Can a Cell Phone Kill Switch Deter Theft?

b2ap3_thumbnail_KillSwitch400As smartphone ownership continues to rise (175 million cellphones sold last year in the US), so too does smartphone theft. Take San Francisco, CA as an example, half of all robberies reported last year were phone-related. To help curb this trend, crime fighting agencies are seeking help from phone manufacturers in developing a smartphone kill switch.

A smartphone kill switch would permanently and suddenly disable a stolen smartphone. If a phone is stolen, the victim could notify their carrier and then ask that the device be disconnected remotely. This procedure would render the smartphone useless, preventing the phone from being reactivated and sold on the black market. Carriers refer to this as “bricking” because it will essentially make the stolen phone as useful as a brick.

Another solution in place to protect businesses and consumers from cellphone theft is a database that keeps track of stolen phones. This database is already in effect with 43 countries and 100 wireless companies. This global database is run by GSMA, a wireless trade group based in the United Kingdom. Many carriers who are slow to adopt a database are favoring the kill switch as an easier alternative than having to catch and prosecute criminals.

As people and businesses are becoming increasingly dependent upon their smartphones to access sensitive data, the theft of mobile devices represents more than the loss of a shiny toy, it can lead to identity theft and a serious data breach. Considering that one out of three robberies in the US involves the theft of a mobile phone, any action that can be taken to curtail this number, whether it be kill switch or a database, is a welcome measure to protect cellphone users.

Even the best of us has forgetful moments that a thief can take advantage of. One best practice to keep your identity safe is to list your contacts by code names instead of using their full names. If your smartphone is connected to your company’s database, then you may be legally obligated to notify your customers about the theft, an embarrassing letter that no business owner wants to write. Using strong passwords and encrypting your communications will also slow down a thief and may essentially turn your stolen mobile device into a brick.

Once you realize that your device is stolen, the first thing you will want to do is contact your carrier. They may have a kill switch in place or another way to lock down your phone. You will next want to report the theft to local authorities who may be able to use your lead to track down the thief. Next, you will want to go through all of your online accounts and change your passwords to prevent a hacker from accessing them.

PACE Technical Services specializes in not only providing security for your network, but we also have solutions and best practices that will help to secure your mobile devices and keep your information safe in case of theft. Call PACE Technical Services at 905.763.7896 to learn more about what you can do to lock down your mobile device.

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