Californian Law Proposes Mandatory Kill-Switch for Stolen Mobile Phones
Published on: 7th Feb 2014
By: Ian Mansfield
California's state government is proposing to require mobile phones sold in the state to come with a mandatory remote kill switch that could be activated if they are reported as stolen.
The theft of smartphones and other communications devices now accounts for one third of all robberies in the USA, making it the number one property crime in the country. The problem is even more prevalent in some of California's largest cities.
More than half of all robberies in San Francisco involve the theft of a mobile device, a number that goes up to 75 percent in the East Bay city of Oakland. Los Angeles also has a significant smartphone robbery problem, with reported thefts increasing 12 percent in 2012.
If approved, the new legislation, being proposed by Senator Mark Leno and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, will come into effect from the beginning of next year.
"This is an important day for wireless consumers everywhere," said District Attorney George Gascón. "This legislation will require the industry to stop debating the possibility of implementing existing technological theft solutions, and begin embracing the inevitability."
While consumers would have the opportunity to opt-out of using the kill-switch technology, the bill also prohibits service providers from using wireless contracts to encourage consumers to disable the kill switch. Companies that fail to comply with these provisions would be subject to penalty.
The legislation will be heard in Senate policy committees later this spring.
If passed though, it doesn't give the mobile networks and handset manufacturers much time to jointly develop not only an industry standard kill-switch, but also one that is sufficiently secure. There will otherwise always be the theoretical possibility for a hacker to tap into a network and broadcast kill commands to handsets at random all over the network.