US operators, device vendors create smartphone “kill switch”

Leading handset manufacturers and operators in the US have teamed up to introduce a ‘killswitch’ in an effort to curb smartphone theft in the country.

Industry trade body the CTIA has recruited smartphone manufacturers to join its Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment. The Commitment calls on operators and smartphone manufacturers to offer users the capability to remotely wipe their data in the case of loss or theft and to render the device inoperable to an unauthorised user.

Under the terms of the Commitment, smartphone models manufactured after July 2015 and sold in the US will offer the “kill switch” capability either preloaded on the device or made available to download. As well as remotely wiping the phone and rendering it unusable to an unauthorised user, the CTIA also wants manufacturers to prevent the handset from being reactivated without the user’s permission as well as reverse the kill switch when the handset is recovered by the authorised user.

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Apple, Google, HTC, Huawei, Microsoft Nokia, Samsung, Sprint. AT&T,Verizon, T-Mobile and US Cellular have all pledged their backing to the Commitment.

“This flexibility provides consumers with access to the best features and apps that fit their unique needs while protecting their smartphones and the valuable information they contain,” said Steve Largent, president and CEO at the CTIA.

“At the same time, it’s important different technologies are available so that a ‘trap door’ isn’t created that could be exploited by hackers and criminals. By working together with policymakers, law enforcement and consumers, we will deter theft and protect users’ personal information on smartphones.”

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