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Major Manufacturers Pledge to Support Smartphone Anti-Theft Tech in 2015

Major Manufacturers Pledge to Support Smartphone Anti-Theft Tech in 2015

Major mobile device manufacturers and wireless carriers have announced a voluntary agreement to introduce or strengthen smartphone anti-theft technology for their products starting next year. As reported by Re/code, Apple, Google, HTC, Huawei, Motorola, Microsoft, Nokia, and Samsung have all committed to a pledge to ensure that users of devices on sale after July 2015 can remotely wipe and render them inoperable in the event of loss or theft, with the option to restore functionality in the event that the device is recovered. The carrier signatories to this pledge, which include the five largest U.S. carriers, agreed to facilitate these efforts.

This new voluntary agreement arrives as several local and state governments across the U.S. are considering legislative and regulatory approaches to dealing with device theft. California State Senator Mark Leno, who has previously proposed a requirement for a mandatory kill-switch law for his state, called the agreement an “incremental, yet inadequate step:”

Only weeks ago, [the wireless industry] claimed that the approach they are taking today was infeasible and counterproductive. While I am encouraged they are moving off of that position so quickly, today’s ‘opt-in’ proposal misses the mark if the ultimate goal is to combat street crime and violent thefts involving smartphones and tablets.

Senator Leno explained that the vast majority of consumers must have access to kill-switch features in order to have any deterrent effect on theft and crime related to mobile devices. A voluntary agreement to support such a feature only on future products addresses “just a piece” of the problem and not the “whole solution.”

Conversely, Steve Largent, president of CTIA, the Wireless Industry’s trade association, praised the agreement:

We appreciate the commitment made by these companies to protect wireless users in the event their smartphones are lost or stolen. 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. 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.

While universal smartphone anti-theft support is currently lacking, some companies already have relatively robust anti-theft measures. Apple, for example, has long supported remote tracking and wipe capabilities in its iDevice product line. A new feature called Activation Lock, introduced last fall as part of iOS 7, further strengthens security by preventing the reset or reactivation of a configured iPhone without an authorized user’s Apple ID and password.

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Jim Tanous

Apr 16, 2014

676 Articles Published

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