Smartphone kill switch

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A smartphone kill switch is a software-based[1] security feature that allows a smartphone's owner to remotely render it inoperable if it is lost or stolen, thereby deterring theft. Since 2015, this feature has been legally required in California for smartphones.[2] A number of initiatives have been created around this aim, for example Secure Our Smartphones (S.O.S.), a New York State and San Francisco initiative started by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón.[3][4] The initiative is co-chaired by Schneiderman, Gascón and Boris Johnson, and has 105 members.[5][6]

Background and implementation[edit]

Smartphones are expensive devices with high resale value, and are therefore often the target of theft, with thieves selling them to cartels for resale.[2] One attempt to address this is a "kill switch" which would deter theft. In the United States, Minnesota was the first state to pass a bill requiring smartphones to have such a feature,[2] and California was the first to require that the feature be turned on by default.[2] The California law requires the kill switch to be resistant to reinstallation of the phone's operating system.[1] The CTIA initially resisted the legislation, fearing that it would make phones easier to hack, but later supported kill switches.[7] There is evidence that this legislation has been effective, with smartphone theft declining by 50% between 2013 and 2017 in San Francisco.[8]

Strategies intended to reduce smartphone theft[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "10 things to know about the smartphone kill switch". PCWORLD. 24 June 2014. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  2. ^ a b c d Nieva, Richard (1 July 2015). "Smartphone 'kill switch' law takes effect in California". CNET. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  3. ^ "Smartphone Kill Switch: What It Is, How It Might Work". Tom's Guide. 14 May 2014. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  4. ^ "SECURE OUR SMARTPHONES". San Francisco District attorney. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  5. ^ "Secure Our Smartphones Initiative Members | New York State Attorney General". Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  6. ^ "Citizens Crime Commission of New York City | Cybercrime". Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  7. ^ "Kill switch proposals finally force wireless industry's hand". PCWorld. 2014-04-17. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  8. ^ Claburn, Thomas (28 Jul 2017). "Cellphone kill switches kill cellphone snatchers". Retrieved 2019-01-15.