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Google and Microsoft confirms to introduce ‘Kill Switch’ for smartphones

Following Apple’s (AAPL) introduction of Activation Lock anti-theft system in its iPhones, Google (GOOG) and Microsoft (MSFT) will be adding the similar anti-theft “kill switches” to its next-gen smartphone operating systems. Kill Switch lets you remotely deactivate missing or stolen smartphone that makes the device completely useless until the reactivation done by yourself.secure-our-smartphones

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon announced the news, where it stated the ‘confirmation’ from Google and Microsoft regarding the “kill switch” implementation under the Secure Our Smartphone initiative. This initiative was first opposed by many wireless companies with a campaign backed by law enforcement.


In a statement, State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, who has introduced “kill switch” bill said, “This is very significant and validates everything we have been trying to do legislatively in Sacramento this past year.”

In a detailed report (find it after the break) prepared by the Office of the New York State Attorney General in consultation with The Offices of the San Francisco District Attorney and the Mayor of London, we can see the statement:

Microsoft confirms it will incorporate a kill switch-type theft-deterrence solution in the next release of its Windows Phone operating system, which will run on all Nokia smartphones; and, Google confirms it will incorporate a kill switch-type theft-deterrence solution in its next version of the Android operating system, the most popular mobile operating system worldwide.

If Microsoft and Google implement the new anti-theft feature in its mobile operating systems, then we can see the technology in next-gen Android OS as well as Windows Phone OS. Apple iOS, Android and Windows Phone covers 97 percent of US smartphones, combined.

According to Consumer Reports, there were over 3 million of smartphone-theft reports in United States in 2013, which was about 1.5 million in 2012. However, after the initiative introduced by Apple, iPhone-related theft crimes were drastically reduced in New York City in first 5 months of 2014, while Samsung devices had seen over 50 percent of increase in smartphone-related theft reports. The report also revealed that in San Francisco, Apple iPhone-related theft activity fell 38 percent in the same period.

The report also has more plans to implement in near future such as making the Kill Switch as the default software in mobile operating systems. Currently, operating systems are providing the anti-theft software as an optional ‘opt-in’ feature, while the Secure Our Smartphone initiative want the software to come by default to get everyone under its umbrella with a ‘opt-out’ option.

As Apple iPhone users has to activate the kill switch via Find-My-iPhone and the new implementation by Google and Microsoft will also require users to ‘opt-in’ for the service.

“Because kill switches are only available on an opt-in basis, not enough consumers are signing up,” according to the report. “This underscores the urgency of (our) call to make kill switches a standard opt-out function on all phones.”

In last September, US prosecutors have given the thumbs up to the new activation lock feature of Apple’s latest released mobile software iOS7 and urged all iPhone & iPad users to upgrade their existing software to the latest iOS 7. In April 2014, the top  U.S. operators and manufacturers of Smartphones Google, Apple, Samsung, Huawei, Nokia, Microsoft, Motorola and HTC have agreed to introduce tools that allow users to lock their devices and deletes data remotely in the case of loss or theft and be unusable. And in May 2014, California cleared a bill that would require the smartphones to be loaded with anti-theft software that are sold in the state.

[ Full Report in PDF ]

About John W Arthur

John is the head of our IT Security team and he writes about Security, IT news on The Next Digit. He was the Employee of the Year 2013 for his selfless support and efficiently setting up the whole security infrastructure. He also occasionally writes on "IT Sec Pro" Print Media of Sweden. All posts by John

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