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Government Cellphones Security

Smartphone Kill Switch, Consumer Boon Or Way For Government To Brick Your Phone? 299

Posted by samzenpus
from the best-of-both-worlds dept.
MojoKid writes We're often told that having a kill switch in our mobile devices — mostly our smartphones — is a good thing. At a basic level, that's hard to disagree with. If every mobile device had a built-in kill switch, theft would go down — who would waste their time over a device that probably won't work for very long? Here's where the problem lays: It's law enforcement that's pushing so hard for these kill switches. We first learned about this last summer, and this past May, California passed a law that requires smartphone vendors to implement the feature. In practice, if a smartphone has been stolen, or has been somehow compromised, its user or manufacturer would be able to remotely kill off its usability, something that would be reversed once the phone gets back into its rightful owner's hands. However, such functionality should be limited to the device's owner, and no one else. If the owner can disable a phone with nothing but access to a computer or another mobile device, so can Google, Samsung, Microsoft, Nokia or Apple. If the designers of a phone's operating system can brick a phone, guess who else can do the same? Everybody from the NSA to your friendly neighborhood police force, that's who. At most, all they'll need is a convincing argument that they're acting in the interest of "public safety."
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Smartphone Kill Switch, Consumer Boon Or Way For Government To Brick Your Phone?

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  • Undo! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by zelbinion (442226) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @06:23PM (#47716585)

    If you can un-brick the phone after it has been bricked, I'm sure someone will figure out a way to do this without involving the official channels. Theft might go down for a while, and it might never be as high as it once was, but once someone figures out how to un-brick the phone, steeling a phone will still get you something, even if you have to use it on another network or another country. Think blocking the IMEI is going to do it? There are already methods of changing or spoofing IMEI codes on lots of phones. This will stop casual theft, but like most locks, it won't deter determined thieves.

  • by gweihir (88907) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @07:18PM (#47716889)

    As in any good police state, if the police does not like you, the relevant US police force will just shoot you in your home and either claim they had the wrong address, or place some drugs or hints of terror-support. Bricking phones is for children.

  • by AHuxley (892839) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @07:21PM (#47716913) Homepage Journal
    Think back to East Germany. Even if a West German camera did look down over a city and capture a protest been broken up, the footage would still have to make it out of the area for later broadcast.
    What the US gov is seeking is a wifi, cell and upload block per city zone. A member of the press would have to find their van, a citizen journalist would seek the working internet thats open to the wider public in real time if they had phone upload "account" issues ;).
    Be fun if working free internet was offered as bait to track all the citizen journalists? A person sees their media upload but they are now identified in real time.
    The longer a person is in a dark city with real collected video of an event the more ability a gov has to spin, control or preempt the optics of an event or hunt down that lone citizen journalist.
    ie your phone is on but just cant seem to upload - your now carrying a unique beacon with media that needs to be sent and are on the move.
    In East Germany all the gov could do is look at TV images later and find the site used long after an event was broadcast to the world.
    In 2014 all a gov with a tame telco has to do is find your phone trying to upload. The unique video never gets out anymore. The citizen journalist is swept up and phone lost.
  • by rlh100 (695725) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @10:10PM (#47717731) Homepage

    Why Law Enforcement in California pushed for the law was that there is a real problem with violent smartphone robberies. The victim steps away from her friends to talk on her smartphone. The thief hits her from the back so she falls forward grabbing her phone and runs. She would not see who the thief was. This is an every weekend occurrence in San Francisco and the San Francisco Police don't like this. A kill switch would make smartphone theft less profitable.

"If that makes any sense to you, you have a big problem." -- C. Durance, Computer Science 234

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