New York Joins California in Calling for Smartphone Kill Switch

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The US State of New York is joining California in calling for a remote kill switch to be built into smartphones to help cut down on phone theft.

The Smartphone Theft Prevention Act, H.R. 4065, would deter the rising number of cellphone thefts by giving consumers the ability to wipe their phone data, render the device useless on any network, and make it unable to be reactivated or reprogrammed if stolen by criminals.

The announcement was made at an event in New York where Attorney General Schneiderman, Congressman Serrano and Commissioner Bratton were joined by Richard Aborn, President of the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City, and the family of Megan Boken, who was killed during a smartphone robbery in 2012.

The Federal Communications Commission estimates that more than 30 percent of all robberies today involve smartphones. In New York City, cell phone theft has grown 40 percent in the past year, and now makes up 20 percent of all robberies in New York City. Cell phones are typically stolen for resale in both domestic and international black markets, but can also be stolen in order to try and access a consumer's personal information. Unfortunately, sometimes these crimes can turn violent, with tragic results.

"It is time for smartphone carriers and manufacturers to get serious about protecting the safety and security of their customers," said Congressman Serrano. "This legislation will ensure that consumers are empowered to protect themselves by rendering their smartphones useless in the hands of criminals."

H.R. 4065 is the House companion to S. 2032, recently introduced in the Senate by Senator Amy Klobuchar.

The CTIA, the US trade organisation for the telecoms industry has expressed concerns about a kill switch though, as by its very definition, it cannot be undone, and thus would make an attractive target for hackers seeking to disrupt a communications network.

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Tags: new york  california  USA 

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