US operators accused of rejecting smartphone killswitch in order to protect theft insurance income
The US mobile operators have rejected Samsung’s proposal to install a ‘killswitch’ in its smartphones on the basis that such measure could leave users vulnerable to hackers intent on deactivating smartphones.
Law enforcement agencies on both sides of the Atlantic have called on the mobile industry to develop technology that would deactivate a smartphone if it was lost or stolen, with Apple and Samsung among those who have committed to search for a solution.
Samsung was apparently ready to ship smartphones pre-installed with LoJack anti-theft software in August, but US carriers blocked the move. CTIA – The Wireless Association, which represents US operators, said a permanent killswitch would leave individuals open to attack, while phones used by the likes of the Department of Defense and Homeland Security could also be deactivated.
San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon was incensed by the reaction of a number of US operators, including AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile US, accusing them of resisting a technological solution because they want to continue to charge billions in theft insurance premiums.
Gascon, along with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, has been one of the most vocal supporters of a killswitch, with mobile phone theft being the fastest rising street crime in the US.
It is claimed that one in three robberies in the US involves the theft of a smartphone, with lost or stolen devices costing US consumers $30 billion each year, while it is believed 10,000 mobile phones a month are stolen in London.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has reached out to his counterparts in New York and San Francisco and has written to the UK heads of Apple, BlackBerry, Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, HTC, Microsoft and Sony demanding they work together to create an anti-theft system.
The UK government has made a number of attempts to control the rise of mobile phone thefts, but these have so far failed to reduce the incident numbers. Recycling firms have agreed to a code of practice designed to prevent criminals from selling them stolen mobile phones, while police are able to identify stolen handsets using the National Mobile Phone Register (NMPR).
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