Smartphone Kill Switch Requirement Proposed as Federal Bill

Kill Switch Would Guard Against Theft, Lawmakers Say

Smartphone Kill Switch

It was only a week ago that Democratic State Senator Mark Leno from California proposed requiring a kill switch on smartphones sold in the state, but the idea has already made its way to the federal level. Now federal lawmakers have also proposed a smartphone kill switch requirement as a federal bill.

This past Thursday, the national legislation for a way to disable smartphones should they be lost, stolen, or otherwise compromised, was introduced by Democratic Senators Barbara Mikulski (MD), Amy Klobuchar (MN), Richard Blumenthal (CT), and Mazie Hirono (HI). The intent of this kill switch would be to ensure the smartphone user’s protection against theft and against hackers. In particular, if passed into law, the bill, known as the Smartphone Theft Protection Act, would especially have an effect on major cities, where theft of cellular phones is common.

The founder of the bill, Minnesota State Senator, Amy Klobuchar stressed that cell phone theft has become increasingly popular among thieves who know they can cash in on the technology and take advantage of the information in the devices. Theft is costing smartphone owners $30 billion each year and posing a substantial threat to their private information. The legislation will help keep people’s information, including identity and finances, from being compromised by people who shouldn’t have it by making phones useless to those attempting to steal them.

The mobile phone industry, however, is concerned about the effect that this smartphone kill switch that has been proposed as a federal bill. Their concern is that, if the bill is implemented and turned into a law, the smartphone kill switch could have a negative impact on the mobile phone customers and their phones. Some mobile experts are saying that the kill switch could, in fact, hurt more than it would help, and that it might actually increase a smartphone user’s chance of being hacked. They pointed out that hackers could create a “kill message,” and disable huge groups of cell phone users at a time. It was also pointed out that if a phone was taken by someone, it the kill switch technology could prevent a person from calling 911.

A mobile phone kill switch proposal was previously developed by Samsung late last year, but it was rejected, which California State Senator, Mark Leno, who initially proposed the bill at a state level, said that this was a case of companies choosing profits over safety. The iOS7 system has already come up with and implemented a similar safety technology, Activation Lock. If an iPhone is stolen and a person essentially kills it with Find My iPhone, a person attempting to log in must  must know the Apple ID of the owner of the phone, otherwise they will not be able to access the device.

In addition to the smartphone kill switch being proposed as both a state and a federal bill, there has been raised concern about theft of not only smartphones, of different types technological devices and electronics as well. Europe is even currently working on a kill switch for motor vehicles in an effort to prevent theft, as evolving technology continues to become more susceptible to theft.

By Laura Clark

InformationWeek

PC Magazine

CNET