Smartphones are expensive and along with their price tags they have recently been perceived as a measure to an individual’s social standing, with the trend of smartphone ownership growing rapidly a rise in phone theft has also been reported. Losing an item you have worked hard to acquire is always painful and unsettling, this is the reason why an organization in America called “Secure our Smartphones”, put pressure to convince Microsoft and Google to incorporate a “Kill switch” in their operating systems on smartphones.
What is a “kill switch”?
A kill switch is a safety mechanism that is used to shut down a device remotely when it cannot be done manually or in the usual manner, in this context if a phone is either stolen or lost.
Secure our Smartphones, an organization started by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón was set up due to concern about rampant theft in their cities. Microsoft and Google have agreed to add kill switch software to the next versions of their smartphones operating systems to enable them to be disabled remotely in case the phone is stolen or lost.
The move to add this feature to smartphones comes after Apple has already included a slightly similar feature into their iOS 7 called “Activation Lock”. Though it has been found to have some loop holes it assists the owner of the stolen or lost iPhone to remotely wipe or lock their iPhone. Research was done and it showed that having a feature like “Activation Lock” deterred phone theft and the rate of occurrence reduced significantly after this feature was introduced.
How does the Kill switch work?
The exact details to what kind of kill switch will be installed to Microsoft and Google operating systems has not yet been revealed but in general there are two types of kill switches that can exist, a “hard” kill switch that permanently makes the phone completely useless and unusable for anyone on any network world wide, or a “soft” alternative version that makes a phone unusable to anyone but the legitimate owner.
Secure our smartphones has voted to have the “hard” version of kill switches installed to smartphones, so that when a thief steals a phone it is practically useless, and has no resale value hence deterring would be cellphone thieves.
This software is excellent for people who are constantly prone to losing their phones or having them stolen. Even though the probability of getting back a stolen phone is low, a form of comfort is given to the owner knowing that no one else will be able to use the phone or make a profit from it, plus all the personal information stored on the phone would not be accessible to anyone.