Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Your Rights Online

Proposed California Law Would Mandate Smartphone Kill Switch 252

Posted by timothy
from the kill-kill-kill dept.
alphadogg writes "Kill-switch technology that can render a lost or stolen smartphone useless would become mandatory in California under a new bill that will be proposed to the state legislature in January. The bill will be introduced by Senator Mark Leno, a Democrat representing San Francisco and neighboring towns, and George Gascón, the district attorney for San Francisco. Gascón has been spearheading a push by major law-enforcement agencies across the U.S. for more to be done to prevent smartphone theft. The proposed law could reach well beyond the borders of California. Because of the difficulty and added cost of producing handsets solely for sale in California, it could serve to make kill-switch technology a standard feature on phones sold across the U.S."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Proposed California Law Would Mandate Smartphone Kill Switch

Comments Filter:
  • California (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    It's amazing how these retards affect everything that is sold the in the US.

    • well, Texas determines school books for the US. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/jun/21/how-texas-inflicts-bad-textbooks-on-us/ [nybooks.com] (of course..."bad"...is only the headline writer's opinion)
      • Texas determines about half the school books used in the USA. California determines the other half.

        • by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Friday December 20, 2013 @08:51AM (#45744687) Journal

          The law, as I understand it, is to allow the authority, to issue a command to render a particular smartphone totally unusable.

          However, the same law could be misused by the authority as well (think of what NSA is doing, for example) - instead of killing a smartphone that has been reported stolen, the authority could issue a kill command to smartphones that are being used by "dissidents", cutting off their communication lines.

          Do not ever forget that inside the NSA datacenter they have all the information of who is using what phone, who calls whom and when and how often and where they call from, etc.

          Right now, without the KILL SWITCH, all they could do is to LISTEN IN to the communications of people. With KILL SWITCH, they could kill off all the communication channels of the anti-NSA people, and render them totally unable to communicate with the world.

    • It's amazing how these retards affect everything that is sold the in the US.

      A small group in Miami determine whether you can buy Havana Club Rum or legally lie in the beach in Varadero.

      • by mirix (1649853)

        No Americans is a feature of laying on the beach in Varadero. If the US let it's citizens go, Cuba would lose that edge. ;-)

  • No... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Thursday December 19, 2013 @05:45PM (#45740565)

    On the surface one might thing âoeThatâ(TM)s a great idea, it would make stolen phone useless!â

    But beyond the idea that eventually hackers would find a path around such measures, it also opens the door to abuse by âoeLaw Enforcementâ, who are notoriously unable to police themselves from both breaking the law and abusing the privileges they have been given.

    • Re:No... (Score:5, Funny)

      by ackthpt (218170) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @05:52PM (#45740645) Homepage Journal

      On the surface one might thing âoeThatâ(TM)s a great idea, it would make stolen phone useless!â

      But beyond the idea that eventually hackers would find a path around such measures, it also opens the door to abuse by âoeLaw Enforcementâ, who are notoriously unable to police themselves from both breaking the law and abusing the privileges they have been given.

      "Oh, you found your missing phone, which you thought was stolen, so we bricked it. Certainly we can unbrick it - for a modest fee of $85 - MUAH HA HA HA HAAAAAAH! Oh, pardon I dribbled a bit at the thought of extracting this fee for 5 seconds work. Excuse me while I get a mop and a bucket."

      Nah, it wouldn't be abused.

      • Re:No... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by cayenne8 (626475) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @06:01PM (#45740767) Homepage Journal
        More importantly...

        I'm getting sick of CA putting out rules and "standards" that spread to other states that don't want/need them.

        • Re:No... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 19, 2013 @06:22PM (#45740989)

          Now you know how the rest of the planet feels about the US...

        • by Wycliffe (116160)

          More importantly...

          I'm getting sick of CA putting out rules and "standards" that spread to other states that don't want/need them.

          California has a big enough market that they can mostly get away with it. It would be interesting to see what
          would happen if companies called their bluff and just skipped the california market. I'm assuming in certain
          areas there are already a lot of items that are not being sold in California but what if the big companies like
          Nokia, Samsung, etc... just decided not to comply and skipped the California market. One of these days they
          are going to pass a law that's too hard to comply with and companies are g

        • Re:No... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 19, 2013 @07:13PM (#45741497)

          So you're for "State's Rights", but only for the states you like.

          • by sumdumass (711423)

            What in the world would make you think that outside of ignorance of state's rights. The feds are constitutionally empowered to regulate commerce between the states. State's rights is about keeping the feds out of areas they are not constitutionally supposed to be in, not empowering states above the constitution.

            California is more than capable of placing restrictions and requirements on commerce conducted withing its borders as long as it doesn't favor local companies over other US companies. The problem of

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by whistlingtony (691548)

          /sarcasm Yeah! damn California and their emissions rules. If they hadn't passed regulations in cali, the auto manufacturers wouldn't have had to change, and my car would still get 15m/gal! Etc etc etc... Damn California! Not to mention all those things that cause cancer in California... but not in other states.

          There's a lot wrong with Cali, but all the rules and regulations that have come out of there have been to everyone's benefit. Why do people keep criticizing the very people who are helping them?

          • I was on a website and they just basically said everything they sold contained substances known to cause cancer to the state of California.

        • by WetCat (558132)

          What happens if, for example, Kansas proposes law which mandates NO kill switch on smartfones?

      • Re:No... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @07:01PM (#45741393)

        "Oh, you found your missing phone, which you thought was stolen, so we bricked it. Certainly we can unbrick it - for a modest fee of $85 - MUAH HA HA HA HAAAAAAH! Oh, pardon I dribbled a bit at the thought of extracting this fee for 5 seconds work. Excuse me while I get a mop and a bucket.""

        That might be their ideal intent, but it ain't gonna happen.

        The reason is this: the only way to do a "kill switch" reliably, which can't be bypassed, is to truly brick the phone, beyond repair. Anything else, and hack solutions to un-brick would be available for free in 2 weeks.

        Aaaaaannnddd... to illustrate the true idiocy of this idea: if they do implement "remote kill", hacks to do THAT will also be available soon for free. So thousands if not millions will be able to kiss their phones goodbye because someone who doesn't like them pulls a malicious prank.

        • Re:No... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by LunaticTippy (872397) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @07:26PM (#45741625)
          You don't have to brick it. Other countries use a blacklist of IMEI numbers. Phone theft has decreased because stolen phones won't be able to connect to any mobile networks. Yeah, there are various workarounds and hacks but it's not intended to stop smart people.
          • "You don't have to brick it. Other countries use a blacklist of IMEI numbers. Phone theft has decreased because stolen phones won't be able to connect to any mobile networks. Yeah, there are various workarounds and hacks but it's not intended to stop smart people."

            But that's a completely different subject. Blocking an IMEI number has nothing to do with a "remotely programmable" device.

    • Re:No... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TENTH SHOW JAM (599239) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @06:26PM (#45741031) Homepage

      Each phone has an IMEI burned into it's hardware. This IMEI and the phone number are transmitted to the cell tower every time you communicate. All IMEIs for a given carrier are whitelisted. What the system does is remove the IMEI of stolen phones from the whitelist. A hacker would have to change the IMEI of the phone to another one on the whitelist. This may be trivial or hard based on the hardware, but such systems have been active in Australia for 20 years now, and the market for stolen phones is still non existent.

      • by Albanach (527650)

        So your IMEI database has every GSM network in the world? Or do tourists have to register their phones before they can roam? What about tourists who want a prepaid SIM for the duration of their stay - do they now need to register their physical phone too? If you drop your phone and break the screen, you can't just take the SIM out and put it in another GSM phone, you need a different working phone to call your carrier and have that phone added to this white list?

        • by jonbryce (703250)

          If the source of the list is all the IMEI numbers issued to manufacturers, then probably yes, they do have all the numbers in the world.

          Anyway, if a tourist roams onto a foreign GSM network, the phone calls home to authenticate on its home telco's Home Location Register.

          • "... the phone calls home to authenticate on its home telco's Home Location Register."

            Unless it's an unlocked phone, in which case it can be made to show anywhere as it's "home location".

            GSM phones were intended to be international in nature. All you need is a local SIM card and some service software for the phone, which is available online.

        • Re:No... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by FatLittleMonkey (1341387) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @08:19PM (#45742007)

          Or do tourists have to register their phones before they can roam? What about tourists who want a prepaid SIM for the duration of their stay - do they now need to register their physical phone too?

          Yes. That's what the IMEI is for. When you connect to a new network, the phone registers its IMEI with that network. That allows the network to connect the handset-identity to your sim-identity. Without that, the network would be unable to connect your phone across cells.

          you need a different working phone to call your carrier and have that phone added to this white list?

          You've got it backwards. The IMEI list is black, not white. If you report your phone stolen, the IMEI for that phone goes on the blacklist. When a phone connects to any network, it reports its IMEI. The network can then check against a black-list of stolen phones and if it's on the list either refuse to connect the handset, or report information to the police who track down the phone. The former is what happens in my country, which slashed the rates of stolen phones. The latter seems more useful in the US, where phones have mandatory GPS.

          [BTW, phone networks opposed the black-list idea in this country, so I presume that's why California introduced the kill-switch plan, to push the burden onto international manufacturers rather than domestic networks.]

          • by Albanach (527650)

            You've got it backwards. The IMEI list is black, not white.

            No, I did not get it backwards. the post I replied to said:

            All IMEIs for a given carrier are whitelisted.

            I would have expected a blacklist, but the poster said they used a whitelist (wherever that poster is) and hence I asked about the implications of that given what I perceive to be the many benefits inherent to GSM.

    • This would be a good way to kill any phone — not just a stolen one. The phone company could do this upon contract expiration, for example. Government will be able to do it to criminals on the run (or even to mere suspects)...
      • If your phone dying is that scary to you, you must have the world's most unscary life. Anyway the government could simply order your service revoked already. Phone companies have other measures already and you should've had the sense to buy an unlocked phone.
    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      But beyond the idea that eventually hackers would find a path around such measures, it also opens the door to abuse by ÃoeLaw EnforcementÃ, who are notoriously unable to police themselves from both breaking the law and abusing the privileges they have been given.

      Depends. the iOS 7 kill switch seems fairly effective - though it has an interesting side effect -some people have "found" lost phones and being locked out, gives them no way to actually return the phone.

      And why would law enforcement want

  • Watch (Score:5, Insightful)

    by msobkow (48369) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @05:45PM (#45740567) Homepage Journal

    The crackers will figure out how to trigger the remote kill switch without your authorization, bricking thousands if not millions of phones.

    Or the goobernmint will...

    • Re:Watch (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MrDoh! (71235) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @05:52PM (#45740651) Homepage Journal
      Think that's morel likely. Next Occupy confrontation, suddenly everyone's phone stops working.
    • Re:Watch (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ackthpt (218170) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @05:53PM (#45740667) Homepage Journal

      The crackers will figure out how to trigger the remote kill switch without your authorization, bricking thousands if not millions of phones.

      Or the goobernmint will...

      Incoming text: Send me $100 dollars or I'll freeze your phone.

    • by theNetImp (190602)

      all the government has to do is turn off the cell towers. A kill switch is a mute point.

    • by icebike (68054)

      The crackers will figure out how to trigger the remote kill switch without your authorization, bricking thousands if not millions of phones.

      Or the goobernmint will...

      The government wants to track you, and record your calls, and your cell phone makes that easy.
      Why would they decide to kill that when it is worth so much more to them when its working?

      • Re:Watch (Score:5, Informative)

        by s.petry (762400) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @06:31PM (#45741103)
        Logical fallacy. The Government having one form of control does not indicate that they don't want more. The concepts of dominance are not new, please stop trying to ignore them.
      • Counter question: Why should they turn down the opportunity for even more control?

        There are times when you not being able to make a call is more valuable than tracking you and listening to you. If I know where you are, and if I know that you will most likely just call for support, my primary goal turns to you not being able to do that.

  • So, (Score:2, Funny)

    by Andrio (2580551)

    It has come to this.

  • by demachina (71715) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @05:46PM (#45740577)

    Very uaseful for law enforcement to kill the smartphones of anyone they consider problematic, like leaders of streets protests or occupy movements.

    • This is absurd paranoia. It takes 30 seconds to borrow a friend's phone to make a call, and a few minutes to buy a new $10 flip phone. There's no point, and it'd be far easier for the government to simply jam the signal in the area.
  • Canada has similar (Score:5, Informative)

    by trainman (6872) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @05:51PM (#45740633) Homepage

    We went a similar but different direction in Canada, rather than killing the phone there's a list of IMEIs for stolen phones, and all carriers will honour not allowing phones in the database on to their networks. Which this solution sounds little less onerous than re-engineering every handset OS to have this kill ability.

    Also the phone doesn't actually have to be turned on to be blacklisted, how often will you send the "kill" pings out when stolen? Would a thief simply have to wait a few weeks until the heat dies down?

    We have devices that register with networks when activated, isn't it far easier to wait for that event than to try and push a command to a phone that may never be turned on again?

    Reference:
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/stolen-phones-blacklist-launches-in-canada-1.1873674 [www.cbc.ca]

  • More likely to be abused by authorities/criminals. Surely what'd be better is when you see your phone's gone missing, log in to itunes/google and track it. Get a key to hand other to law enforcement to let them track it and have permission to do what's needed. They track it, find out who's currently got the phone, and arrest them or find out who they bought it from and arrest them.

    Person who got phone stolen gets their phone back.
    Person who stole it gets arrested, and often with other stolen items.
    Th
    • Personally, I think the police have far more important things to do than track your cell phone and recover it. If not, then you need less cops. I mean, they didn't care about the thousands of dollars worth of stuff robbed from my apartment, or expensive tools stole from my truck, why should they care about your cheaper cell phone?

      Get insurance on your phone, fuck the police.

  • ...are scenarios other than theft where the government might find it prudent to trip the kill switch on one or more cell phones. If mine is stolen, I'd rather just get another one.

    I mean, is this a thing? Is cell phone theft so rampant and costly that mandatory kill switches are a viable solution?

    • by Yaur (1069446)
      It's a thing. iPhone theft is the number one crime in NYC see http://www.uproxx.com/technology/2013/11/14-crime-nyc-iphone-theft/ [uproxx.com] among many others. As someone who lost an apple device to a mugger... this still seems like a horrible idea.
  • by ZombieBraintrust (1685608) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @05:57PM (#45740719)
    Federal Communication Commision regulates cell phones. Federal law preempts state law. Any California law could be nulified by the FCC.
    • by DM9290 (797337)

      Federal Communication Commision regulates cell phones. Federal law preempts state law. Any California law could be nulified by the FCC.

      Federal Law only pre-empts state law when there is a contradiction. Is there a federal law that specifically says cell phones must not have a remote killswitch?

      • by rsborg (111459)

        Federal Communication Commision regulates cell phones. Federal law preempts state law. Any California law could be nulified by the FCC.

        Federal Law only pre-empts state law when there is a contradiction. Is there a federal law that specifically says cell phones must not have a remote killswitch?

        The endgame of this legislation for totalitarian-loving legislators is that ultimately that's what will happen - they propose onerous conditions on the manufacturers and carriers who can't say no to the 12th largest market [1] in the world (probably even more important for cell phones), who then complain and ask the Feds to step in and propose their own laws that supersede the CA law, which then requires their client states and treaty members to follow along (for those nice economic treaties mandating match

    • by DaHat (247651)

      Riiiight.

      So every state based EPA is nullified by the existence of the federal EPA?

      No... California can (and often does say) "in order to sell X within this state, you must meet the following requirements..."

      More often than not you hear of "California emissions" compliance, or even a label on a laptop charger that says "this product contains lead, a substance that is known to the government of California to cause birth defects".

      Alas, many states do the same... and so long as they don't run counter federal l

  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @05:58PM (#45740723) Homepage Journal

    So, who has control over this "kill switch?"

    Because if the answer is anything other than "you, the person who owns the device, and nobody else," then you can go ahead and shove that kill-switch up your corn-shooter.

    • I don't know who's supposed to have that control, but I sure will find how to hack it via bluetooth or Wifi!
      Just enough reach for the cars around mine.

    • You own a cellphone? Really? Please inform me of the magical phone and carrier where this is possible!

      • by Todd Knarr (15451)

        T-Mobile. They dropped subsidized contracts entirely. It's all month-to-month, at lower rates than before at that.

        Now, you can finance a phone through them too. But it's handled as just that: you're financing your phone. The financing's separate from the service and broken out separately on your bill, the only connection being that if you cancel service you have to pay off the balance of the loan for your phone. You don't have to finance, you can pay for your new phone in full up-front or pop the new SIM in

  • I had millions of "KILL YOUR SMARTPHONE" bumper stickers ready to ship. Now what?

  • This is going to put all those "Cash for Your Stolen Phone" places out of business. I guess we'll just have to make due with the "Cash for Your Stolen Gold" places.

  • by Tanuki64 (989726) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @06:11PM (#45740861)

    ...but the foo cell phone contains a component, which violates one of our patents. Therefore we demand, that all foo cell phones are disabled immediately.

  • Imagine California passed another ill-conceived, over-reaching, meddlesome law ... and nobody obeyed it.

    Imagine!
  • by godel_56 (1287256) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @06:19PM (#45740933)
    In Australia they just have a list of stolen phones distributed to the carriers, and they block the phone from network access based on the phone's IMEI.
  • by Taelron (1046946) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @06:27PM (#45741041)
    Its already possible to do, but the Phone companies do NOT want to do this. They make money off you buying a new phone and the selling coverage to the user of your lost/stolen phone.

    There was an article about this less than a month ago in the huffington post... http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/20/iphone-kill-switch_n_4308924.html [huffingtonpost.com]

  • by slapout (93640) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @06:30PM (#45741085)

    UPDATE PhoneList
    SET KillPhoneIndicator = "Y"

    Oops. Forgot the WHERE clause

  • by macraig (621737) <mark...a...craig@@@gmail...com> on Thursday December 19, 2013 @06:31PM (#45741101)

    Dare I hope that this law will contain specific text prohibiting service providers from abusing this for contract issues or nonpayment? Naaaah, that would be asking too much of our corporate overlords and their paid^H^H^H^Helected cronies....

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Plain stupid

    In 3 years the phones will cost nothing so there will be no reason to steal a phone [*]
    What will matters would be data on those phone.
    Kill switch will be the perfect target for hackers/terrorists.

    [*] Of course there still will be phone with a fruit logo on it that would still cost $$$$. But who cares ? If that matters we could force all vendors to adopt the same logo to confuse the thieves.

  • Is cell phone theft so rampant in california so they HAVE to step in with legislation? I don't get this.

    • by jonbryce (703250)

      Half of all muggings apparently. Probably not any higher than other places though.

    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Todd Knarr (15451) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @07:33PM (#45741701) Homepage

      Pretty much. There's a lot of muggings and thefts (I believe the majority) done solely to grab the victim's cel phone. The thieves don't care about cash (not enough of it these days to be worth it) or credit cards (too easily traced), but ditch the SIM card and a modern smartphone's worth several hundred dollars in a package that fits conveniently in a pocket. They're also hard for the police to trace quickly: most people don't know their phone's IMEI, and by the time they go to the carrier and have the carrier report it the phone's probably in the hands of an unwitting phone-store customer who has no clue it was stolen.

      The only way to stop this is to make it so that a stolen phone's useless and the fences and phone stores know it. Right now the phone stores don't worry too much about questionable merchandise because the cops can't prove the store knew it was stolen and the phones are still usable so they won't suffer any backlash from customers. Fences will take the phones because they know they can launder them and sell them. The kill switch changes the calculus: phone stores and other resellers know they're the ones who'll catch the flak when phones they sold start getting bricked because they were stolen, that'll make it too costly for them to take a chance on questionable merchandise. Fences won't take them if there's no market for the fence to sell them off to. And the muggers will quickly stop targeting stuff once their fences won't give them any money for it.

  • A mechanism that can kill cell phones, known to local police forces, and presumably to cellular service providers and probably others, might be very interesting to criminals and foreign powers, as a way to increase chaos and reduce response during a major crime or terrorist event. And you know that eventually the code or technique or whatever will eventually fall into criminal or enemy hands. It's too good a secret not to sell to someone. So, never mind trusting our government not to use this for nefario

  • by viperidaenz (2515578) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @07:22PM (#45741597)

    Why not just mandate the carriers participate in international IMEI black lists?
    It doesn't stop the phone working, just means it can't connect to the network.
    Still has the effect of lowering the value of a stolen phone.

  • by rossz (67331) <ogre&geekbiker,net> on Thursday December 19, 2013 @10:09PM (#45742613) Homepage Journal

    Every single cell phone has a unique ID code associated with it. Simply require the cell phone provider industry to create a shared database that would contain the this ID code of all stolen phones and make it illegal to activate a phone on this list.

    The cell phone provider industry doesn't want to do this because a stolen phone means they might get a new service contract with the thief while selling the victim a new phone (which almost always extends the existing contract). Doing anything about stolen cell phones is lost revenue to them.

Never say you know a man until you have divided an inheritance with him.

Working...