Kill Switch to all Smartphones to Prevent Theft

A trade group for wireless providers said Tuesday that the USA’s biggest mobile device manufacturers and carriers will soon put anti-theft tools on the gadgets to try to deter rampant smartphone theft.

CTIA – The Wireless Association announced that under a “Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment,” the companies including Apple, Samsung, Verizon Wireless, AT&T, U.S. Cellular, Sprint, and T-Mobile have agreed to provide a free preloaded or downloadable anti-theft tool on smartphones sold in the U.S. after July 2015.

Owners’ options will include remotely removing a smartphone’s data and preventing reactivation if a phone is stolen or lost, the association said.

It appears the wireless industry has somewhat reversed course as law enforcement and elected officials in the U.S. demand that manufacturers implement a “kill switch” to combat surging smartphone theft across the country. Industry officials have previously said putting a permanent kill switch on phones has serious risks, including the potential that hackers could activate it.

The wireless industry’s announcement comes nearly two weeks after Samsung announced that it had added two anti-theft features, “Find My Mobile” and “Reactivation Lock,” to its recently released Galaxy S5 smartphone.

Apple created a similar “Activation Lock” feature for the popular iPhone last year and has offered a free tool called “Find My iPhone.”

Almost one in three robberies in the U.S. involve phone theft, according to the Federal Communications Commission. Lost and stolen mobile devices — mostly smartphones — cost consumers more than $30 billion in 2012, the agency said in a study.

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