Will a mobile “kill switch” be the death of smartphone theft?

ImageLast month, the US proposed a new law: the Smartphone Theft Prevention Act. The bill attempts to address the growing problem of mobile phone theft, which is currently costing consumers over $30bn annually in the states alone, by installing a “kill switch” onto all smartphones.

Not only is your phone being pinched a massive inconvenience (and potentially pretty costly) but there’s also the chance that your personal data gets into the wrong hands. So could the answer to our woes be a remotely transmitted kill message, rendering the device useless if triggered?

Obviously its purpose is to protect us as consumers, but that kind of judicial power could so easily be abused once the infrastructure is up and running. What if the system was cracked by hackers, who could then quite easily disable huge numbers of smartphones at a time?

It would be damaging enough if it were just consumers affected, but imagine if hackers targeted groups like the emergency services or the Ministry of Defence. The consequences would be catastrophic. The process could be designed to be reversible, but if hackers are smart enough to crack the system in the first place they would surely have no problem getting around that.

And so the mobile industry finds itself at a crossroad. Providers have so far been hesitant to employ such drastic tactics, suggesting the use of less invasive software tracking and data erasure options instead. Apple already has a similar function available on their smartphones, but at the moment you have to opt-in to activate it. If this bill passes, it would mean the kill switch was automatically activated on devices and consumers would have to opt-out in order to bypass it.

It seems that the price we’re paying to protect ourselves against today’s cyber criminals is growing. We’re ending up losing the control over our data that we were trying so hard to hold on to in the first place. The key to moving forward is going to be in finding a balance between security and control –whilst simultaneously driving crime figures down.

At BuddyBackup, we’re obviously very passionate about protecting your data by backing it up to another device, just in case disaster strikes. We’re more dependent on our smartphones than ever before – they pretty much contain our entire identity these days. While BuddyBackup doesn’t currently support mobile devices, there are apps out there that do and we’d strongly recommend checking them out.

 

Author: Cassie Holmes, BuddyBackup

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