It is no secret that theft of smartphones climbs every year – in 2012, 1.6 million U.S. citizens were victims of smartphone theft according to New York’s Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman. Schneiderman, San Francisco’s District Attorney, George Gascon and London Mayor Boris Johnson are co-chairs of the coalition of Secure Our Smartphone Initiative. Schneiderman and Gascon have been very critical of the cellphone industry for their unwillingness to help solve this escalating problem.
Samsung took it upon themselves and included free anti-theft features on its new Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone being sold by Verizon and (soon) U.S. Cellular and were praised by Schneiderman and Gascon of the international coalition aimed at fighting the theft of smartphones. These new features allow the Samsung Galaxy S5 owners to track their devices and it requires the owner’s account information to reset the device. The two features are called ‘Find My Mobile’ and “Reactivation Lock’ and will come pre-installed by Samsung, but must be activated by the user. Schneiderman, and Gascon, said in a statement:
“The decision … to provide Samsung’s Find My Mobile and Reactivation Lock features on Galaxy S5 smartphones and to allow those features to be activated for free is a step forward in our effort to ensure the industry makes effective theft deterrents available on every smartphone sold in America.” However, they remain “concerned that consumers will need to opt in to the system, thereby limiting the ubiquity and effectiveness of the solution.” They are worried that customers will either forget or choose not to opt-in to the security features, thus rendering the devices vulnerable to theft.
Schneiderman has voiced his public support for bills that are currently in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate that would require a ‘kill-switch’ to be installed on every cellphone sold in the United States – with this kill switch, the phone would not be able to be re-activated in the black market. The CTIA, which lobbies for the Wireless Association is against the ‘kill switch,’ arguing that a hacker could get into a user’s device and render it useless. They are working with law enforcement on a national database to better track devices, but once stolen, the device can still be resold in the black markets outside the U.S., where most of them end up. Many of the black markets are made up of the drug cartels – they already have their routes established and the penalty for ‘pushing’ cellphones is light compared to drugs, yet the money is still there.
Samsung has taken a huge step in possibly preventing smartphone theft – let’s hope that other manufacturers follow suit and start incorporating the means for users to render their devices unusable by a potential theft. Let us know on our Google+ Page if you are for these types of ‘kill’ switches, and would you be willing to turn yours’ on. All information from the source points to only Galaxy S5s sold by Verizon and Cellular One at this time.