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Industry-Wide Smartphone "Kill Switch" Closer To Reality

samzenpus posted about 5 months ago | from the blow-it-up dept.

Cellphones 139

mpicpp (3454017) writes "The 'kill switch,' a system for remotely disabling smartphones and wiping their data, will become standard in 2015, according to a pledge backed by most of the mobile world's major players. Apple, Google, Samsung and Microsoft, along with the five biggest cellular carriers in the United States, are among those that have signed on to a voluntary program announced Tuesday by the industry's largest trade group. All smartphones manufactured for sale in the United States after July 2015 must have the technology, according to the program from CTIA. Advocates say the feature would deter thieves from taking mobile devices by rendering phones useless while allowing people to protect personal information if their phone is lost or stolen. Its proponents include law enforcement officials concerned about the rising problem of smartphone theft."

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Yay for government!!! (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46774755)

Now they won't need to backdoor devices when they want to erase evidence.

Re:Yay for government!!! (4, Interesting)

Tuidjy (321055) | about 5 months ago | (#46774795)

I wonder how easy it will be for someone unauthorized to force a cellphone off the air. And how easy it will be to get someone authorized to do it through social engineering.

I just hope that however they implement it, they make sure that emergency calls can still be made.

Re:Yay for government!!! (5, Informative)

Frobnicator (565869) | about 5 months ago | (#46774901)

The carriers already can (and do) block stolen phones. Each phone has a unique IMEI number, in addition to the SIM card number.

The carriers are already required to do this in some countries, and do it voluntarily in other countries. They just don't do it in the US.

IMEI blacklists are common in many countries, including the UK. When a device is stolen the IMEI number is put on the list and carriers reject the device and (potentially) notify investigators.

Re:Yay for government!!! (1)

fche (36607) | about 5 months ago | (#46775009)

IMEIs can sometimes (often?) be changed.

Re:Yay for government!!! (3, Insightful)

popo (107611) | about 5 months ago | (#46775715)

It would be foolish to think that the government "wants" this for out benefit. One thing has become abundantly clear over the past decade and that is that our government(s) want power, however illicit, and they are prepared to override personal and constitutional rights at literally every turn in order to achieve that power.

While this new power may be useful in the event of a "stolen phone" one also can't help notice that it can also be used to instantly disrupt communications between entire groups of people, for whatever reason the government should deem necessary.

Re:Yay for government!!! (2)

davester666 (731373) | about 5 months ago | (#46775949)

there is no reason to believe the gov't does not already have this capability, via secret agreements with at least the major carriers.

Re:Yay for government!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46776433)

I am thinking the same thing.

We already know any 'personal data' they claim they want to keep from thieves is already been stored on data bases. I'm not sure if their pathetic thinking is that they they'll convince people they are protected, from the hawk eyes of the US spying agencies, and are military style law enforcement. . Since those people or users with common sense know their data is already logged and kept on record.

I love the pandering for these companies/carries/and law enforcement.. When like I have said they know the data will be kept on record, so they could care less if the data on the phone is 'wiped out'. I sure they'll use this BS excuse "we have better things to do with our time" besides filing paper work on a stolen phone we know were not going to find, that would be law enforcement, for the monopolies, they'll use it and support this because "ohhh you lost or had your phone stolen?" "have you heard about our new model?" It will only cost you slightly more! What I have to buy another one? Or I have to pay a fee on my already ridiculous contract!!!

Re:Yay for government!!! (1)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about 5 months ago | (#46776455)

They would need to take control of the carriers to do this. In an apocalyptic scenario, taking over the carrier would disrupt your phone communications anyways.

I think the most important thing is being able to maintain evidence you record via your phone and that it can't be destroyed by destroying your phone. A solution to that would be proper cloud backups of your data to mega style providers where only you hold the key to your data.

Re:Yay for government!!! (4, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | about 5 months ago | (#46775329)

It is a royal pain in the ass to get a IMEI blacklisted. I had to fight AT&T even though I sent them the police report and the phone was in their records as my property.
"But it's currently activated" Yes, by the thief, blacklist it.
"but that is one of our gophone customers", Yes the thief blacklist it.
"but but....." Do I need to get a lawyer involved?
"One moment please...."

99% will not force them to blacklist the phone but just let it go. To hell with who they sold the phone to, I was not going to stop until the phone was forever disabled from being a phone.

Re:Yay for government!!! (3, Insightful)

fche (36607) | about 5 months ago | (#46775495)

Be really careful though in whose hands (in theory and in practice) the kill switch will fit. The cure (unconsentual shutdowns or other unintended consequences) may be worse than the disease (occasional theft).

Re:Yay for government!!! (3, Informative)

puto (533470) | about 5 months ago | (#46776651)

I will say this on my public account. I work for AT&T for the last year all you have to do is call customer service, we can see the phone was originally on your account and we can blacklist it, 30 seconds. And company policy no rep would have told you it was on another account, be it pay as you go or post paid.

Re:Yay for government!!! (2)

omglolbah (731566) | about 5 months ago | (#46775649)

The issue is that a lot of the phones stolen make their way out of those countries to a place where they CAN be used.

China is supposedly a big place to sell stolen phones (big shock).

Exactly, this "Kill Switch" is idiotic (2)

Ecuador (740021) | about 5 months ago | (#46775671)

And dangerous. Just make IMEI be on read-only memory so that it is not over-written, and then, instead of rejecting stolen phones you can even pinpoint them and send a cop to pick them up along with the thief... All the technology is already there, the only problem is that there are no rules that make carriers tell you (or even the police) where your stolen phone is and who has it (in many countries SIM cards are not anonymous by law).

Re:Yay for government!!! (3, Insightful)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 5 months ago | (#46775799)

IMEI blacklists are common in many countries, including the UK. When a device is stolen the IMEI number is put on the list and carriers reject the device and (potentially) notify investigators.

It's not the IMEI blacklists that I'm worried about. See, if we already have the technology to disconnect devices from the networks, and we have encryption available on the devices, so we really don't need this new "remote kill switch" anti-feature. Folks worried about losing data can use encryption if they want to protect their data, and the remote kill switch doesn't prevent theft because Faraday Cages exist, and black-market thieves will figure out a way to zilch the chip's radio or NoOP the part of baseband/firmware blob that activates the kill switch, etc.

What I'm worried about is getting a "device bricking" standard for all devices so that all they have to do is flip from blacklist to whitelist, and presto they'll only function if they ping corporate/government towers every so often and authenticate with an approved citizen's ID code. Can you say Forced Obsolescence? [archive.org] Intel demonstrated their capability for PCs, and cars now have black boxes standard. The Pentagon has plans to push things like this through for anti-activism purposes. [theguardian.com]

Here's how you know it's a government job: This non-feature isn't being implemented by customer demand. This isn't something that these folks started offering then got popular and now they're standardizing on, nope. It's something they're making standard whether you want it or not. That's a huge red flag. Isn't this a fucking capitalist country? No, it really isn't. This is anti-consumer collusion of the highest degree. The US Is a plutocracy. [economyincrisis.org] Just like Noam Chomsky has been saying for decades. [rawstory.com] If the USA was a capitalist country then we would allow the market to decide if end users actually want this non-feature whereby the government or your carrier can not just cut off the cell-tower, but brick the devices, cars, computers, etc. to prevent them from being used anywhere. Late on a payment? Oh, they don't just cut off your service, you won't have a device or car to drive to work. Say something "anti-American"? Well, your cell will die on the road and so will your car, then you'll just be black-hooded out of service too. Do consumers really want this? Of course the answer is no. Thus this will be legislated into place "for your own good". Just like censorship and wholesale warrant-less wiretap spying is, and for the same reason as always. [wikipedia.org]

The Stasi would have creamed their pants for some shit like this on machines and typewriters. What soldier would sign up to fight for a country that's doing this shit? If not for uniforms, you wouldn't know which side to fight against: Given only a description of the country's behaviors you'd find us indistinguishable from our supposed worst enemies. If you don't think that's a valid comparison because of some moral high-ground, then you don't know about the Native American genocide or the US eugenics programs. What a sad time to be an American.

Re:Yay for government!!! (3, Interesting)

mjwx (966435) | about 5 months ago | (#46775865)

The carriers already can (and do) block stolen phones. Each phone has a unique IMEI number, in addition to the SIM card number.

The carriers are already required to do this in some countries, and do it voluntarily in other countries. They just don't do it in the US.

IMEI blacklists are common in many countries, including the UK. When a device is stolen the IMEI number is put on the list and carriers reject the device and (potentially) notify investigators.

Blacklists are useless.

Steal phone in the UK, sell it in Poland or Hungary where the carrier doesn't have a blacklist.

Or better yet, change the IMEI.

A remote wipe will be equally as useless as the criminals will just learn to immediately turn the phone off and then give it to someone who can disable the remote wipe. There's always someone willing to sell their knowledge/skills with no morals. Why would you think this doesn't extend to people who hack phones.

Re:Yay for government!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46776223)

Steal phone in the UK, sell it in Poland or Hungary where the carrier doesn't have a blacklist.

That sounds like a pain in the ass for random crooks who just want to grab an easy phone and sell it to someone they bump into.

Re:Yay for government!!! (1)

mlyle (148697) | about 5 months ago | (#46775895)

The problem is a fairly large proportion of GSM phones stolen in the US are sent to other countries, with carriers who do not blacklist from US theft reports.

Re:Yay for government!!! (1)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about 5 months ago | (#46776447)

I don't get why we don't just have a treaty organization to have an international IMEI/MEID blacklist.

I'm also kind of wondering how all of this would be impacted by Project Ara, which modularizes phones much in the same way PCs are.

Re:Yay for government!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46774913)

Who knows? Most phones aren't even close to open source, or aren't completely open source.

Re:Yay for government!!! (4, Insightful)

lgw (121541) | about 5 months ago | (#46774981)

Just watch for the first riot in 2016 under some authoritarian government. They'll "kill" all the cellphones of all the rioters to prevent organization and photography of police, not even a question about it.

Re:Yay for government!!! (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 5 months ago | (#46775163)

All you have to do is turn off the power to the towers. You don't have to fiddle with individually shutting down handsets. Or just jam the frequency. If it's AT&T they don't have to do anything at all, the network will just get busy and quit working.

Re:Yay for government!!! (2, Informative)

lgw (121541) | about 5 months ago | (#46775205)

People sent texts from protest marches in Iran and some of the Arab spring stuff, and the governments weren't successful in stopping that. Also, you need a bigger hammer to keep people from using their phones to record police shooting at the crowd or other abuses. Remotely wiping the phones is a great win for dictators everywhere.

Re:Yay for government!!! (4, Insightful)

error_logic (1160341) | about 5 months ago | (#46775359)

This right here. It's one thing to be disconnected from a network, and quite another to have your system/data wiped selectively.

Re:Yay for government!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46776249)

How is that going to stop the various servious that upload what you record driectly off the phone? Who would record something potentially important to their phone only in a situation where there is a chance their phone may be physically damaged or taken?

Re:Yay for government!!! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46775267)

That still leaves wireless, the occasional "CB mode" and the basic abilities of the device themselves.
With the kill switch you make sure the angry men in riot gear about to "respond" to violent standing-still don't get videotaped doing questionable things or saying exactly what "un"authorized atrocity they're about to commit out loud.

There's nothing about this 'kill switch' that will help with what they claim it will (oh no, this wiped phone we were going to wipe and resell has been wiped, whatever shall we do) but it's a real wet-dream for those who intend to abuse their power and authority to a vicious degree.

Re:Yay for government!!! (2)

sgt scrub (869860) | about 5 months ago | (#46776459)

1) Snarf IMEI numbers and access devices as they pass by using an exploitable bluetooth bug.

2) Send letter to people telling them you own them and will do evil things to them if they do not pay up.

3) profit ???

4) Send letter to phone service using info snag'd from bug.

Hello,
My name is Passer Bye. My phone is stolen. The phone info is...

5) Send new letter.

6) profit ???

Re:Yay for government!!! (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | about 5 months ago | (#46776631)

The question is rather if there will be a massive OTA bricking of phones through this. Imagine this as a weapon in patent cases - already sold devices will be bricked by the opponent - with or without court order.

Re:Yay for government!!! (1)

FudRucker (866063) | about 5 months ago | (#46775521)

yup, a cellphone kill switch sounds ripe for government abuse and oppression & tyranny

Re:Yay for government!!! (2)

pepty (1976012) | about 5 months ago | (#46776177)

yup, a cellphone kill switch sounds ripe for government abuse and oppression & tyranny

So do cell phones.

Great... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46774763)

...This is really the time to put even more big brother into our devices. So, how is that open source baseband development going?

This is the real 'internet kill switch' (2, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | about 5 months ago | (#46774769)

They cant realistically kill the line ( "you cant stop the signal" ), but if you disable every access device known to man it would have the same effect... Killing every phone ( and soon tablets ) in one swoop would go a long way towards that goal.

This also gets around adhoc and private mesh networks that the feds have no real access to control.

Re:This is the real 'internet kill switch' (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46774823)

This is why we MUST have an open-source baseband.

Re:This is the real 'internet kill switch' (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 5 months ago | (#46775185)

This is why we MUST have an open-source baseband.

My order to shut down power / comms to the cell towers trumps your open - source baseband (if you even managed to get one going which is highly unlikely).

Signed,

Your local despot (or US Federal government, what ever makes you unhappiest).

Re:This is the real 'internet kill switch' (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46774917)

They cant realistically kill the line ( "you cant stop the signal" ), but if you disable every access device known to man it would have the same effect... Killing every phone ( and soon tablets ) in one swoop would go a long way towards that goal.

This also gets around adhoc and private mesh networks that the feds have no real access to control.

Perhaps this is the internet kill switch...for those immature enough to think that the only way to access the internet is through a fucking cell phone.

You know, it wasn't that long ago that we were NOT using a phone as an "access device" to surf the web, and for many, it sure as shit isn't the only device.

Standard, mandatory feature? No, thanks. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46774789)

If all phones have to have a remote kill switch, then anyone with sufficient power and motive can flip the switch on a phone they don't own, or all the phones belonging to a group they don't like...

Re:Standard, mandatory feature? No, thanks. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46774875)

If it lets me kill the phone if the wanker in front of me driving at 20mph, I'll be happy.

Re:Standard, mandatory feature? No, thanks. (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about 5 months ago | (#46775133)

If it lets me kill the phone if the wanker in front of me driving at 20mph, I'll be happy.

Unless the guy behind you has one too and thinks it's your fault..

Re:Standard, mandatory feature? No, thanks. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46775695)

If it lets me kill the phone if the wanker in front of me driving at 20mph, I'll be happy.

Or maybe he kills the phone of the wanker tailgating him...

Yeah, Maybe let's not go down this road, so to speak.

Re:Standard, mandatory feature? No, thanks. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46775981)

Damm right. Cops beat a pregnant woman in the street and shoot her 6 year old son. Blood splatters everywhere, woman is screaming while cop is on top of her and choking her to death. Civilians are filming the important police work with their cell phones. Officer X picks up his radio and calls in 'Dispatch, need a 10-09'. A few seconds later the dispatcher comes back with '10-09 is confirmed'.

All the dispatcher did was click on the current incident tab on her screen and then on the 10-09 button, but under the hood the backend application sent a command to a hub that connects all cell networks. That command included the officer's exact location. Each cell network in turn received the request and then proceeded to determine what phones were within a 300ft radius of the officer's location 10 minutes before and 10 minutes after the timestamp in the request. The software doing that queued purge requests to a message queue with an application on the other end that communicates with the individual device agents on the cell phone. The device agents received the purge command and the mobile phones locked up for about a minute while the purge was underway. Those that were smart enough to turn off their phones were surprised when their phones were wiped the next day when the application again picked their purge-request off the message queue and passed it on to the device agent.

While all this was underway, also another application running in a data center somewhere in Utah received the same information and increased individual security risk scores on all individuals involved.

The woman ended up giving birth in prison, charged with assaulting police officers with deadly intent and a slew of other charges. Her child will grow up in a foster home. The people who were bystanders had their phones wiped and no further action was taken against them.

All except for one person who had been protesting police brutality for a number of years. He was on a watch list. When the police department automatically received an NCIC message from that data center in Utah advising them of his presence at the scene they knocked one evening at his door. He didn't open, so they kicked in the door and shot him in the face.

Re:Standard, mandatory feature? No, thanks. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46776285)

Each cell network in turn received the request and then proceeded to determine what phones were within a 300ft radius of the officer's location 10 minutes before and 10 minutes after the timestamp in the request.

Yeah, that will work great the first time someone with money or influence happens to have been driving through or near by such an area. Even some really crappy areas in some cities are close enough to places of business that doing that would piss off the wrong people. Not to mention not actually deleting recordings of events by people who save their video and images directly to a web service, because they were afraid a cop might walk up to them and take their phone or ask to watch them delete the file.

Advocates and Proponents only? (1)

brxndxn (461473) | about 5 months ago | (#46774793)

Smartphones already have a fucking kill switch - it's up to the networks to provide service. If the networks wanted (or a law required them), they could make it so phones are disabled immediately at the request of the user who OWNS the phone.

The only point to making this a law (and industry standard) is to be able to quell widespread protest.

Re:Advocates and Proponents only? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46774873)

Your theory makes no sense. It's fairly easy for underworld types to change the IMEI of a stolen phone. See, for example: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-london-26979061. That's why (I think) a kill switch makes a little more sense, depending on how it's implemented.

Further, if they were only concerned with the ability to "quell widespread protest", I'd refer you back to your first sentence: "Smartphones already have a fucking kill switch - it's up to the networks to provide service. If the networks wanted (or a law required them), they could make it so phones are disabled immediately"

Re:Advocates and Proponents only? (1)

Albanach (527650) | about 5 months ago | (#46775229)

Is it really that difficult to come up with a chip of write once memory, so that when the IMEI is programmed it can never be altered? Better still if it could be incorporated into the CPU or a similar part that would be unfeasibly difficult to remove. Is there any good reason that the IMEI can be reprogrammed?

Re:Advocates and Proponents only? (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 5 months ago | (#46775343)

Yes, because that would cost $0.001 more per phone and then they cant have solid gold toilets in the executive bathroom.

Re:Advocates and Proponents only? (1)

MasseKid (1294554) | about 5 months ago | (#46774903)

That makes no sense. The providers are already clearly in bed with the feds given everything that's been leaked lately. There's nothing stopping them from them forcing the providers to shut down service now, if there's nothing stopping them from activating a kill switch later. The problem you describe already exists. Then again, so does remote kill of all GM vehicles via OnStar, yet as scary as that sounds, there hasn't been serious abuse of it so far. Doesn't mean vigilance should stop, but it also bounds the likely hood of something happening.

Re:Advocates and Proponents only? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46774945)

but it also bounds the likely hood of something happening.

Actually, it doesn't. All it means is that the government hasn't decided to do anything yet. History shows, millions of times over, that those with unchecked power (or power at all, really, but especially unchecked) will abuse it. The abuse of these things is an inevitability.

More importantly, if they can kill my phone remotely, and I have no realistic way of preventing it, it means that I don't control my own device! This is part of why it's so important to oppose proprietary, locked-down garbage and DRM.

Use stolen devices on Wi-Fi (2)

tepples (727027) | about 5 months ago | (#46775001)

Just because no carrier will provide a cellular signal to a smartphone doesn't mean it's useless on the black market. Is it really that hard for a thief to fence an iPhone as if it were an iPod touch?

Re:Use stolen devices on Wi-Fi (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 5 months ago | (#46775199)

Pieces parts. Parts is parts.

What about consumer rights? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46774819)

Why are you foisting this on us if we don't want it?!?!

Re:What about consumer rights? (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 5 months ago | (#46774871)

Why are you foisting this on us if we don't want it?!?!

Because law enforcement wants it.

Industry-Wide, Hacker Triggers Phone Kill Switch (4, Insightful)

Kremmy (793693) | about 5 months ago | (#46774851)

One step closer to reality.

Re:Industry-Wide, Hacker Triggers Phone Kill Switc (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46775047)

Or, authoritarian governments who don't like protesters organizing trigger the kill switch in a town where an ongoing protest is occurring anyone unlucky enough to be around when it happens no longer has a smartphone and cannot tweet/facebook/etc any longer. Alternatively, that same government triggers the kill switch and it accidentally gets routed to the u.s. and an entire state or states also gets disabled. We saw something similar happen recently when Venezuela was hijacking DNS to bring down sites they didn't like but they had intended only to do it locally but it triggered in the u.s. and elsewhere as well.

In addition, it might be used by an enemy state, e.g. usa v.s. russia before an attack to wipe out the enemy's communications and trigger chaos and social unrest during an invasion or ballistic attack.

Basically, this needs to be given a lot more thought.

Re:Industry-Wide, Hacker Triggers Phone Kill Switc (2)

Pentium100 (1240090) | about 5 months ago | (#46775231)

Or, authoritarian governments who don't like protesters organizing trigger the kill switch in a town where an ongoing protest is occurring anyone unlucky enough to be around when it happens no longer has a smartphone and cannot tweet/facebook/etc any longer.

Some protesters could have older phones without the kill switch. So, the more appropriate method is to ask (nicely, or send some guys with guns) the cell service providers to shut down all towers in the required area. This method works on all phones.

Cellphones are short range devices - if the government wants to, it can shut all of them down. Same with the internet.

What you need is a satellite phone and ham radio if you want to evade the government's attempts to silence you, for a while anyway.

Why that would not work (3, Informative)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 5 months ago | (#46776027)

So, the more appropriate method is to ask (nicely, or send some guys with guns) the cell service providers to shut down all towers in the required area.

They are not going to do that because a cell tower covers a lot more area than any protest.

Consider the protest in Nevada recently over the Bundy Ranch cattle being taken by armed federal agents. If you shut down cell access for that group, you are shutting down cell access for a potentially very large area of I-15. That's just not going to happen.

The reason why the kill switch would be used is that it cuts off video/image feeds from newer devices, the older phones that still might work would not be as much of a concern. As long as the government can prevent video and images escaping real time they have a lot more latitude in dealing with civilians.

Re:Industry-Wide, Hacker Triggers Phone Kill Switc (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46775859)

You post that, like it's a bad thing.

Frankly, if someone was able to switch off a significant number of devices, say 100,000, I'd be glad. It'd prove this type of implementation, and the gatekeepers for it, are just as consistent with lack security, as they are with ipad owner phone numbers and email addresses. I.e, they'll blame the 'bad guy' rather than secure the gates.

Now, switch off say, 10,000,000 mobile devices? Perhaps they would take this 'feature', as a bad idea.

Bad, Bad idea (2)

Virtucon (127420) | about 5 months ago | (#46774863)

This whole idea is unnecessary if the wireless carriers would just set up a database of stolen IMEI information. And while ESNs can be wiped, if a questionable ESN is discovered, like all zeros you can block the phone from being provisioned. If you did that stolen cell phones would be worth zero and we wouldn't have to introduce another tool that can be used by governments to lock us out of communicating. With mobile traffic increasing faster than any other sector on the Internet, this gives the governments of the world an effective Internet Kill Switch.

Re:Bad, Bad idea (1)

Frobnicator (565869) | about 5 months ago | (#46774951)

This whole idea is unnecessary if the wireless carriers would just set up a database of stolen IMEI information.

They already do in many countries. The UK has had IMEI blacklists for several years. The US is just late to the party.

Now in an ideal world they would actually track the devices back, notify law enforcement, and collect the stolen device. But sadly that doesn't happen.

Re:Bad, Bad idea (4, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | about 5 months ago | (#46774967)

What you describe is probably exactly how the kill switch will be implemented. (How else would it be implemented?)

All the hyperbole in here is silly. Try not paying your phone bill and you will discover there is already a "kill switch." The questions at issue are administrative - how to share the list of stolen phones between carriers, set the criteria for putting a phone on the list, etc.

Re:Bad, Bad idea (1)

Pentium100 (1240090) | about 5 months ago | (#46775251)

The idea behind this is that the phone somehow discovers that it was stolen and then bricks itself, deleting all the data. If somebody stole my phone, the thief would not get service (after I notified the police and the provider), but he would still have my data. And.he could rewrite the IMEI to something else to get service.

Re:Bad, Bad idea (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 5 months ago | (#46775513)

According to the article the owner would have control over whether the phone gets wiped. My point, mainly, is that handsets are utterly dependent on infrastructure in any case, so the notion that this will give sweeping new powers to the government to suppress dissent are unfounded.

As a teacher... (3, Funny)

MindPrison (864299) | about 5 months ago | (#46774867)

...I'd love a Smartphone kill switch, oh sweet...the revenge!

Reversibility (3, Insightful)

axlash (960838) | about 5 months ago | (#46774893)

Whatever they do, I hope they make the disablement reversible, for those who think they've had their phone stolen, only to find that it was just misplaced - or if the phone is later recovered from the thief.

Re:Reversibility (2)

Enigma2175 (179646) | about 5 months ago | (#46776663)

Whatever they do, I hope they make the disablement reversible, for those who think they've had their phone stolen, only to find that it was just misplaced - or if the phone is later recovered from the thief.

I don't think you will get what you want. Allowing it to be reversible would not be in the carrier's interest because they would not be able to sell you a new phone and force you to sign a new 2 year contract. They are not interested in what you want, they are interested in what makes them more money.

If only there was a kills witch for ads (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46774911)

Because right after big pharma and gov, marketing needs to diaf.

What will it be used for? (1)

rover42 (2606651) | about 5 months ago | (#46774949)

Will the companies start killing phones if there is an overdue or disputed bill? If you unlock or jailbreak a phone? If this bill is passed without really strong consumer protections built in, it could be a disaster.

Re:What will it be used for? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46775611)

It's already possible to do this without the kill switch. You simply block either the SIM card or the IMEI.

I am not worried about my data (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46774957)

If someone steals my phone, I am fairly certain they will not be able to access the data (encrypted, PIN, etc). However, they can easily flash it, install the rom of their choice and sell it. So my main concern regarding theft is that the hardware is worth several hundred $. When will there be some form of access control for recovery mode?

You can bet NSA has the keys (4, Interesting)

Darth Muffin (781947) | about 5 months ago | (#46774971)

The NSA is why this is a bad idea. Once this is in, I'll bet you'll start seeing this used by the govt. First at Boston Bombing type events, then later at demonstrations like Occupy Wallstreet, and then wherever the president happens to be touring at the moment.

What would the govt of some place like Egypt have given for a phone kill switch?

Re:You can bet NSA has the keys (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46775087)

Huh?? It already happens; in certain of those demonstrations cell towers were simply turned off. No kill switch required.

Re:You can bet NSA has the keys (1)

doug141 (863552) | about 5 months ago | (#46775641)

interesting. posting to fix moderation error.

Re:You can bet NSA has the keys (2)

Pentium100 (1240090) | about 5 months ago | (#46775299)

What would the govt of some place like Egypt have given for a phone kill switch?

Nothing. All governments have a cellphone kill switch that affects an area.Just turn off the towers in that area and no phone will work. And I doubt that the government would go trough the trouble of identifying the protesters one by one and just disabling their phone (which can be done now, just block the IMEI).

Re:You can bet NSA has the keys (2)

Avidiax (827422) | about 5 months ago | (#46775325)

The NSA wants your data, hence they want your phone to work. The only reason I can imagine that they'd disable phones in a wide area is if there were cell phone detonators, and even that is usually accomplished by simple jamming.

That would stop all those police brutality videos (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46775015)

"and wiping their data"... Yes, I can understand why police would want the ability to remotely wipe the data - data would include all those "awkward" videos of police that keep getting on youtube. Back to the pre-Rodney King days where it was just the upstanding policeman's word against the nefarious 'criminal' trying to slander him.

We can't have the citizens able to record the police now, can we?
besides, the police can monitor themselves
http://yro.slashdot.org/story/14/04/09/1545251/la-police-officers-suspected-of-tampering-with-their-monitoring-systems

Yet another attack surface (2)

stoploss (2842505) | about 5 months ago | (#46775099)

Idle speculation, but if people can exploit the *entire* Target POS system across the nation, it doesn't seem farfetched to imagine it would be possible to engage a carrier-wide (or multi-carrier) attack to wipe/deactivate countless phones at once via kill-switch.

Of course, if we are imagining a breach of the carrier, then an attack could cause a wide scale DoS even today. A mass kill-switching would just make it harder to restore service once the breach had been terminated.

When someone else controls your stuff (3, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | about 5 months ago | (#46775139)

When someone else controls your stuff, it's not your stuff. Look at Germany's gold! Where is it? It's in the US. They want it back, it's supposed to be on its way over... slowly. Net result, it's not Germany's gold. And if this tech makes it into our phones? Yeah, same thing. We "give up" our phones in order to prevent them from being stolen. Nice trade.

Is there a rising problem of smartphone theft? (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 5 months ago | (#46775143)

...and why would police care? Smartphones are rapidly becoming commodity items, and police have already demonstrated (to me at least) that they don't care about the theft of more valuable items than mere smartphones. For theft that doesn't involve violence, they give you a case number for your insurance and that's the end of their involvement. With the possible exception of stolen firearms, which the police seem to take far more seriously. So lessee... firearms, smartphones... what do these have in common?

Re:Is there a rising problem of smartphone theft? (2)

J053 (673094) | about 5 months ago | (#46775613)

The meme going around is that people are increasingly being mugged in major cities specifically for their smartphones. I don't know if that's real or not, but the cops in several places (SanFran, NYC, LA) are saying it is.

http://www.nclnet.org/technolo... [nclnet.org]

Re:Is there a rising problem of smartphone theft? (3, Insightful)

roc97007 (608802) | about 5 months ago | (#46775769)

That article is an excellent example of the complete absence of usable statistics. "Involve a cell phone" is very different from "mugged for their cell phone". Thefts are up 40%... from what? 10 people to 14 people? Of those 1.6 million people who had their handsets stolen last year, how many had their handsets stolen in the commission of a robbery where they took everything? How many were a purse snatching which happened to include a cell phone? In other words, is the real issue that criminals are targeting cell phones, or is it that more people have cell phones than at any time in the country's history, which would necessitate an increase in having them stolen?

I could probably make a case that most muggings involve theft of driver's licenses. Does this mean that thieves are targeting driver's licenses, or is it because the card is usually kept in the same wallet or pocketbook as the cash and credit cards?

Stolen iphones can be sold for "upwards of" $2K. What's the median? What's the volume? Is this a real problem?

Its only okay if I am the one that has the switch (4, Insightful)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 5 months ago | (#46775159)

If the government or the phone company has it, then it is not okay.

ahem. data not really gone... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46775271)

from tfa.. emphasis mine.

The feature, which will be offered at no cost to consumers, also will prevent the phone from being reactivated without an authorized user's consent. The data would be retrievable if the owner recovers the phone .

so.. the data is either just encrypted or obfuscated on the device (in other words, not really 'wiped' as promised), or (the scary and very real possibility) is wiped from the deivce but only after being uploaded to "somewhere" for possible retrieval by the verified owner (and whoever else has or hacks access to it).

glad we got dumb phones, nobody wants those.

Little Brother (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46775327)

Did you really think Big Brother was going to tolerate Little Brother and his embarrassing cell phone videos? Forever? And of course it's because of theft. Right.

I RTFA.... (4, Informative)

ABadDog (28370) | about 5 months ago | (#46775337)

From my interpretation of what's actually in the CITA program, this is no different than what's currently available in Apple's Find My iPhone capability. Allow the user to remotely lock (i.e. set a PIN) or wipe a device, and remove the pin and/or /restore the device if it's recovered.

It seems to me that all the armchair conspiracy theorists here are over-reacting.

Re:I RTFA.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46775417)

everyone said armchair conspiracy theorists where too paranoid about the nsa reading everybodies email until snowden. sorry, in a post-snowden world calling something a conspiracy theory doesn't discredit it. oh. and how about heartbleed? vulnerability in openssl that lets the nsa read anything? just conspiracy theory could never happen to open source.. until last week that is, now it's conspiracy fact.

this is to kill protestors phone... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46775345)

when the cops start shooting.

Solves one problem, introduces worse ones (2)

FuzzNugget (2840687) | about 5 months ago | (#46775365)

So, someone, other than the owner, will be able to remotely disable and wipe a smartphone? Yeah, that can't possibly go wrong.

Re:Solves one problem, introduces worse ones (1)

Worf Maugg (585507) | about 5 months ago | (#46775481)

Naw.... It'll be fine.

Phones are smart? (1)

steeleyeball (1890884) | about 5 months ago | (#46775407)

Smartphones, Really? They would have to kill the providers, and they make cell phone modules that a gerbil could interface to... or just tether a burner phone via USB to your actual Smart device and back up to that.

Motivation for legislation (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46775485)

Do politicians care about your phone being stolen, probably not. Would they like the ability to selectively destroy video of an abuse committed by the state, or
the ability of protesters to organize? Probably yes.

as long as (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46775607)

This kill switch is at *my* discretion, and nobody else's (not phone carrier, manufacturer, nor government) then I won't have any issue with it.

Governments don't need a kill switch. (1)

mmell (832646) | about 5 months ago | (#46775643)

(Personal opinion follows) Neither do cellular service providers. Both of those entities can disable connectivity on existing technology with any desired level of granularity.

I believe this is merely a show piece for consumer consumption. There may be some beneficial side-effects (such as forcing cellular providers to be more responsive to consumer complaints about stolen devices), but beyond that I just don't see anything changing here - except the addition of some amount of government oversight (I hope).

How is this going to change anything? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46775669)

This is an attempt by the mobile phone industry (carriers and manufacturers) to enact voluntary guidelines for disabling phones. What's not mentioned is that huge underground industry for stolen phones benefits the carriers and manufacturers. They sell more phones and more plans. This voluntary kill switch agreement is worthless. You can blacklist phones by IMEI but what's to stop someone from changing the IMEI? You can go out and download free software to change the IMEI of a phone [ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GsguWeB_fVo ]. What the carriers don't want to do which would be the most effective solution is to hard code the IMEI so that it can't be altered. Any voluntary agreement that will enable the stolen phone industry to continue operating is pure industry self interest and a veiled attempt at avoiding real government regulation that will cost them money.

BlackBerry did it first (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46775985)

Well, they at least were the first popular phone manufacturer that had this baked right into the handsets, Been in the phones for years, perhaps a decade.

Surprised to see the others still playing catchup to this feature.

Hmmm ... (2)

gstoddart (321705) | about 5 months ago | (#46776061)

This is how liberty dies ... with thunderous applause.

This will be abused. This will be used to shut down protests and stifle dissent. This will get hacked.

There's no way this toy ends up in the hands of anybody without eventually becoming a Really Bad Thing.

Re:Hmmm ... (1)

CrAlt (3208) | about 5 months ago | (#46776219)

This will be used to shut down protests and stifle dissent.

I disagree. "The Man" does not need any killswitch to cut off protesters. He only has to shut off the cell sites in the target area.
. Also if you brick the cellphone you can no longer track it. It would make more sense to block all traffic but leave the phones connected to the network and track them. This way to know WHO is there and where they are going.

I do agree that sooner or later it will get hacked. Imagine what would happen to ATT or VZN if every smartphone on their networked got bricked.

Sorry. I misunderstood. (1)

PPH (736903) | about 5 months ago | (#46776317)

I thought this was something we could use to exterminate all those smug bastards yakking on phones while driving or in line at Starbucks.

This has always been possible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46776467)

I've been able to nuke from orbit every smartphone and laptop I've ever owned. Its only become easier with greater mobile network availability, longer battery life, multiple radios etc. Not having this has always been a choice so don't blame it on the lack of a law requiring it. Mandating it and giving the keys to another entity does nothing but open you up to risk of abuse. Period.

Question (2)

CTU (1844100) | about 5 months ago | (#46776493)

Any way to disable that feature? I am not to worried about phone theft myself mostly because I get the cheaper smart phones and not an iPhone or other really popular models. So how would I disable having my phone disabled remote because I just don't want that crap on my device.

This is a good idea... (1)

Entropius (188861) | about 5 months ago | (#46776505)

... if and only if it involves me having the option to generate a public-private key pair when I get the phone, putting the public key on the phone, and telling it "melt yourself if someone gives you the private key". Then I can guard that private key however I like -- I can give it to the police, to the cellphone company, or to nobody.

I am fine if *I* have a killswitch. I'll be damned if I'm going to give someone else one.

New weapon in the patent fighting. (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | about 5 months ago | (#46776671)

Now the parties can call for bricking of unwanted competition phones - or let hackers do the deed.

One week all Samsung phones in service are bricked, the next all Apple phones, the loop will continue until only old Nokia 3310 phones are left.

What's the problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46776927)

Not seeing the issue. It very specifically says that the *user* can remotely kill the device, not law enforcement. This feature is already present on iPhones as a personal security feature.

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