Samsung started fitting its Galaxy smartphones with kill switches but was ordered to remove them before shipping the gadgets to the USA

Samsung's kill switch rejected by US mobile networks

Samsung’s proposal to create a universal built-in device that would make lost or stolen phones inoperable was rejected by US mobile network operators.

The South Korean electronics giant Samsung equipped some of its smartphones with such switches earlier this year, however, the network operators have requested those being removed before the gadgets are shipped to the US.

AT&T, Verizon Wireless, United States Cellular, Sprint and T-Mobile US have all rejected Samsung's proposal to pre-load its phones with absolute LoJack anti-theft software as a standard feature, saying a kill switch could be easily abused by a hacker to disable someone’s phone.

The debate about kill switches in the US has intensified with the growing number of phone thefts. Lost and stolen mobile devices - mostly smartphones - cost consumers more than £18.6bn in 2012, according to a study conducted by a private smartphone security company Lookout.

Currently, users of Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones can enable the LoJack feature by subscribing to the service and paying a fee.

During a Smartphone Summit in New York earlier this year, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and District Attorney George Gascon urged consumer electronics manufacturers including Apple, Samsung, Google and Microsoft, to develop kill switches and make them available to customers for free.

After that, Apple has embedded such a feature, an activation lock, into its iOS 7 software, released this autumn. Apple's activation lock feature is designed to prevent thieves from turning off the Find My iPhone application, which allows owners to track their phone on a map, remotely lock the device and delete its data.

The activation lock requires someone to know the user's Apple ID and password to reactivate a phone, even after all the data on the device is erased.

In July, prosecutors brought federal and state security experts to San Francisco to test Apple's iPhone 5 with its activation lock and Samsung's Galaxy S4 with LoJack.

Treating the phones as if they were stolen, experts tried to circumvent their anti-theft features to evaluate their effectiveness. The results of these experiments have not been announced yet.

One Silicon Valley technology security expert said he thinks Apple's activation lock is the first kill switch that meets law enforcement's desire to protect iPhone users and other smartphone manufacturers should follow suit.

"Thieves cannot do anything with the device unless they have the user's ID, which they don't," said Ojas Rege, vice president of strategy at Mobile Iron, a technology software security company in Mountain View, California.

"The activation lock addresses this issue without the carriers having to do anything," he said, adding that he did not believe resistance to implementing kill switch technology was fuelled by profits.

"That is not the number one priority for manufacturers. They're driven by creating the next great feature for their smartphones," he said.

Recent articles

Info Message

Our sites use cookies to support some functionality, and to collect anonymous user data.

Learn more about IET cookies and how to control them