finding women that will agree to pose nude for pictures, which they most graciously distribute to their readers.

But as for Slashdot -- the good people at Dice and their "editorial" team do diddly squat around here to generate content. The articles, old as they may be, are submitted by the users. The summaries, mistaken as they may be, are provided by the users, not by Timothy, Soulskill, et al. The comments, trollish as they may be, are written by the users.

/. is of the users, by the users, for the users. The only people at Dice who deserve their paycheck are the IT people. The rest of you -- what is it that you do for our benefit? Why the hell do we need you clowns? Your music's bad and you should feel bad!

Beta delenda est!

Imagine this + Lucy Koh (5, Interesting)

kav2k (1545689) | about 5 months ago | (#46186163)

Suppose this is implemented. Then imagine a new escalation in the patent wars: say, a phone model is found infringing, and judge mandates not only to stop sales, but to remotely destroy all devices sold in the US.

It already exists (3, Interesting)

dirk (87083) | about 5 months ago | (#46186169)

This already exists and the rest of the world uses it. It's called the IMEI number. Simply report the phone stolen and the carriers can kill the IMEI and put it on a list so that it can't work on any of their networks. Yes, thieves could still use the phone offline, but it puts a HUGE dent into reasons for stealing a phone. But carriers continue to fight against this, IMO, because stolen phones means they get to sell the customer another phone (and at non-subsidized prices). We don't need a new kill switch for the phones, we just need to legislate that the cell companies uses what is at their disposal.

Killswitch for dupes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46186171)

http://yro.slashdot.org/story/13/12/19/2113235/proposed-california-law-would-mandate-smartphone-kill-switch

"Golly! We can't stop it!" (2)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 5 months ago | (#46186181)

Stolen phones cannot be used withouy the acquiesence of phone companies in providing service to the phones and their new "owners".

So fine and jail phone CEOs for designing a business model that incorporates, deliberately, the laundering of stolen property.

How about... (1)

niaxilin (1773080) | about 5 months ago | (#46186313)

Because the ./ boycott doesn't start until Monday...

Kill switches for phones worth over $200? If the only resell-able phones thieves nabbed were flip phones and Blackberries, this law would have almost the same effect. And the rest of us paranoids can keep buying the $199 phone, or even my $11.50 (Free Shipping) Nokia off eBay.

And for all of those arguing that the government, with this new kill switch, would only NOW be able to massively shut down communication: What makes you think they can't do so today with broadcast tower and network control? And why would the NSA kill-switch the phone of a "person of interest" who they are actively listening in on?

What about if the phone is off? (1)

tompaulco (629533) | about 5 months ago | (#46186323)

How are they going to kill it if the device is off or only does wifi? I suppose it is less likely that people will run around town with a wifi only device.
Also, why not let the market decided? The manufacturer can make it an optional feature and if the user wants it, they can pay for it. No need for even more legislation, which attempts to control what some manufacturer in China builds.

So why keep the rightful owner alive? (1)

Hylandr (813770) | about 5 months ago | (#46186383)

What's to stop the thieves from just killing the owner outright so it can't be reported before the SIM is changed?

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...