These days, smart phones, tablets, and other mobile devices are all the rage for petty thieves. Last year, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman put out a call to action for tech companies to do something that would make stealing gadgets a waste of time. Implementing a kill switch program into smart phones and tablets would not be difficult to do and would be a major deterrent for criminals that can currently wipe a device back to the factory settings and use it like its brand new. Today, a number of tech companies have promised to add new anti-theft technology in mobile devices beginning next year.
Five of the largest U.S. cellular carries, as well as a few top mobile device makers, signed the voluntary commitment pledge, which states that companies agree to include the ability to remotely wipe data and render devices inoperable starting July of 2015.
Companies include Apple, Google, HTC, Wuawei, Motorla, Microsoft, Nokia, and Samsung. These companies will provide a kill switch that can be activated by a device owner, which prevents it from being reactivated without the owner’s permission. The wiped data will be accessible to the owner if the lost or stolen device is recovered.
Apple implemented an Activation Lock in iOS 7 that can be remotely activated. When “Find my iPad” is on, the security feature requires the user’s Apple ID and password in order to turn off the device locator, erase data, or reactivate it after being reset.
Many legislators approve of the voluntary agreement. CTIA President Steve Largent considers it a great example of the tech industry working with regulators and consumer groups.
“We appreciate the commitment made by these companies to protect wireless users in the event their smartphones are lost or stolen,” Largent said in a statement. “This flexibility provides consumers with access to the best features and apps that fit their unique needs while protecting their smartphones and the valuable information they contain. At the same time, it’s important different technologies are available so that a ‘trap door’ isn’t created that could be exploited by hackers and criminals.”
However, California Senator Mark Leno considers the commitment to be too weak.
“The wireless industry today has taken an incremental yet inadequate step to address the epidemic of smartphone theft,” Leno said in a statement. “Only weeks ago, they claimed that the approach they are taking today was infeasible and counterproductive. While I am encouraged they are moving off of that position so quickly, today’s ‘opt-in’ proposal misses the mark if the ultimate goal is to combat street crime and violent thefts involving smartphones and tablets.”