We’re just a month away from California’s “Kill Switch” law going into effect July 1. The law which has stirred up quite a buzz in legislation will require mobile service carriers to build a default anti-theft technology within all smart phones produced in the sunny state after the start date. This means any lost or stolen phone could be “killed” by its original user rendering it useless to those with sticky fingers. If the state-mandated regulation proves efficient in deterring mobile device theft, a major domino effect could ensue where the rest of the nation follows suit. There are numerous security benefits that surround the proposed intentions of the statute including improved physical, personal and financial safety.
Kill switch execution will help remove the threat of being mugged on city streets. Using a pricey smart phone in public innately subjects owners to potential physical danger. For instance, when a person whips out his/her mobile device to play music during the morning commute on public transit, he/she automatically becomes a target for “Apple pickers” a.k.a. thugs that snatch and run. This act does not exclude the chance of physical endangerment to the victim. Aside from the initial encounter with a thief, once a robber has one’s smart phone, they can find out information like where a someone lives, works and plans to be at certain times – all added opportunities for criminals to revisit and threaten someone who they know is already vulnerable. The kill switch law’s ultimate purpose is to discourage even the slightest incentive to take a phone in the first place by making it essentially useless to anyone but the owner.
Smart devices store a plethora of information, not only within one device, but also because of internet connectivity, important personal data can get synced from other devices like laptops and tablets. Protecting personal info, such as social security numbers, contacts, schedules, passwords, finances and confidential work-related data, is possible with a kill switch. Processing chips like Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chip is currently being integrated with kill-switch technology into phone hardware so authorized users have the ability to lock and/or wipe information once a phone goes missing. By safeguarding a phone straight from the foundation (hardware), it gives an added level of security on top of software-based anti-theft systems. A sense of personal safety is given to consumers by knowing that the life that lives on their mobile devices is protected.
Stealing a $600 smart phone is quite enticing to kleptomaniacs hungry for cash. But stealing a $600 smart phone that holds a $0 value once a kill switch is activated is not as fruitful. The kill switch would mean your smart phone really only holds usefulness to you and carries no monetary worth for potential robbers. Additionally, many smart phone holders utilize their device to access bank accounts and manage finances via the applications within. Once the switch is flipped, access to those accounts is guarded, thus putting your mind at ease that no one can pull out or transfer your money to unwanted parties.
The outlook for the kill switch working is very positive based on initial technology producers that have already built phones complying with the standards. Apple’s iOS 8 features an Activation Lock that is built into its iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models and the system seems to be deterring potential thieves. Since the automatic kill-switch implementation, Apple-picking crimes have dropped 50% in London, 40% in San Francisco and 25% in New York. These initial results could be indicative of a safer environment for smart phone owners in the near future. Should the law deem successful in California, it’s likely the rest of America will begin imposing similar regulations to work towards increased physical, personal and financial security.