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Cellphones Technology

Industry-Wide Smartphone "Kill Switch" Closer To Reality 139

Posted by samzenpus
from the blow-it-up dept.
mpicpp (3454017) writes "The 'kill switch,' a system for remotely disabling smartphones and wiping their data, will become standard in 2015, according to a pledge backed by most of the mobile world's major players. Apple, Google, Samsung and Microsoft, along with the five biggest cellular carriers in the United States, are among those that have signed on to a voluntary program announced Tuesday by the industry's largest trade group. All smartphones manufactured for sale in the United States after July 2015 must have the technology, according to the program from CTIA. Advocates say the feature would deter thieves from taking mobile devices by rendering phones useless while allowing people to protect personal information if their phone is lost or stolen. Its proponents include law enforcement officials concerned about the rising problem of smartphone theft."
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Industry-Wide Smartphone "Kill Switch" Closer To Reality

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @07:04PM (#46774755)

    Now they won't need to backdoor devices when they want to erase evidence.

    • by Tuidjy (321055) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @07:09PM (#46774795)

      I wonder how easy it will be for someone unauthorized to force a cellphone off the air. And how easy it will be to get someone authorized to do it through social engineering.

      I just hope that however they implement it, they make sure that emergency calls can still be made.

      • by Frobnicator (565869) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @07:18PM (#46774901) Journal

        The carriers already can (and do) block stolen phones. Each phone has a unique IMEI number, in addition to the SIM card number.

        The carriers are already required to do this in some countries, and do it voluntarily in other countries. They just don't do it in the US.

        IMEI blacklists are common in many countries, including the UK. When a device is stolen the IMEI number is put on the list and carriers reject the device and (potentially) notify investigators.

        • by fche (36607)

          IMEIs can sometimes (often?) be changed.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by popo (107611)

            It would be foolish to think that the government "wants" this for out benefit. One thing has become abundantly clear over the past decade and that is that our government(s) want power, however illicit, and they are prepared to override personal and constitutional rights at literally every turn in order to achieve that power.

            While this new power may be useful in the event of a "stolen phone" one also can't help notice that it can also be used to instantly disrupt communications between entire groups of peop

            • there is no reason to believe the gov't does not already have this capability, via secret agreements with at least the major carriers.

            • They would need to take control of the carriers to do this. In an apocalyptic scenario, taking over the carrier would disrupt your phone communications anyways.

              I think the most important thing is being able to maintain evidence you record via your phone and that it can't be destroyed by destroying your phone. A solution to that would be proper cloud backups of your data to mega style providers where only you hold the key to your data.

          • by delt0r (999393)
            on newer phones, yes they can be. And even here in Europe they often just don't block because IMEIs are not as unique as they should be.
        • by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @08:09PM (#46775329) Homepage

          It is a royal pain in the ass to get a IMEI blacklisted. I had to fight AT&T even though I sent them the police report and the phone was in their records as my property.
          "But it's currently activated" Yes, by the thief, blacklist it.
          "but that is one of our gophone customers", Yes the thief blacklist it.
          "but but....." Do I need to get a lawyer involved?
          "One moment please...."

          99% will not force them to blacklist the phone but just let it go. To hell with who they sold the phone to, I was not going to stop until the phone was forever disabled from being a phone.

          • by fche (36607) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @08:31PM (#46775495)

            Be really careful though in whose hands (in theory and in practice) the kill switch will fit. The cure (unconsentual shutdowns or other unintended consequences) may be worse than the disease (occasional theft).

          • by puto (533470) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @12:55AM (#46776651) Homepage
            I will say this on my public account. I work for AT&T for the last year all you have to do is call customer service, we can see the phone was originally on your account and we can blacklist it, 30 seconds. And company policy no rep would have told you it was on another account, be it pay as you go or post paid.
            • by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @08:15AM (#46777987) Homepage

              Yes they did, I was told it was on an active account, specifically a gophone account. I had to fight to get them to deal with this. After talking to that rep I was transferred to a "manager" which had an even thicker accent.

              It was the 3rd person I had to talk to after being transferred all over the place. You might follow the rules, but a LOT of your fellow reps do not. Regularly I get told different information by two different reps, it seems that either you guys do not get trained consistently or the offshore people are utterly useless.

              My most recent AT&T fail. I wanted to change plans and get a new phone as I was eligible for a new one. well the CSR changed my plan and then told me I had to pay full retail for the phone because changing the plan removed my eligibility. He refused to fix it and it was only customer retention that fixed it after I said, "well then Cancel all my accounts if you can not do that"

              suddenly something that was impossible was possible.

        • by omglolbah (731566)

          The issue is that a lot of the phones stolen make their way out of those countries to a place where they CAN be used.

          China is supposedly a big place to sell stolen phones (big shock).

        • And dangerous. Just make IMEI be on read-only memory so that it is not over-written, and then, instead of rejecting stolen phones you can even pinpoint them and send a cop to pick them up along with the thief... All the technology is already there, the only problem is that there are no rules that make carriers tell you (or even the police) where your stolen phone is and who has it (in many countries SIM cards are not anonymous by law).
        • by VortexCortex (1117377) <VortexCortex.project-retrograde@com> on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @09:21PM (#46775799)

          IMEI blacklists are common in many countries, including the UK. When a device is stolen the IMEI number is put on the list and carriers reject the device and (potentially) notify investigators.

          It's not the IMEI blacklists that I'm worried about. See, if we already have the technology to disconnect devices from the networks, and we have encryption available on the devices, so we really don't need this new "remote kill switch" anti-feature. Folks worried about losing data can use encryption if they want to protect their data, and the remote kill switch doesn't prevent theft because Faraday Cages exist, and black-market thieves will figure out a way to zilch the chip's radio or NoOP the part of baseband/firmware blob that activates the kill switch, etc.

          What I'm worried about is getting a "device bricking" standard for all devices so that all they have to do is flip from blacklist to whitelist, and presto they'll only function if they ping corporate/government towers every so often and authenticate with an approved citizen's ID code. Can you say Forced Obsolescence? [archive.org] Intel demonstrated their capability for PCs, and cars now have black boxes standard. The Pentagon has plans to push things like this through for anti-activism purposes. [theguardian.com]

          Here's how you know it's a government job: This non-feature isn't being implemented by customer demand. This isn't something that these folks started offering then got popular and now they're standardizing on, nope. It's something they're making standard whether you want it or not. That's a huge red flag. Isn't this a fucking capitalist country? No, it really isn't. This is anti-consumer collusion of the highest degree. The US Is a plutocracy. [economyincrisis.org] Just like Noam Chomsky has been saying for decades. [rawstory.com] If the USA was a capitalist country then we would allow the market to decide if end users actually want this non-feature whereby the government or your carrier can not just cut off the cell-tower, but brick the devices, cars, computers, etc. to prevent them from being used anywhere. Late on a payment? Oh, they don't just cut off your service, you won't have a device or car to drive to work. Say something "anti-American"? Well, your cell will die on the road and so will your car, then you'll just be black-hooded out of service too. Do consumers really want this? Of course the answer is no. Thus this will be legislated into place "for your own good". Just like censorship and wholesale warrant-less wiretap spying is, and for the same reason as always. [wikipedia.org]

          The Stasi would have creamed their pants for some shit like this on machines and typewriters. What soldier would sign up to fight for a country that's doing this shit? If not for uniforms, you wouldn't know which side to fight against: Given only a description of the country's behaviors you'd find us indistinguishable from our supposed worst enemies. If you don't think that's a valid comparison because of some moral high-ground, then you don't know about the Native American genocide or the US eugenics programs. What a sad time to be an American.

          • You know, I tried opposing the government, but then people just like you shouted me down for being a racist. So, which is it, oppose or support? Have we always been at war with Eastasia?
            • You know, I tried opposing the government, but then people just like you shouted me down for being a racist.

              Ahh, so you must be a new Republican. Welcome! Just so you know, you'll be called sexist and a whole host of other things, as well. Welcome to the modern world of lazy political discourse.

              • The problem isn't the name calling. It is that the name calling actually works on people too lazy to think for themselves. They get their marching orders from whatever talking point memo is out (both Left and Right wing) and march in formation.

                And while I don't agree with many people politically, I at least have respect and can converse with people I don't agree with, if they at least have a reason for their political beliefs (wrong or right). I often have common ground with people I normally wouldn't agree

          • by Rakarra (112805)

            Folks worried about losing data can use encryption if they want to protect their data,

            Yeah....... unless you're a dedicated techie, that's just not happening.

            This non-feature isn't being implemented by customer demand. This isn't something that these folks started offering then got popular and now they're standardizing on, nope. It's something they're making standard whether you want it or not.

            That's because the folks who need it (the people who get their phones stolen) are fairly small in number. But when they need it, they really need it without delay.

            • by Zynder (2773551)

              when they need it, they really need it without delay.

              Could you please give me a scenario where someone gets their phone stolen and needs to have its ability to dial out disabled as fast as possible, preferably within minutes of the act. Please be creative. Somehow indirectly referencing Jack Bauer, an IED suing a cellphone as a trigger, and that dun-dun noise from Law and Order will score extra points. GO!

              • by Zynder (2773551)
                I really should proof read, but now that I see my mistake, I like the change! Please reference an IED suing a cellphone. I'd probably use coercion, entrapment, or extortion as the defense!
                • by Rakarra (112805)

                  Damned terrorists are now using the legal system!

                  But no, the problem is not "needs to have its ability to dial out disabled as fast as possible," the problem is that they need personal information wiped, as more and more, the smart phone has become the extension of everything else with tons of personal data on it.

                  I try to keep that sort of thing to a minimum on my phone, though there are certainly times when it's "inconvenient."

                  One big drawback of the "kill switch," it also kills much chance of you ever get

        • by mjwx (966435) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @09:32PM (#46775865)

          The carriers already can (and do) block stolen phones. Each phone has a unique IMEI number, in addition to the SIM card number.

          The carriers are already required to do this in some countries, and do it voluntarily in other countries. They just don't do it in the US.

          IMEI blacklists are common in many countries, including the UK. When a device is stolen the IMEI number is put on the list and carriers reject the device and (potentially) notify investigators.

          Blacklists are useless.

          Steal phone in the UK, sell it in Poland or Hungary where the carrier doesn't have a blacklist.

          Or better yet, change the IMEI.

          A remote wipe will be equally as useless as the criminals will just learn to immediately turn the phone off and then give it to someone who can disable the remote wipe. There's always someone willing to sell their knowledge/skills with no morals. Why would you think this doesn't extend to people who hack phones.

        • by mlyle (148697)

          The problem is a fairly large proportion of GSM phones stolen in the US are sent to other countries, with carriers who do not blacklist from US theft reports.

        • I don't get why we don't just have a treaty organization to have an international IMEI/MEID blacklist.

          I'm also kind of wondering how all of this would be impacted by Project Ara, which modularizes phones much in the same way PCs are.

        • by Joce640k (829181)

          The carriers already can (and do) block stolen phones. Each phone has a unique IMEI number, in addition to the SIM card number.

          IMEI can be changed. It's usually just a file on a special partition.

        • by bagorange (1531625) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @08:47AM (#46778195)
          Here's a link [bbc.co.uk] to a story about IMEIs routinely being worked around - by the dodgy phone shop in your neighbourhood, not by SIS.
      • by lgw (121541) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @07:28PM (#46774981) Journal

        Just watch for the first riot in 2016 under some authoritarian government. They'll "kill" all the cellphones of all the rioters to prevent organization and photography of police, not even a question about it.

        • All you have to do is turn off the power to the towers. You don't have to fiddle with individually shutting down handsets. Or just jam the frequency. If it's AT&T they don't have to do anything at all, the network will just get busy and quit working.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by lgw (121541)

            People sent texts from protest marches in Iran and some of the Arab spring stuff, and the governments weren't successful in stopping that. Also, you need a bigger hammer to keep people from using their phones to record police shooting at the crowd or other abuses. Remotely wiping the phones is a great win for dictators everywhere.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            That still leaves wireless, the occasional "CB mode" and the basic abilities of the device themselves.
            With the kill switch you make sure the angry men in riot gear about to "respond" to violent standing-still don't get videotaped doing questionable things or saying exactly what "un"authorized atrocity they're about to commit out loud.

            There's nothing about this 'kill switch' that will help with what they claim it will (oh no, this wiped phone we were going to wipe and resell has been wiped, whatever shall we

          • by Rakarra (112805)

            Or just jam the frequency. If it's AT&T they don't have to do anything at all, the network will just get busy and quit working.

            Shit, I didn't realize there were so many protests in my backyard. They must be hiding under the deck.

            • by Zynder (2773551)
              Underpants Gnomes realized stealing underpants didn't actually result in 3)Profit! so they've now begun stealing cellphones. They can't get good signal in the basement so it isn't surprising they'd be under your deck. I suggest you spray for gnomes.
      • by sgt scrub (869860)

        1) Snarf IMEI numbers and access devices as they pass by using an exploitable bluetooth bug.

        2) Send letter to people telling them you own them and will do evil things to them if they do not pay up.

        3) profit ???

        4) Send letter to phone service using info snag'd from bug.

        Hello,
        My name is Passer Bye. My phone is stolen. The phone info is...

        5) Send new letter.

        6) profit ???

        • The appropriate phone company will know who's supposed to be able to deactivate the phone.

          BTW, an iPhone, once "bricked", can be unbricked by somebody with access to the right Apple account, which would include the owner.

      • by Z00L00K (682162)

        The question is rather if there will be a massive OTA bricking of phones through this. Imagine this as a weapon in patent cases - already sold devices will be bricked by the opponent - with or without court order.

    • I think that could be valuable: if we start allowing street cops to use this to delete evidence of their pointlessly aggressive tactics, that's a GREAT sign to leave the country ASAP.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...This is really the time to put even more big brother into our devices. So, how is that open source baseband development going?

  • by nurb432 (527695) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @07:07PM (#46774769) Homepage Journal

    They cant realistically kill the line ( "you cant stop the signal" ), but if you disable every access device known to man it would have the same effect... Killing every phone ( and soon tablets ) in one swoop would go a long way towards that goal.

    This also gets around adhoc and private mesh networks that the feds have no real access to control.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If all phones have to have a remote kill switch, then anyone with sufficient power and motive can flip the switch on a phone they don't own, or all the phones belonging to a group they don't like...

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Damm right. Cops beat a pregnant woman in the street and shoot her 6 year old son. Blood splatters everywhere, woman is screaming while cop is on top of her and choking her to death. Civilians are filming the important police work with their cell phones. Officer X picks up his radio and calls in 'Dispatch, need a 10-09'. A few seconds later the dispatcher comes back with '10-09 is confirmed'.

      All the dispatcher did was click on the current incident tab on her screen and then on the 10-09 button, but under th

  • Smartphones already have a fucking kill switch - it's up to the networks to provide service. If the networks wanted (or a law required them), they could make it so phones are disabled immediately at the request of the user who OWNS the phone.

    The only point to making this a law (and industry standard) is to be able to quell widespread protest.

    • by MasseKid (1294554)
      That makes no sense. The providers are already clearly in bed with the feds given everything that's been leaked lately. There's nothing stopping them from them forcing the providers to shut down service now, if there's nothing stopping them from activating a kill switch later. The problem you describe already exists. Then again, so does remote kill of all GM vehicles via OnStar, yet as scary as that sounds, there hasn't been serious abuse of it so far. Doesn't mean vigilance should stop, but it also bo
    • Just because no carrier will provide a cellular signal to a smartphone doesn't mean it's useless on the black market. Is it really that hard for a thief to fence an iPhone as if it were an iPod touch?
  • by Kremmy (793693) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @07:15PM (#46774851)
    One step closer to reality.
  • by Virtucon (127420) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @07:15PM (#46774863)

    This whole idea is unnecessary if the wireless carriers would just set up a database of stolen IMEI information. And while ESNs can be wiped, if a questionable ESN is discovered, like all zeros you can block the phone from being provisioned. If you did that stolen cell phones would be worth zero and we wouldn't have to introduce another tool that can be used by governments to lock us out of communicating. With mobile traffic increasing faster than any other sector on the Internet, this gives the governments of the world an effective Internet Kill Switch.

    • This whole idea is unnecessary if the wireless carriers would just set up a database of stolen IMEI information.

      They already do in many countries. The UK has had IMEI blacklists for several years. The US is just late to the party.

      Now in an ideal world they would actually track the devices back, notify law enforcement, and collect the stolen device. But sadly that doesn't happen.

    • Re:Bad, Bad idea (Score:5, Insightful)

      by timeOday (582209) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @07:25PM (#46774967)
      What you describe is probably exactly how the kill switch will be implemented. (How else would it be implemented?)

      All the hyperbole in here is silly. Try not paying your phone bill and you will discover there is already a "kill switch." The questions at issue are administrative - how to share the list of stolen phones between carriers, set the criteria for putting a phone on the list, etc.

      • The idea behind this is that the phone somehow discovers that it was stolen and then bricks itself, deleting all the data. If somebody stole my phone, the thief would not get service (after I notified the police and the provider), but he would still have my data. And.he could rewrite the IMEI to something else to get service.

        • by timeOday (582209)
          According to the article the owner would have control over whether the phone gets wiped. My point, mainly, is that handsets are utterly dependent on infrastructure in any case, so the notion that this will give sweeping new powers to the government to suppress dissent are unfounded.
  • by MindPrison (864299) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @07:16PM (#46774867) Journal
    ...I'd love a Smartphone kill switch, oh sweet...the revenge!
  • Reversibility (Score:3, Insightful)

    by axlash (960838) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @07:18PM (#46774893)

    Whatever they do, I hope they make the disablement reversible, for those who think they've had their phone stolen, only to find that it was just misplaced - or if the phone is later recovered from the thief.

    • Whatever they do, I hope they make the disablement reversible, for those who think they've had their phone stolen, only to find that it was just misplaced - or if the phone is later recovered from the thief.

      I don't think you will get what you want. Allowing it to be reversible would not be in the carrier's interest because they would not be able to sell you a new phone and force you to sign a new 2 year contract. They are not interested in what you want, they are interested in what makes them more money.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Because right after big pharma and gov, marketing needs to diaf.

  • Will the companies start killing phones if there is an overdue or disputed bill? If you unlock or jailbreak a phone? If this bill is passed without really strong consumer protections built in, it could be a disaster.
  • by Darth Muffin (781947) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @07:26PM (#46774971) Homepage
    The NSA is why this is a bad idea. Once this is in, I'll bet you'll start seeing this used by the govt. First at Boston Bombing type events, then later at demonstrations like Occupy Wallstreet, and then wherever the president happens to be touring at the moment.

    What would the govt of some place like Egypt have given for a phone kill switch?

    • What would the govt of some place like Egypt have given for a phone kill switch?

      Nothing. All governments have a cellphone kill switch that affects an area.Just turn off the towers in that area and no phone will work. And I doubt that the government would go trough the trouble of identifying the protesters one by one and just disabling their phone (which can be done now, just block the IMEI).

    • by Avidiax (827422)

      The NSA wants your data, hence they want your phone to work. The only reason I can imagine that they'd disable phones in a wide area is if there were cell phone detonators, and even that is usually accomplished by simple jamming.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @07:32PM (#46775015)

    "and wiping their data"... Yes, I can understand why police would want the ability to remotely wipe the data - data would include all those "awkward" videos of police that keep getting on youtube. Back to the pre-Rodney King days where it was just the upstanding policeman's word against the nefarious 'criminal' trying to slander him.

    We can't have the citizens able to record the police now, can we?
    besides, the police can monitor themselves
    http://yro.slashdot.org/story/14/04/09/1545251/la-police-officers-suspected-of-tampering-with-their-monitoring-systems

  • by stoploss (2842505) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @07:42PM (#46775099)

    Idle speculation, but if people can exploit the *entire* Target POS system across the nation, it doesn't seem farfetched to imagine it would be possible to engage a carrier-wide (or multi-carrier) attack to wipe/deactivate countless phones at once via kill-switch.

    Of course, if we are imagining a breach of the carrier, then an attack could cause a wide scale DoS even today. A mass kill-switching would just make it harder to restore service once the breach had been terminated.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @07:48PM (#46775139) Homepage

    When someone else controls your stuff, it's not your stuff. Look at Germany's gold! Where is it? It's in the US. They want it back, it's supposed to be on its way over... slowly. Net result, it's not Germany's gold. And if this tech makes it into our phones? Yeah, same thing. We "give up" our phones in order to prevent them from being stolen. Nice trade.

  • ...and why would police care? Smartphones are rapidly becoming commodity items, and police have already demonstrated (to me at least) that they don't care about the theft of more valuable items than mere smartphones. For theft that doesn't involve violence, they give you a case number for your insurance and that's the end of their involvement. With the possible exception of stolen firearms, which the police seem to take far more seriously. So lessee... firearms, smartphones... what do these have in com

    • by J053 (673094)

      The meme going around is that people are increasingly being mugged in major cities specifically for their smartphones. I don't know if that's real or not, but the cops in several places (SanFran, NYC, LA) are saying it is.

      http://www.nclnet.org/technolo... [nclnet.org]

      • by roc97007 (608802) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @09:14PM (#46775769) Journal

        That article is an excellent example of the complete absence of usable statistics. "Involve a cell phone" is very different from "mugged for their cell phone". Thefts are up 40%... from what? 10 people to 14 people? Of those 1.6 million people who had their handsets stolen last year, how many had their handsets stolen in the commission of a robbery where they took everything? How many were a purse snatching which happened to include a cell phone? In other words, is the real issue that criminals are targeting cell phones, or is it that more people have cell phones than at any time in the country's history, which would necessitate an increase in having them stolen?

        I could probably make a case that most muggings involve theft of driver's licenses. Does this mean that thieves are targeting driver's licenses, or is it because the card is usually kept in the same wallet or pocketbook as the cash and credit cards?

        Stolen iphones can be sold for "upwards of" $2K. What's the median? What's the volume? Is this a real problem?

  • by Karmashock (2415832) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @07:51PM (#46775159)

    If the government or the phone company has it, then it is not okay.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    from tfa.. emphasis mine.

    The feature, which will be offered at no cost to consumers, also will prevent the phone from being reactivated without an authorized user's consent. The data would be retrievable if the owner recovers the phone .

    so.. the data is either just encrypted or obfuscated on the device (in other words, not really 'wiped' as promised), or (the scary and very real possibility) is wiped from the deivce but only after being uploaded to "somewhere" for possible retrieval by the verified owner (

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Did you really think Big Brother was going to tolerate Little Brother and his embarrassing cell phone videos? Forever? And of course it's because of theft. Right.

  • I RTFA.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by ABadDog (28370) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @08:10PM (#46775337) Homepage

    From my interpretation of what's actually in the CITA program, this is no different than what's currently available in Apple's Find My iPhone capability. Allow the user to remotely lock (i.e. set a PIN) or wipe a device, and remove the pin and/or /restore the device if it's recovered.

    It seems to me that all the armchair conspiracy theorists here are over-reacting.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      everyone said armchair conspiracy theorists where too paranoid about the nsa reading everybodies email until snowden. sorry, in a post-snowden world calling something a conspiracy theory doesn't discredit it. oh. and how about heartbleed? vulnerability in openssl that lets the nsa read anything? just conspiracy theory could never happen to open source.. until last week that is, now it's conspiracy fact.

  • by FuzzNugget (2840687) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @08:13PM (#46775365)

    So, someone, other than the owner, will be able to remotely disable and wipe a smartphone? Yeah, that can't possibly go wrong.

  • Smartphones, Really? They would have to kill the providers, and they make cell phone modules that a gerbil could interface to... or just tether a burner phone via USB to your actual Smart device and back up to that.
  • (Personal opinion follows) Neither do cellular service providers. Both of those entities can disable connectivity on existing technology with any desired level of granularity.

    I believe this is merely a show piece for consumer consumption. There may be some beneficial side-effects (such as forcing cellular providers to be more responsive to consumer complaints about stolen devices), but beyond that I just don't see anything changing here - except the addition of some amount of government oversight (I hope

  • by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @10:13PM (#46776061) Homepage

    This is how liberty dies ... with thunderous applause.

    This will be abused. This will be used to shut down protests and stifle dissent. This will get hacked.

    There's no way this toy ends up in the hands of anybody without eventually becoming a Really Bad Thing.

    • by CrAlt (3208)

      This will be used to shut down protests and stifle dissent.

      I disagree. "The Man" does not need any killswitch to cut off protesters. He only has to shut off the cell sites in the target area.
      . Also if you brick the cellphone you can no longer track it. It would make more sense to block all traffic but leave the phones connected to the network and track them. This way to know WHO is there and where they are going.

      I do agree that sooner or later it will get hacked. Imagine what would happen to ATT or VZN if every smartphone on their networked got bricked.

  • I thought this was something we could use to exterminate all those smug bastards yakking on phones while driving or in line at Starbucks.

  • by CTU (1844100)

    Any way to disable that feature? I am not to worried about phone theft myself mostly because I get the cheaper smart phones and not an iPhone or other really popular models. So how would I disable having my phone disabled remote because I just don't want that crap on my device.

  • ... if and only if it involves me having the option to generate a public-private key pair when I get the phone, putting the public key on the phone, and telling it "melt yourself if someone gives you the private key". Then I can guard that private key however I like -- I can give it to the police, to the cellphone company, or to nobody.

    I am fine if *I* have a killswitch. I'll be damned if I'm going to give someone else one.

  • Now the parties can call for bricking of unwanted competition phones - or let hackers do the deed.

    One week all Samsung phones in service are bricked, the next all Apple phones, the loop will continue until only old Nokia 3310 phones are left.

  • by johanw (1001493) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @05:14AM (#46777397)

    I only read here about possible abuses of the government of this system. But what out the following scenario: I get arrested and the cops seize my phone. Some buddy non the lookout sees this and bricks/formats my phone so the cops don't get to see my contact list and textsecure messages. Wouldn't the government demand an undo option for themselves? Of course they'll sell it as "you got your phone back and want to use it again".

    • by crtreece (59298)
      If you have an Android phone, you can already do this with XtraSec. [xtrasec.com]

      Via txt message you can disable the phone, wipe the phone and/or SD card, trigger the camera, turn on/off mobile data, and more.

    • But what out the following scenario: I get arrested and the cops seize my phone. Some buddy non the lookout sees this and bricks/formats my phone so the cops don't get to see my contact list and textsecure messages.

      What? You do not get control of this kill switch and by extension, neither does your friend.

  • Once again the nanny state rises to save the day! God forbid people take responsibility for their own property. Leave your phone in the bar (or anywhere else)? Is this some how different than leaving your wallet? purse? camera? laptop? Is it different than a purse snatching? Someone grabbing your tote bage or backpack with your laptop in it?

    What this really is about is governement asserting more authority over your possessions and your life. And if you are so naive as to think the government will not

  • I only have one thing to say to the fuckfaces that did this: FUCK YOU!

    You have not made me more safe and you have given another person a way to render my phone useless. Again, FUCK YOU! I am NOT you fucking slave and I WILL chop off your fucking heads you bitches.

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