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Mobile Carriers Say No to Proposed 'Kill Switch' to Deter Smartphone Theft

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Don't expect to find a "kill switch" on your mobile device any time in the near future.

Despite the efforts of lawmakers in San Francisco and New York to encourage smartphone makers to create technologies that make mobile devices unusable if stolen, the initiative has been rejected. But not by the cell phone makers. A trade group representing the mobile carriers -- including Verizon and AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint -- did not grant permission to the initiative, according to a report today from the New York Times.

The initiative, called "Secure Our Smartphones," was launched this summer by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón. The thinking is that if a smartphone can effectively be turned off, that should help deter crimes related to the theft of smartphones, which is said to be on the rise.

Related: Lawmakers Push for 'Kill Switch' to Deter Smartphone Theft

But in a filing to the Federal Communications Commission several weeks ago, the CTIA wireless association said "a kill switch isn't the answer." Mobile carriers apparently would need to approve plans by phone makers to include any type of kill switch on their devices.

In the filing, the CTIA said a kill switch would pose risks because "hackers who took control of the feature could disable phones for customers, including the phones used by officials in the Department of Defense and law enforcement," the New York Times said.

Of course, smartphone and tablet users are able to encrypt data and lock their devices with security passwords, but devices haven't usually included built-in features to permanently shut them down. This summer, Apple released a feature called Activation Lock that allows users to disable their iPhones should they be lost or stolen. Google offers a similar service called Android Device Manager for devices that run the Android operating system.

Related: 10 Easy Steps to Track, Lock and Wipe Data From Your Android Devices
 

Edition: May 2017

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