×

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!

Prosecutors Push For Anti-Phone-Theft Kill Switches

Soulskill posted about 10 months ago | from the who-doesn't-love-a-kill-switch? dept.

Cellphones 257

New submitter EdPbllips writes "Law enforcement officials nationwide are demanding the creation of a 'kill switch' that would render smartphones inoperable after they are stolen, New York's top prosecutor said Thursday in a clear warning to the world's smartphone manufacturers. Citing statistics showing that 1 in 3 robberies nationwide involve the theft of a mobile phone, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced the formation of a coalition of law enforcement agencies devoted to stamping out what he called an 'epidemic' of smartphone robberies. 'All too often, these robberies turn violent,' said Schneiderman, who was joined at a news conference by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon. 'There are assaults. There are murders.'" Apple described a system like this in their presentation about iOS 7 at WWDC.

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

257 comments

What a great idea! (5, Insightful)

Aerokii (1001189) | about 10 months ago | (#44009583)

I'm sure that with everything we've learned recently regarding the Government and phones, there's no way this could -possibly- be abused!

Re:What a great idea! (3, Interesting)

biy55 (2951825) | about 10 months ago | (#44009661)

Microsoft has always supported the effort. They were the ones who called law enforcement to work about stolen phones. They really cared for customers, imo.

Re:What a great idea! (1)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about 10 months ago | (#44009673)

the govt is looking for kill switches - you mean like the kill switch that apple just introduced? another slam dunk.

Re:What a great idea! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44009761)

fisc order for apple to kill the phone of the dissident before they call their lawyer.

Re:What a great idea! (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about 10 months ago | (#44010225)

I don't get it. Why would the government want a kill switch? Your phone company can already block your phone from the network at any time. The government could just tell them to do it.

You should be worried about the government listening in, not killing your phone.

Re:What a great idea! (1)

Aerokii (1001189) | about 10 months ago | (#44010319)

I can provide an example off the top of my head, but I believe we're still a ways out from this happening- so, for the time being, our example will take place in the totally fictitious country of Tarkey.

Let's say there's some protests- a large number of people railing against the government for whatever reason there may be. In order to lessen their ability to plan and gather together, you turn off their cell service. Now, that does hurt a bit, but what if they still have wifi access? By bricking the phone entirely, you remove a very useful tool and if used in conjunction with an internet kill switch, you essentially can end all digital access for the protesters.

I pray it never gets to that point in the USA.

Re: What a great idea! (4, Informative)

alen (225700) | about 10 months ago | (#44010325)

A lot of stolen phones are shipped outside the USA. A kill switch would render them useless

Re:What a great idea! (5, Insightful)

Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) | about 10 months ago | (#44009709)

No, of course not. Eric Holder and Barak Obama, the FISC, Congress, the CIA, the FBI, the NSA, etc are all COMPLETELY TRUSTWORTHY. All they want is to make us all nice and safe. Promise! Nobody would EVER turn off the phones of people they didn't agree with, just as they were organizing a protest? Nah, that could never happen!

Re:What a great idea! (1)

Aerokii (1001189) | about 10 months ago | (#44009749)

And do you know how I know it'll never be abused? Why, the director or the NSA said it would be illegal to do so! Clearly since it is illegal, no member of the government would ever do such a thing!

Ugh. I don't want to live on this planet any more.

Re:What a great idea! (1)

Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) | about 10 months ago | (#44010189)

Cheer up, we'll be gone soon enough. I guess in all fairness nobody NEEDS phone bricking to turn off our service, but it has the nice side-effect of being permanent and expensive to undo.

Re:What a great idea! (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about 10 months ago | (#44010199)

If the 'kill' needs a PIN, and that PIN is on a scratch card in the box then who can abuse it...?

Apple's scheme doesn't go far enough. Software will be hacked, it needs to blow a fuse in the CPU and destroy it.

Re:What a great idea! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44010221)

You know, I keep hearing (and reading) people say this, I vehemently disagree. I don't want THEM to live on this planet anymore! Why should we give up the planet to power mongering assholes?

Re:What a great idea! (5, Interesting)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 10 months ago | (#44009747)

"I'm sure that with everything we've learned recently regarding the Government and phones, there's no way this could -possibly- be abused!"

I agree with the sarcasm. Kill switches are a horrible idea. And completely unnecessary.

For example, have a look at The Prey Project [preyproject.com] . This is a good example of a secure means by which an OWNER can track, and even get screenshots and camera shots from, a stolen device.

Why "kill" a device when you stand a good chance of getting it back? Killing it does nobody any good, and has lots of quite horrible abuse potential.

Re:What a great idea! (1)

Aerokii (1001189) | about 10 months ago | (#44009791)

Even if we ignore the point I brought up with the sarcasm, depending on how it's implemented, it could be entirely useless anyway. I'm willing to wager that, unless it does something irreversible such as destroy hardware, it'll be trivially easy to fix. Why, within days of its introduction I would be disappointed if there were any fewer than 5 youtube videos teaching you how to un-brick, un-kill, or otherwise just stop this function from doing a damn thing.

Heck, if I wasn't dirt poor I'd even put money on it.

Re:What a great idea! (1)

Hotawa Hawk-eye (976755) | about 10 months ago | (#44010231)

While that's true, do you think Grandma or Grandpa would be able to unbrick the phone that some script kiddie decided would be fun to lock up? No, which means either going to a different phone (luckily they still have a land line) to call the phone company to ask that it be unbricked or buying a new phone, whichever is less hassle.

Re:What a great idea! (1)

Aerokii (1001189) | about 10 months ago | (#44010271)

Oh, on that I agree whole-heartedly! my point was that those who stole the phones would likely have ways around it, and it's exactly people like Grandma or Grandpa that could get hurt like this, just like the example you provided.

Re:What a great idea! (4, Insightful)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about 10 months ago | (#44009895)

Because Prey wont actually help you get your phone back. Eliminating the stolen phone market will prevent your phone from being stolen in the first place.

Im also not getting the concern over govt abuse. How / why would gov't use a kill switch? If you want to track someone, isnt that the LAST thing they would do? Its not exactly subtle, you would immediately know if it was used.

Re:What a great idea! (1)

dougisfunny (1200171) | about 10 months ago | (#44010029)

And if you and everyone else in a certain radius say a block or two had their phones killed, what would you think? Possibly that the government wants to hide activity or prevent any collateral damage from being able to get word out who it was that came in the black helicopters? Nah, it would probably just be some hacker.

Re:What a great idea! (1)

crakbone (860662) | about 10 months ago | (#44010269)

Actually the government has shown it will attack a particular political group. ( IRS scandal) So imagine right before an election and every Republican cell phone gets killed 48 hours before an election. Or the next whistleblower has his entire family's cell phones shut off.

Re:What a great idea! (1)

Joshua Shaffer (2895571) | about 10 months ago | (#44009927)

Killing it has a pretty nice feature of making stealing phones much less desirable reducing the chances your phone will be stolen at all.

Attempting to track it can work, if the thief isn't smart enough to just wipe it and ditch the SIM (removing your ability to track the device anyway).

Corporate - Government Synergy (2)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | about 10 months ago | (#44010017)

Why "kill" a device when you stand a good chance of getting it back? Killing it does nobody any good, and has lots of quite horrible abuse potential.

The companies get new sales and the government gets a stealthed system to quickly kill organized protests and evidence of police brutality with the push of a button. Win-Win!

Re:What a great idea! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44010165)

Why "kill" a device when you stand a good chance of getting it back? Killing it does nobody any good, and has lots of quite horrible abuse potential.

Because you don't stand a good chance of getting it back (police won't help you), and as others have pointed out, a kill switch means it's less likely that someone will bother to steal the phone at all.
I use prey, but that doesn't mean that I think it's the best possible solution. (Not sure that a kill switch is either!)

Re:What a great idea! (2)

Joce640k (829181) | about 10 months ago | (#44010169)

Why "kill" a device when you stand a good chance of getting it back?

No you haven't. Even if you know where it is, what are you going to do? Really...?

Besides, you're in charge of whether or not it's killed. You have to report it stolen.

Killing it does nobody any good, and has lots of quite horrible abuse potential

Yes it does. Read the summary - people are being mugged and murdered for their phones. A kill switch makes them worthless to thieves.

Re:What a great idea! (3, Insightful)

Eowaennor (527108) | about 10 months ago | (#44010303)

You could be trading one kill for another

Consider this: Mugger demands your phone, but knowing that you may just kill it when he runs away with your phone, kills you instead and takes your phone.

Re:What a great idea! (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | about 10 months ago | (#44009771)

I'm sure that with everything we've learned recently regarding the Government and phones, there's no way this could -possibly- be abused!

1. You mean "what we were told", not "what we learned". Just like the MSR scare a few years ago, when millions of idiot mothers believed one doctor and couldn't be convinced by anything the government said, and it turned out that doctor had actually been paid to produce the results that he did produce. Why do you believe one man and his claims? (I think Apple's reply was "we have never ever heard of Prism, and nobody gets any data without court issued subpoena).

2. So how could this be abused? The feature is that nobody can re-activate your phone without knowing your Apple Id and password. If your phone is stolen, this feature cannot be abused - worst case it can be prevented from working, so you are not off any worse. If your phone is not stolen, worst case someone could manage to remotely wipe your phone, in which case you have the Apple Id and password to re-activate it.

Re:What a great idea! (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | about 10 months ago | (#44010073)

Because we are not fools. We KNOW what can be done now. Its safe to assume that the NSA has "10 Facebooks" worth of storage and computing power without having to support hundreds of millions of end-users.

Re:What a great idea! (1)

Lithdren (605362) | about 10 months ago | (#44010175)

I think Apple's reply was "we have never ever heard of Prism, and nobody gets any data without court issued subpoena

Just wanted to point out...

Apple wouldn't need to be aware of Prism, Prism goes after the network providers, Verison, AT&T, etc.

Its a smaller vector of attack, if they had to go after every single phone manufacturer they'd have a much harder time getting everything.

Google is aware of it because Google is not just involved in Android, they're also the largest internet search provider on the planet. Again, small vectors, they dont go after the ISPs, they go after the search providers.

Re:What a great idea! (0)

g0bshiTe (596213) | about 10 months ago | (#44010201)

I can answer both 1 and 2 and will attempt to do so.

1. Why do you believe one man and his claims?

Obama

2. So how could this be abused?

Obama

Thank you for reading.

Unintended uses (2, Insightful)

Loopy (41728) | about 10 months ago | (#44009591)

The IRS/etc. would NEVER use this to disable someone's communications ability because they were doing something the government didn't like. No sirree. Not ever. Pure as the driven snow, this design is.

It's like people can't think past the next episode of their favorite TV show.

Re:Unintended uses (5, Interesting)

i.r.id10t (595143) | about 10 months ago | (#44009613)

On the other hand, you could use it to nuke your own phone if the police had seized it and were using it to find evidence against you...

Re:Unintended uses (4, Funny)

0123456 (636235) | about 10 months ago | (#44009721)

On the other hand, you could use it to nuke your own phone if the police had seized it and were using it to find evidence against you...

Yeah, right. You really believe the police won't have a kill-switch kill-switch?

Re:Unintended uses (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | about 10 months ago | (#44009821)

Yeah, right. You really believe the police won't have a kill-switch kill-switch?

If you use two-factor authentication, even Apple won't have a kill-switch kill-switch. Anyway, what the feature does is it first wipes the phone (which takes a tenth of a second because it only needs to wipe the encryption keys which are only ever kept on the phone), _then_ activates this locking feature. If the police has a kill-switch kill-switch, then worst case a happy policeman got a new iPhone without paying.

Re:Unintended uses (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 10 months ago | (#44009841)

I think you mean you got a new obstruction of justice charge. That can even be used to suggest that you are guilty, since you made an effort to cover up that guilt.

Re:Unintended uses (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about 10 months ago | (#44009909)

Of course you'd get obstruction charges if used during an active case, same as if you smashed your phone.

Not getting how thats an argument against the feature.

Re:Unintended uses (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44010127)

Procedure for police / prosecutor abuse of this feature:

1) Identify a "suspect"
2) Confiscate "suspect's" phone
3) Fail to find evidence of crime
4) Use kill switch on phone
5) Charge "suspect" with obstruction of justice

Of course, step 3 is completely unnecessary, but it does give the police the opportunity to discover an actual crime, assuming they actually think one occurred. Combined with a policy where searching phones becomes standard practice [slashdot.org] , this becomes especially insidious.

Re:Unintended uses (1)

Tharkkun (2605613) | about 10 months ago | (#44009735)

On the other hand, you could use it to nuke your own phone if the police had seized it and were using it to find evidence against you...

Or better yet when high school lockers are being broken into because they supply 0 security you can kill switch these phones. It will deter most of this bullshit that goes on and allow police to focus on real crime.

Re:Unintended uses (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 10 months ago | (#44009755)

Too bad it cannot work.

Worst case from the thieves point of view the phones are now only valuable as parts. More likely he will just have to accept a little less for it since now someone will be paid to get around this lockout.

The police prefer to not focus on real crime, real criminals are dangerous.

Don't we already have this? (4, Informative)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | about 10 months ago | (#44009619)

Something similar has been available for YEARS- all you need do is ask the phone company to invalidate the IMEI number.and/or activate the memory wipe software built into Android, iOS, and Windows phones.

Has Symbian and Blackberry been left out of this feature? I would have thought consumer demand for it would have produced it on those platforms as well long ago.

Re:Don't we already have this? (2)

Derek Pomery (2028) | about 10 months ago | (#44009691)

So, I think this system has potential for abuse, both by governments and by some random hacker/disgruntled employee killing off phones.

But, the IMEI thing is not really a fix.
1) The phone can still be used as an ipod or tablet.
2) IMEI can be changed.
In addition, IMEI record keeping is rather poor.

Re:Don't we already have this? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44009845)

So, I think this system has potential for abuse, both by governments and by some random hacker/disgruntled employee killing off phones.

But, the IMEI thing is not really a fix.
1) The phone can still be used as an ipod or tablet.
2) IMEI can be changed.
In addition, IMEI record keeping is rather poor.

The solution is not a kill switch. The solution is to embed a serial number in hardware on the device which cannot be changed.
Yes, this would still allow thieves to part the device out or use it as a non-phone device. But the major draw for smartphones is that you can wipe them and sell them to somebody as a working phone. Which the Carriers will happily activate even when the IMEI has not been changed and has been reported stolen.

As for government abuse, again they actually don't need a kill switch. All they need is to have the Carrier de-activate the device on their network. This is already possible, it'll happen to you if you don't pay your bill, or if you cancel your service.

Re:Don't we already have this? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 10 months ago | (#44009869)

By what dark magic do you propose to do that?

There is no reason the phone OS ever has to report that number burned into hardware vs one it made with a random number generator if that is what the owner decides to do. Just like spoofing MAC addresses this would quickly become trivial.

Re:Don't we already have this? (1)

Derek Pomery (2028) | about 10 months ago | (#44009945)

Indeed. To this I'd like to add that gov't asking a carrier to disconnect an IMEI is a LOT different from gov't turning phone into a brick.

Re:Don't we already have this? (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 10 months ago | (#44010003)

I'm surprised devices don't have hardwired unique network IDs at the hardware network level, like a MAC address or something. Then it couldn't be spoofed. Replacing that module, to say nothing of acquiring replacments in a laundered way, is a lot more work.

Re:Don't we already have this? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 10 months ago | (#44010095)

Mac Adresses are spoofed all the time. It is trivial to do.

They do have IMEI numbers that are unique, but again can be changed or spoofed.

There is no need to change hardware to spoof an id, just have the software lie about what the hardware id is.

Re:Don't we already have this? (1)

g0bshiTe (596213) | about 10 months ago | (#44010255)

Since you feel a MAC address is unique and unspoofable do quick google on MAC spoofing.

I hereby, formally request you turn in your /. UID.

Re:Don't we already have this? (5, Informative)

MrEricSir (398214) | about 10 months ago | (#44009769)

Something similar has been available for YEARS- all you need do is ask the phone company to invalidate the IMEI number.and/or activate the memory wipe software built into Android, iOS, and Windows phones.

There's still no nationwide database in the US of all stolen IMEI numbers. Even if you tell your carrier that your phone was stolen and they bother to invalidate the number, AFAIK there's nothing stopping the theif from using the phone on a different carrier (assuming the phone is compatible, obviously.)

Re:Don't we already have this? (1)

pr0fessor (1940368) | about 10 months ago | (#44009915)

If they make phone calls or texts before the service is disconnected the records are for your phone you can give the relevant numbers to the police so they can track down the jerk.

I had a phone that I forgot in the car and it was stolen by the time I got it disconnected they had already made a lot of calls. They caught them.

Re:Don't we already have this? (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 10 months ago | (#44009941)

Where was this?

The police where I live do not care. They will not retrive phones if you give them the location and photos of the crooks.

Re:Don't we already have this? (1)

pr0fessor (1940368) | about 10 months ago | (#44010061)

I live in a small Kansas town under 30k population so they tend to be more responsive. I have lived in larger places were if your not bleeding in a life threatening manner, good luck getting any help beyond a report that no one will ever read.

Re:Don't we already have this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44009969)

The phone carriers don't really do this outside of Verizon/Sprint/non-SIM card providers, and at that they do it haphazardly. Plus, there is a nice grey market for the SIM based phones to sell the phone overseas since carriers couldn't hope to come up with a trusted central database to pull from for blacklisted IMEI DB. First thing I'd do with those is go about is finding an unscrupulous South African or European carrier, and pay someone $20-$100 to blacklist the IMEI of someone I don't like on their network which would propagate back to the western carriers. Now if Google/MS had forced activation like Apple is promising with iOS 7, that'll change things quite a bit. Only issue from there will be hacked ROMs for Google & Microsoft or older phone OS versions that don't support the lockout people could roll back to (can't really do that since iPhone 3G or 4, can't remember which). Plus let's be real here. You can change the IMEI on a phone in under 10 minutes.

Re:Don't we already have this? (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 10 months ago | (#44010069)

The article I saw yesterday on this pointed out that the demand was for smartphones AND tablets to have this kill feature, and that it must kill the device even if it is not online.

Now, I don't know how that's going to work, but I can easily forsee a case of Google (for example) seeing a non-Google-approved android device showing up at the Play Store and the kill code being sent out... not saying Google would do that, but can you imagine the fun of a malicious app that lets you do something wonderful, for a week and then it shuts your device off permanently? No factory reset, no recovery. Dead.

I can actually believe that some large unnamed software company would include this code in their phones/tablets to prevent piracy of their software. Keep in mind the difficulty of upgrading the computer hardware using some unmentioned OSs because they base their license on things like the serial number of the hard drive. New hard drive, different system, no license. Brick. Buy smartphone with certain OS, buy software for it, screw up in license server. Brick.

Imagine the phun when someone discovers how to send this code to a phone via SMS? Hilarity ensues...

Re:Don't we already have this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44010323)

In the U.S., no. Europe has a true system that causes the device to be banned everywhere, but if I take an phone banned on one network to another network it works just fine in the U.S.

The U.S.A. is way behind in cell phone technology compared to other countries.

At what level (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44009629)

At what level does this kill the phone? Some value in the NAND that prevents it from booting? Blocking at the provider level? I'm not sure there's any way to "disable the phone so its worthless". You can disable it so it has to be taken apart for scrap, but it will still be worth something. Even if the NAND has to be replaced. Even if the main CPU has to be replaced. I think they're attacking the wrong problem.

If you're robbing someone... (4, Insightful)

intermodal (534361) | about 10 months ago | (#44009637)

you will take their phone regardless of whether it is any good to you. Why? because it can be used to call the police as soon as you leave.

Re:If you're robbing someone... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44009745)

you will take their phone regardless of whether it is any good to you. Why? because it can be used to call the police as soon as you leave.

Yes but how often is that robbery simply because the thief wants the phone itself?? if thats what they wanted and its not good to them after they steal it why would they attempt the robbery in the first place?

Re:If you're robbing someone... (1)

intermodal (534361) | about 10 months ago | (#44009799)

I don't know enough thieves to answer that, but I'm willing to bet that if phones are no good to thieves, they'll just steal something else. That's the thing about thievery. They steal whatever they can easily fence or profit from otherwise. If it's not phones, they'll find something else.

Unintended consequences (2)

idontgno (624372) | about 10 months ago | (#44009643)

The problem is that the lack of a kill-switch gives incentive to steal a nice phone, no matter what it takes.

The response is to make the stolen phone remote-brickable, even after a factory-clean wipe.

The counter-response is to make sure the theft of the phone is never reported. And dead men tell no tales.

Of course, this means that the trackable live phone is in the hands of a murderer or an accessory-after-the-fact, so law enforcement has both incentive and means to pursue justice... so it's self-correcting, except for the whole "original victim is dead" part.

Re:Unintended consequences (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44009675)

Most phone thefts are snatch and grab, rather then held up with a gun. Run down a street, snatch the phone out of someone's hand, keep running.

Re:Unintended consequences (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44009957)

The response is to make the stolen phone remote-brickable, even after a factory-clean wipe.

No, the response is to list the device's serial number as "stolen", and require the Carriers to simply not activate stolen serials. The phones are a target because you can just pull the SIM chip out, and sell the phone for a nice chunk of cash. The purchaser can then take it to any major Carrier who will happily install a new SIM and activate it on their phone plan.

The only thing extra thing a kill switch provides is an an easy way for a malicious hacker, a pissed off employee, or an incompetent IT person to brick a shitload of phones.

Seekdroid maybe? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44009665)

I'd rather use an app that I control myself than put a universal "kill switch" on phones... People should be actively seeking out ways to prevent theft of their cell phones, such as the plethora of apps available on several platforms. I mean, if you had 600 dollars in your pocket, you'd take precautions to avoid it getting stolen, wouldn't you? It's not the police responsibility to track down your personal property using federal tax dollars to do so when there are cheap or free solutions for protecting your data and helping track the thief.

Re:Seekdroid maybe? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44010151)

It's not the police responsibility to track down your personal property using federal tax dollars to do so when there are cheap or free solutions for protecting your data and helping track the thief.

First, you are wrong- it's their job to investigate any theft which is reported regardless of how easy it may or may not be for me to investigate it myself.
Second, you are wrong- there is no such thing as a Federal Police Officer.

Third, if someone steals your car, you report the VIN as stolen, and they try to register that VIN the cops are going to show up and arrest them.
But if they steal your phone, you report the IMEI as stolen, and they show up at Verizon or AT&T.... they get a working phone and nobody blinks an eye.

We don't need a kill switch. What we need is the Carriers to be held liable for facilitating theft if they allow a reported device to be used on their networks.

Fortune! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44009705)

Let them mandate it... then you can do the following:

1) Steal Phone
2) Remove SIM card / power down phone / Airplane mode the bitch.
3) Root
4) Change IMEI number that the device reports to a valid one.
5) Profit.

Okay then (3, Insightful)

djdanlib (732853) | about 10 months ago | (#44009711)

Who's going to inform all of the would-be muggers that the world of cell phones suddenly changed? Bad muggers! Stop mugging! That'll show em! They know they can still sell the phones for parts and make more money than they would just selling a phone. It's not going to deter them from stealing the phone. Besides, JTAG and such will continue to render inoperable phones operable, not to mention that it may be possible to bypass the kill function if you get into the phone fast enough.

Look at Egypt and Turkey and wherever else. This is an excellent way for a government to say "No more smartphone for you, protestor!" Even if they don't use it in the USA, who WILL use it? The hardware will be built to allow it, so the next nation to have unrest will simply broadcast the kill bits en masse, and the protestors will be censored. Sounds quite delicious from a dictatorship's standpoint.

Re:Okay then (3, Informative)

JeffAtl (1737988) | about 10 months ago | (#44009851)

Who's going to inform all of the would-be muggers that the world of cell phones suddenly changed?

The fence they use to offload their stolen phones.

Its about time. (1)

bhlowe (1803290) | about 10 months ago | (#44009741)

The cool part will be the GPS location of the stolen phone... even if the user tries to wipe it... Even if jailbroken, if a call is made with a stolen phone, it should be easy to tell its stolen. This should lead to craigslist postings where it says, iPod Touch for sale, do not attach to iTunes, do not update the firmware, and do not attempt to use the phone.

Re:Its about time. (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 10 months ago | (#44009777)

Short of magic how would that work?

If I control the OS how exactly do you prevent me from uninstalling/deleting this software? How do you prevent me from patching around this?

This is just another ruse to get you to beg for trusted computing.

Re:Its about time. (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | about 10 months ago | (#44009853)

If I control the OS how exactly do you prevent me from uninstalling/deleting this software? How do you prevent me from patching around this?

Apple controls the firmware. That will make it very, very hard to install a different OS, and impossible to boot into it.

Re:Its about time. (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 10 months ago | (#44009893)

Jailbreaking will occur, just as it has in the past.

Also this is not being proposed just for Apple. I will not buy a device I am not allowed to own.

solution is Hired goons/private security (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44009751)

1. install app that secretly activates radio pulses when phone receives an innocuous text message
2. install companion app on tablet that will exactly track the location of the phone by these pulses
3. hire a couple of goons or get some big friends to break the fingers of the guy who has your phone and take it back

Paranoia about the kill switch... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44009775)

I AM wary of the whole kill switch idea being used by someone else, but maybe thats a little paranoia. Its not like they couldn't deactivate your service if they didn't want you to use the phone, they wouldn't have to kill it.

Did they ever stop to think? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44009803)

If theft of phones become unprofitable, criminals will switch to other crimes!

So what's the real motivation? (1)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | about 10 months ago | (#44009815)

If this page can swell up with well thought out objections within the matter of minutes, something tells me preventing thefts is not the real motivation for something like this...

Two unrelated problems. (1)

aoeu (532208) | about 10 months ago | (#44009823)

In the course of a strong arm robbery it is important to get away. That means taking the victim's phone whether or not it is smart.

ridiculous (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 10 months ago | (#44009849)

Without a clear ESN, nobody can activate a phone anyway. So the owner would just mark the phone as not having a clear ESN manually or simply don't pay their bills and tada, it's useless. At least CDMA works that way. The vastly inferior GSM system is a theft waiting to happen.

By the way, what's going to stop people from stealing the screen glass, screen, and battery from a smartphone and ebaying it? Do they have a killswitch for that?

Shouldn't cell phone thefts help police? (5, Insightful)

hawguy (1600213) | about 10 months ago | (#44009885)

If 1 in 3 robberies involve stealing a tracking device that can lead police back to the culprit, shouldn't that be making the job of police much easier?

Instead of a "kill-switch", shouldn't law enforcement be asking for a tracking beacon that can be turned on to help track down all of these stolen phones? (I know Apple's kill-switch does enable GPS tracking, but that doesn't seem to be what the Attorney General is asking for). It's not like criminals are going to say "Oh geeze, I can't sell a stolen cell phone anymore, guess I should finish up my degree and get a real job" -- They are still going to be committing crimes, but will steal cash and expensive purses instead of cell phones.

Re:Shouldn't cell phone thefts help police? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44010015)

Hey that sounds like a great idea. Too bad they already can do that no doubt. Why do they not do it? Your phone is "only" worth a few hundred dollars. They have more important things to do like eating donuts. There's the REAL problem.

Re:Shouldn't cell phone thefts help police? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44010305)

You're assuming that the police have the time and interest to recover the cell phone. I'd bet in most cases, they're focused on "bigger" crimes.

Re:Shouldn't cell phone thefts help police? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44010351)

On the other hand, if we were to employ explosive battery technology, then the "kill-switch" technique would hold the promise to radically curb both law enforcement and incarcination expenditures.

captcha: muslin

Why do we need this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44009887)

It's my understanding that phones have a limited life outside your hands -- thief doesn't get the charger, you report the phone stolen and the SIM card is deactivated, boom. Done. And if you're smart you already had a lock on your phone and/or encryption, so it's not like they're going to get your personal info either. Why do we need a way to remotely deactivate cell phones?

They don't want to catch criminals (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44009923)

Nuke the phone after it's been stolen? really? really really?

They are the best tracking devices out there and you want to disable it. The guy with the phone is a known thief, you can now track him/her/hir without problem.

The police are lazy, they really don't want to arrest anyone. They'd rather sit round at dunkin donuts eating egg and bacon donuts.
.

Anti-Phone-Theft Kill Switch (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about 10 months ago | (#44009939)

Is that how now is called an enforced remote backdoor? What ensures you that it won't be used to i.e. track everyone, where they are, what they use, what they write or how licensed is the media they are playing? Will be outlawed (or at least, not offered by the companies) the "non-approved" phones because of this?

Probably "think on the children" and "or the terrorist will win" were too used this week, and they had to invent something else. But i would had waited a few weeks so the massive awareness on how they are tracking us deflates a bit before proposing such kind of things.

if it happens it will be a token gesture. (1)

nimbius (983462) | about 10 months ago | (#44009993)

carriers and handset manufacturers have absolutely no incentive to make this happen. a market for phone theft insurance exists already, and the ability to disable a stolen phone would arguably reduce the number of phones providers could vend to a specific customer. District attorneys enjoy taking up cause celebre things like 'phone kill switches' because its an election year for most of these guys. rampant theft of the most coveted cellphones is a side effect of the philosophy of futility. That the very idea one might lose their bugati, prada, or iPhone is not only understood, but actively encouraged by advertisers subconsciously as a selling point of the product. exclusivity, social inequality, and elitism are all parts of the culture of conspicuous consumption we've all agreed are acceptable, nay, even ancicipated.

the effective solution is to keep expensive personal electronics secured on your person or away from view in questionable or dangerous areas and situations, or simply stop keeping up with the joneses and start buying something practical and affordable.

better solution! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44010021)

in addition to the 'kill switch' every phone should come with a hand gun to protect the user from robbers!

Instead of creating a vulnerable rootkit... (1)

hsthompson69 (1674722) | about 10 months ago | (#44010023)

...why not just issue a CCW with every smartphone purchased, under the condition that the purchaser passes the required training and background checks?

If thieves knew that smartphone owners might be armed and dangerous, they just might stop thieving.

Kill switch? Why? (1)

Todd Knarr (15451) | about 10 months ago | (#44010025)

Why would the phone need special support? Every phone has a burned-in IMEI. So the subscriber registers the IMEI to their subscriber ID (IMSI) when they activate their phone. It can even be automated: when a SIM's issued to a subscriber, the first time it's put in a phone the carrier associates that phone's IMEI with the IMSI. Then, when the subscriber reports his phone stolen, the carrier publishes the IMEI to a database. All carriers check that database, and when an IMEI that appears in the database tries to connect to their network they reject it. The phone can still be used stand-alone, but how useful is a cel phone that can't connect to a network? And of course since the carrier now knows at least the cel tower the phone's connecting to if not the actual GPS coordinates, it's easy for them to forward the location to the local police and if there's a unit in the vicinity not doing anything more important they just got an easy bust. And maybe a big one, if the cel phone was being used by criminals because it was stolen and not directly traceable back to them. If the phone sent GPS coordinates you've got air-tight probabl cause: you know the phone's been reported stolen, you know it's at this location, that means that whoever's got it has to be at least receiving stolen property and that should more than satisfy any judge as probable cause to search the place. No phone support for any of this needed, it's all carrier-side and can't be bypassed short of disabling the radio in the phone so it can't connect to a carrier's network (which kind of defeats the purpose of stealing a cel phone in the first place).

Remember "Civil Unrest" (1)

sehlat (180760) | about 10 months ago | (#44010027)

Riot starts, demonstration starts, somebody says "Kill the phones." The providers will love it. They'll just slap a "reactivation fee" on everybody, even innocent bystanders, whose phones got zapped.

This will CAUSE more murders (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44010077)

If a violent criminal knows that you can totally disable the phone, what's stopping him from killing you to prevent that from happening?

An anti-theft kill switch is the last thing I want (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44010087)

Some years ago I attempted to pay for some goods in a store in Helsinki with my credit card.
The stores cash register refused and the next thing I knew I was in the back of a police van on the way to the police station.
Turns out the cash register alerted that my card was stolen.
It took me some time to convince them who I was (Even though I had my passport in my pocket) and that the card was mine and that their was sufficient funds available to cover the purchase.

How much more easy to kill my phone by accident?

No thanks.

   

What could possibly go wrong? (1)

I'm not god any more (613402) | about 10 months ago | (#44010209)

I just can't imagine how this could possibly go wrong for all those apple lovers.
This might be the killer feature that will transition OSX to iOS, so those computer users can also benefit from this marvelous technology.
It's just a matter of time before the government will be replacing Social Security numbers with Apple IDs and retirement benefits will move over to iTunes gift cards.
The realization of Corporate America is almost here.

Just like we have a kill switch in our cars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44010247)

"Law enforcement officials nationwide are demanding the creation of a 'kill switch' that would render automobiles inoperable after they are stolen, New York's top prosecutor said Thursday in a clear warning to the world's automotive manufacturers. Citing statistics showing that 1 in 3 robberies nationwide involve the theft of an automobile, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced the formation of a coalition of law enforcement agencies devoted to stamping out what he called an 'epidemic' of car robberies. 'All too often, these robberies turn violent,' said Schneiderman, who was joined at a news conference by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon. 'There are assaults. There are murders.'"

Re:Just like we have a kill switch in our cars? (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 10 months ago | (#44010287)

You've obviously missed the stories about the police wanting kill switches in cars so they don't have to chase them any more.

The problem with argument by absurdity is that the government has probably already come up with the idea.

Why? (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | about 10 months ago | (#44010343)

When there is so much work that needs to be done. Short term solutions abound that can be selected by those who do not care but are in a place guiding others to act. Why would someone have so much free time that waiting for another to victumize is considered a best choice? Why is stealing a phone punishable, but robo-filing to forclose a home not?

My phone already does this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44010349)

Wait, your Android and iOS based phones don't do this? Mine does. Thank god for Blackberry. The Z10 is awesome!

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>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...