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Using “Kill Switches” to Kill Smartphone Theft

June 29, 2014
Plain English Version

Using kill switchesWhat is more important than keeping your smartphone safe from thieves? The surge in smartphone and iPhone robberies is likely to come to an end.

New Apple iPhone have a system and thefts are down in places like New York City. The two other big systems are Android and Windows. Thefts of these devices went way up in the last year. Samsung owners report a huge increase in the number of thefts in NYC in the first five months of 2014.

A report estimates that 3.1 million mobile phones were stolen in the U.S. in 2013. That is double the number stolen in 2012.

That will change with the introduction of kill switches in the coming year. Kill switches make mobile phones un-usable if they have been reported stolen.

A kill switch lets owners lock down a phone after it has been stolen. The phone can only work with the correct password or personal identification number. This makes the phone of no value to a thief who was going to resell it on the black market.

A government official said phones reported as stolen would be cancelled like credit cards. All the big phone makers are joining in.

For some time police and tech companies have been working on ways to make phones safer, such as setting up passcodes.

A website, beforeyouloseit.org, tells owners about anti-theft apps.

New laws are coming from different states. There is a good chance the market will respond to the demand for safer phones. We may not need laws.

Sources: The Wall Street Journal June 19, 2014 and The New York Times June 19, 2014

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