Vendors Samsung, HTC, Apple, Nokia, Google, Microsoft, and more adopt smartphone anti-theft measures

PICTURE BETH WALSHMobile phone theft.

Worry no more about your phone landing in wrong hands now that a new pledge signed by nearly every major player in the phone industry is promising that after July of 2015, it will be a lot harder to steal a smartphone.

A smartphone kill switch, as described by CTIA’s Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment, will be shipping to phones produced after July 2015 at no additional cost to the customer, pre-installed, or downloadable by the manufacturers adhering to the document.

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Those carriers and vendors adhering to the document will produce phones with the capability to:

  • Remote wipe the authorized user’s data (i.e., erase personal info that is added after purchase such as contacts, photos, emails, etc.) that is on the smartphone in the event it is lost or stolen.
  • Render the smartphone inoperable to an unauthorized user (e.g., locking the smartphone so it cannot be used without a password or PIN), except in accordance with FCC rules for 911 emergency communications, and if available, emergency numbers programmed by the authorized user (e.g., “phone home”).
  • Prevent reactivation without authorized user’s permission (including unauthorized factory reset attempts) to the extent technologically feasible (e.g., locking the smartphone as in 2 above).
  • Reverse the inoperability if the smartphone is recovered by the authorized user and restore user data on the smartphone to the extent feasible (e.g., restored from the cloud).

Currently each vendor has their own implementation of the kill switch; iPhones have ‘Find My Phone’ application–which tracks a stolen or lost phone’s GPS location as soon as the user enters their Apple ID and password while Windows Phones also have had a similar “Find my Phone” feature in the setting with similar capabilities. Similarly Google added “Android device manager” in its playstore, a feature that users can activate to track their lost phones and remotely wipe data.

So, there’s been a kill switch of sorts implemented by Operating System vendors and smartphone manufacturers alike. But it seems this is going to be more stringent now that even five major carriers (in the US) have agreed to implement the measures.

However, the document only covers phones for retail sale in the United States. Since these are global players, perhaps we shall see the other countries benefit from the initiative.