SF District Attorney & Lobbyists Push Bill for Cellphone ‘Kill Switch’

California state senator Mark Leno and District Attorney George Gascón are collaborating with other officials to push legislation (SB 962) that would mandate a “kill switch” be implemented on mobile devices that have been stolen or lost.

Gascón claims: “More than half the robberies in his city involve theft of mobile devices. He said the industry has debated the use of deterrent technology for too long. “The wireless industry must take action to end the victimization of its customers.”

The district attorney said: “This is an important day for wireless consumers everywhere. This legislation will require the industry to stop debating the possibility of implementing existing technological theft solutions and begin embracing the inevitability. The wireless industry must take action to end the victimization of its customers.”

Beginning in 2015, all smartphones imported for sale in California will have to be outfitted with this “security system”; as well as exports from the West Coast.
The proposed legislation reads: “A technological solution may consist of software, hardware, or a combination of both … but shall be able to withstand a hard reset.”

Leno stated that either the kill switch “or other protective features” would be mandated by law and require re-registering of phones currently not equipped with the device.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti explained that “this legislation is critical to reducing robberies.”

Last year the Secure Our Smartphone Initiative (SOSI) created by Eric Scheiderman, attorney general for New York Gascón to bring awareness and solutions to the nationwide theft of smartphones.

The solution is to implore cell phone manufacturers to implant a kill switch so that “when consumers reported to providers that their cellphone had been stolen, the phone, like a stolen credit card, would be rendered inoperable.”

The coalition will be comprised of:

• Law enforcement
• Consumer advocates
• Political officials
• Prosecutors

Gascón and Schneiderman will meet with representatives from Apple, Samsung, Motorola and Microsoft to discuss this increasing problem.

Schneiderman said: “It is totally unacceptable that we have an epidemic of crime that we believe can be eliminated if the technological fixes that we believe are available are put into place.”

Gascón explained: “The industry has the moral and the social obligation to fix this problem. There are very few things that can be fixed with a technological solution, and this is one of them.”

Apple will be adding a feature that will turn an iPhone off if a thief tries to use it while imitating a tracking program to find the phone’s location if the thief uses the wrong password to unlock the phone.

The activation lock feature was developed by Craig Federighi, senior vice president of software engineering for Apple and presented at the 2013 World Developers Conference (WDC).

Schneiderman believes that if a person can cancel a credit card, they should be able to cancel a phone.

Kevin Mahaffey, co-founder of Lookout , a mobile security corporation, warns: “If there is a mechanism by which somebody can remotely disable and brick a device, we don’t want that to be a target for malware.”

Lookout has collaborated with law enforcement agencies to build kill switches on smartphones so that “all of a sudden if there were a way that you can cause millions of devices to all of a sudden become inoperable, that can be a huge amount of money if somebody attacks that system.”
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