News

Minnesota passes mobile kill switch law to stop theft

Warwick Ashford

Minnesota has become the first US state to introduce legislation aimed at reducing smartphone theft.

The law requires anti-theft software to be installed on all smartphones sold in the state from July 2015.

Lockedphone-290x230.jpg

The software will enable victims of theft to active a so-called “kill switch” that will block thieves from using the stolen device.

Legislators are in favour of kill switches that will render a stolen device permanently unusable rather than simply making the device unusable by any unauthorised user.

Minnesota's new law also criminalises buying used phones for cash or selling them without complying with new record-keeping requirements.

Used phone sellers will need to set up security cameras and take down driver's license numbers for trade-ins, reports The Verge.

The move comes after calls from police departments across the US to clamp down on stolen smartphones, which are involved in a third of robberies, according to the US telecoms regulator.

The Minnesota legislation will also help improve data security of mobile devices and prevent thieves from using the devices to access online accounts. 

California is close to introducing similar legislation, while Congress is considering national legislation along these lines, according to the BBC.

A year ago, US law enforcement officers, legislators and consumer advocates launched a campaign to push for an international agreement on the need for a kill switch and put pressure on manufacturers.

Campaign

The Secure Our Smartphones initiative is co-chaired by London mayor Boris Johnson, New York state attorney general Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco district attorney George Gascon,

The initiative is designed to put pressure on the phone industry to help solve the issue of smartphone and tablet theft.

In the US Apple, Samsung, Verizon, T-Mobile and others have agreed that from July 2015 all handsets will have anti-theft software installed, although it will not be switched on by default.

But experts have expressed concern that kill signals could be hijacked and used by hackers to disable phones and that phones placed in “airplane mode” will not receive the kill signal.

Other critics of the initiative have said that kill switches will not deter criminals from stealing smartphones to strip them for parts.


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