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Should we have a smartphone kill switch?

Posting in Technology

Some smartphone users who are unlucky enough to have their smartphones stolen can use remote kill switches to turn the valuable products into useless door stops. This "last resort" option could prevents thieves from profiting and could deter them from trying to steal in the first place. So why don't more smartphones have them?

While many consumers would consider this feature a boon if expanded, others believe that it carries more risk than benefit.

A number of U.S. carriers resist the idea of implementing the safeguard nationwide. The firms say that a kill switch -- which could be activated remotely by a username and password -- could be exploited by cybercriminals, and the damage would be difficult to undo if not used for its intended purpose.

However, critics argue that the process could be reversed by the carriers, and the rejection of a kill switch is entrenched in one thing: money. By introducing a kill switch, the companies could lose out on insurance plans, the reactivation of phones, and the sale of replacements.

San Francisco district attorney George Gascon, leader of a group of police and pro-kill switch parties across the United States called the Secure Our Smartphones Initiative (S.O.S.), says that the carriers' position is "motivated by profit."

S.O.S. and electronics giant Samsung have been working together to get a kill switch installed on the firm's products, but Gascon says the South Korean firm has hit roadblocks as carriers refuse to allow third-party solutions to be installed on the mobile devices.

In a statement, Samsung said:

"We are working with the leaders of the Secure Our Smartphones (S.O.S.) Initiative to incorporate the perspective of law enforcement agencies. We will continue to work with them and our wireless carrier partners towards our common goal of stopping smartphone theft."

Another option would be a database containing the details of stolen smartphones. However, unless every carrier worldwide participated, the effort would prove fruitless as devices could simply be shipped abroad and sold.

Via: CNN

Image credit: Flickr

— By on November 26, 2013, 1:16 AM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure