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US mobile carriers accused of choosing profit over security

Warwick Ashford

US mobile phone carriers have been accused of choosing profits over security by rejecting Samsung’s offer of a kill switch to disable lost or stolen devices.

AT&T, Verizon Wireless, United States Cellular Corp, Sprint Corp and T-Mobile US say the anti-theft technology could allow hackers to disable phones.

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But San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon claims to have seen emails that suggest carriers rejected the kill switch to protect revenue of billions of dollars from theft insurance premiums.

He is angry because the pre-installed software kill switch developed by Samsung could reduce phone theft, according to Sky News.

Almost a third of US robberies involve phone theft, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which has led law enforcement officials to demand a solution.

But according to the Wireless Association, a trade group for wireless providers, a permanent kill switch has serious risks.

It says hackers could disable mobile devices belonging to consumers as well as entities such as the Department of Defense, Homeland Security and law enforcement agencies.

Reports say federal and state security experts are testing the LoJack security software on Samsung Galaxy smartphones used for a subscription services in the US and the new lock feature on Apple devices.

The new activation lock feature introduced with iOS 7 is designed to prevent thieves from turning off the Find My iPhone application, which allows owners to track their phone on a map, remotely lock the device and delete its data.

A US security expert says Apple's activation lock is the first kill switch that meets law enforcement's desire to protect iPhone users and other smartphone manufacturers should follow suit.

"The activation lock addresses this issue without the carriers having to do anything," Ojas Rege, vice president of strategy at Mobile Iron told Fox News.


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