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Kill Switch for Samsung and LG Devices confirmed

Kris Carlon
11

We've reported already on the necessity for kill switches in highly portable and expensive devices, and it looks as though Samsung and LG have stepped up to the plate first with the news that devices for the Korean market will all be featuring the new security measure, effective immediately.  

SmartphoneKillSwitch
Korea's smartphone crime rate may not be the highest, but it is taking defensive measures. / © The Korea Times

Smartphone-related thefts and robberies are out of control in many parts of the world – half the robberies in San Francisco last year were smartphone related, and one third of robberies nation-wide (in America) involve smartphones. Meanwhile, in the UK, although crime figures have been dropping generally, smartphone robberies have spiked 15% this year.

The Secure Our Smartphones (SOS) initiative – initiated by the District Attorney of San Francisco and New York State Attorney General and supported by the Mayor of London – has been gaining ground and both Apple and Samsung have been in high-level talks to include a kill switch in their smartphones and tablets. The feature would allow the owner of a device to remotely wipe contents, block formatting and render the device unusable to thieves, protecting your data and sending your phone to an early grave, rather than to a new home. This would, naturally, seriously impact the black market for these stolen devices.

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A kill switch will brick your stolen phone, thwarting thieves. / © http://www.flickr.com/photos/nedrichards/

In Korea, it was the government, not Samsung or LG, that took the idea to heart and on August 13th Korea's government introduced a new law that states all devices intended to be sold in Korea must include a kill switch feature. Interestingly the “Complete Preventive Measures against Illegal Use of Mobile Phone” act only states that devices must include this security feature until the second quarter of 2014. It seems very likely that this time frame will be extended indefinitely though. Both Samsung and LG devices in Korea will begin being manufactured with the kill switch immediately. A lesser-known Korean company, Pantech, has included the feature since February of this year, and now plans to add a GPS feature to its devices.

Considering the momentum the SOS initiative is gaining and the startling crime figures, it seems certain that we will very soon see the same feature in international versions of these devices too. The upcoming iPhone 5S (and most likely 5C) are also rumored to have the new feature, and may well become the first devices available in the American market to contain a kill switch. Combine this with Apple's and Samsung's interest in fingerprint scanners and we could be looking at a manufacturer-orchestrated dismantling of the smartphone black market.

Have you ever had a smartphone or tablet stolen? Would you like to see the same law passed in your country?

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Comments

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  • Philipp Junghannß (My1) 8 months ago Link

    but what will you do when you got your device back when it is bricked???
    why not rather make a block which can only be undone by connecting with the internet and a login to Samsung account or whatever???

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    Kris Carlon 8 months ago Link

    I think the chances of getting a device back are veeeery limited once it has been stolen. The theory is to screw over the thief, not get your phone back. If all stolen handsets become unusable, the theft of them will drop. But I doubt you'd get your phone back at all, even with a GPS tracker. Who would manage and pay for the recovery of the phones?

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  • Philipp Junghannß (My1) 8 months ago Link

    probably cheaper than getting a new S4, xPeria Z etc.
    I'd say that the /system gets locked and says "Device Stolen" or alike and no reflash possible, and when you get the device back you turn the device on with a hidden Button Combo (like you get in Odin Mode or similar) and then connect the phone, and the software reads out your what-ever account, you login and the decryption key in the account gets unlocked and the phone will be back...

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  • Ed E. 8 months ago Link

    I like the idea of a kill switch of some sort, but there must be a way if you get your phone back to be able to unlock it so that your info has not been lost or the phone manufacturers must have a warranty that if your phone is stolen and you do get your phone back they replace it. Like one of the other comments the cost of replacing and S3/S4 and a Sony Z phone is just to much to replace if you do get your phone back and its useless.

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  • Philipp Junghannß (My1) 8 months ago Link

    @Ed you are so truly right, it would be bad having to pay 500 and more euros for a stolen (or simply lost) and got back S4.
    what is if you simply lost it in your apartment/flat/house/bag/whatever and assume too quickly that its stolen kill it and realize, "oh shit"...

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    Kris Carlon 8 months ago Link

    Until the technology is released it's hard to say what levels of deactivation/blocking/wiping/bricking will be available, but it makes sense that there'd be different options depending on the circumstances (eg knowing your phone was stolen vs thinking you most likely left it at a mate's house or something). Although SOS took a stance against Apple for only saying they'd do an activation lock rather than a kill switch. I think it makes sense to have a lock/block option along with a wipe/brick option (and making that reversible if through some miracle you managed to get your phone back). Unfortunately the reason we probably haven't seen this so far is the $30 billion of additional revenue smartphone makers receive from owners buying new devices when their old one gets lost or stolen.

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  • Ed E. 8 months ago Link

    @Phillip. ....Thats where a police report would have to come in and show that they were the ones to recover the phone and not you.

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  • Philipp Junghannß (My1) 8 months ago Link

    @ed what do you mean, I dont rly get it...

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  • Northernbaygirl 8 months ago Link

    Maybe I'm being dumb here (I quite often am) but don't we already have this functionality through a combination of remote locking/wiping via the new Google/Android device management and having our network carrier put a block on the phone. I think it's a good idea to make life harder for thieves but I also think some way of reversing the procedure should be available incase by some miracle the police recover the stolen item or one of the rare breed of decent people finds it. Access to my phone and tablet is locked with a code and account a message is displayed giving an alternative number and an email address that I can be contacted on if I lose them or they get stolen ( although in 15 years of mobile phone ownership I have never had one stolen, I did leave one at a birthday party once but it was returned to me the next afternoon)

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    Kris Carlon 7 months ago Link

    Hi northernbaygirl, you're right, this functionality does already exist to some extent through apps like Device Manager and Cerberus etc, but they're not supported directly by the handset and can be cracked (eg putting a new SIM card in a stolen phone can be enough to avoid carrier protection, and hard resetting a phone can avoid lots of other things brought about by security apps). The kill switch is built in and supposedly can't be worked around by thieves. Plus, it's built-in, so it doesn't require owner uptake.

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  • Philipp Junghannß (My1) 7 months ago Link

    but as already stated in CM Account service thread I'd rather have a "Dead Lock" than a Kill Switch, where you lock the phone but you can get the unlock key procedure/whatever by your manufacturer, provider, reseller etc.

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