What is the last thing you look at before going to bed and the first thing you wearily gaze at in the morning? For a growing number of people it is their smartphone. Smart phones are now engrained in society with 7 out of 10 people owning them. Phones are now an extension of ourselves, holding our pictures, music, contact details, and apps. So imagine having your precious device lost or worse yet stolen. Until recently a stolen smart phone was a very easy thing to sell on, there’re expensive, portable and in high demand. Now authorities are catching up with the thieves.
Authorities from around the world have put pressure on Google, Microsoft, Samsung and Apple to add a “kill switch” to all devices. Apple and Samsung devices have already implemented this function and it has been proven that it works. In the first 5 months of this functionality the number of reported thefts of iPhone’s in London dropped by 24%.
These are known as “hard Kill Devices” meaning once activated the phone essentially becomes worthless. “An activated kill switch converts an easy-to-sell, high-value multimedia device into a jumble of plastic and glass, drastically reducing its street value.” said the report by New York Attorney General.
With 3 million smartphones stolen each year it has become a multi billion pound monster. This type of functionality is long overdue. Organised crime routinely target phones as a mean for income since it often is more valuable than people’s wallets or purses. “Almost a third of US robberies involve phone theft.” There are however concerns over people hacking this functionality being used by malicious hackers remotely deactivating peoples phones and the mill switch can be avoided by putting the phone into air-plane mode. Other critics state that this will only work for the phones as a complete piece, not stripping down the phone for parts.
With technology advancing all the time, phones get better and better and we are storing more of our lives in them. So it is about time that we take phone security more seriously and develop phones with security systems already installed in the device and not have to rely on third party apps that could potentially be a security risk.
Microsoft plans on rolling out an update including this lock by July 2015 and Google has said they will implement Activation Lock on all new devices manufactured and in the next major Android update all phones running the most current OS will be protected. With all the major players in the phone industry agreeing to this it is calculated that 97% of the smartphone market place will be protected by a kill switch resulting in a huge loss to crime around the world.