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California Governor Jerry Brown to Review Smartphone 'Kill-Switch' Bill

TMCnet Feature

August 13, 2014

California Governor Jerry Brown to Review Smartphone 'Kill-Switch' Bill

By Matt Paulson
TMCnet Contributing Writer

On Monday, the California Senate passed a vote to approve a law that would require all smartphones sold in California to arrive in consumers' hands with antitheft technology that would allow them to shut down the phone remotely in the event that it is stolen. The bill passed with a vote of 27 to 8, and now it will be up to California Governor Jerry Brown to approve or deny the so-called 'Kill-Switch' Bill.

The bill, sponsored by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, places the onus of phone security on the device makers as opposed to the consumer, although consumers would have the opportunity to opt-out of the service if they chose to do so. If the phone is ever stolen, users would have the ability to simply contact their service provider to have the phone permanently locked, and therefore useless.

According to mobile security firm Lookout, around 10 percent of smartphone owners across the United States have had a smartphone stolen from them. Considering the fact that many of a user's apps include sensitive banking information, email and social media access, a stolen phone could become a one-way ticket to identity theft in a matter of minutes. “Our goal is to swiftly take the wind out of the sails of thieves who have made the theft of smartphones one of the most prevalent street crimes in California's biggest cities,” said Senator Mark Leno, who officially introduced the bill to the senate.

Wireless carriers have voiced some resistance to the bill, claiming that the kill-switch could be exploited by hackers. By locking a legitimate user out of their phone, these hackers could force users to pay a ransom to get their phone back. However, others suspect that the wireless carriers simply don't want to have to include yet another feature on smartphones, driving up the cost of manufacture.

Edited by Adam Brandt

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