Microsoft and Google Introduce Kill Switch Feature

Smartphone theft has become an increasing issue across the globe. According to official reports, in 2013 in the US approximately 3 million mobile devices were stolen, while in 2012 the number of thefts was twice the smaller. In Europe, one in three people experienced the loss or the theft of a mobile phone in 2013. Is there anything to be done to solve this growing problem? In September 2013, Apple introduced dubbed Activation Lock, the feature that has been really helpful in theft reducing. Obviously, Microsoft and Google were also considering this problem. Android and Windows phone operating systems will get the new feature, “kill-switch”.

How does this anti-theft feature work? If stolen, a handset becomes completely useless, which makes stealing it pointless. A “soft” kill switch makes a phone unusable to unauthorized users, while the “hard” one renders the stolen mobile device permanently broken down. Although the latter is favored by authorities, some tech experts argue that the only way to permanently disable any electronic gadget is to physically damage it. Another contra-argument is that if a phone is put into airplane mode or turned off, it may not receive the kill signal at all.

But, if it’s possible for someone to remotely switch off a mobile device even when they are not physically in possession of it, could that facility be abused? It seems to me that the results won’t be very pretty once hackers find out the way to switch off our phones such that we cannot switch it back on again. Nevertheless, we leave that to authorities to consider when making decisions on “kill-switch” and similar features.

What happens to older phones? While this feature will be added to upcoming versions of operating systems, it’s unlike that it would protect existing mobile devices. Since the majority of phones will still be without a kill switch, violence and thefts associated with smartphones remain a tragic reality. In fact, criminal will target older devices! Well, clearly, we all have to change our current handsets for the freshly produced ones, don’t we? If, however, you are scared of hackers, stick to your old mobile phone, but take a good care of it.