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First smartphone 'kill switch' bill in the US passed by… Minnesota

Security Phone
By Harish Jonnalagadda on 15 May 2014 08:38 am EDT
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The Governor of Minnesota signed a new bill into law that prohibits the sale of any smartphone without anti-theft software pre-installed. The idea is to deter criminals from stealing handsets in the first place by allowing users to remotely disable and wipe a phone's data, rendering it useless. If a stolen phone is remotely disabled, there wouldn't be any monetary incentive left in the endeavour.

While the legislation does not mention the exact nature of anti-theft measures that need to be installed, it does state that all devices need to be "equipped with preloaded anti-theft functionality or be capable of downloading that functionality." Similar bills are underway in California, New York and Illinois. At the federal level, a Smartphone Theft Prevention Act bill was introduced in February, but it is still in committee.

In addition to anti-theft measures, the Minnesota legislature also states that second hand mobile devices cannot be paid for in cash, and that stores purchasing second hand devices will have to pay sellers by check, store credit or electronic transfer. Retailers as well as used phone vendors will have to keep records of all second hand device related transactions.

While individual states are taking matters into their own hands by introducing such laws, carriers and manufacturers are also undertaking measures to deter smartphone theft. Samsung, Google, Apple, and Microsoft have announced that they're committing to a CTIA "Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment," through which they'll be launching anti-theft tools that will allow users to remotely disable their devices.

The measures will be included in all handsets launched by these brands starting next year. In addition to handset manufacturers, all four major US carriers have also registered their interest in bringing anti-theft measures to consumers.

Source: The Governor of Minnesota's Office

Reader comments

First smartphone 'kill switch' bill in the US passed by… Minnesota

115 Comments

Yeah but funny 98% have been crazy enough to support a platform that doesn't already have this......awkward!!!!!

Seems like a logical thing to have available.

That feature has been available on iOS for a long time with "Find My iPhone" via iCloud. Android has various manufacturer based offerings and now features the "Device Manager" app from Google.

Not sure about Windows Phone but there's likely something similar in WP 8.1

Does find my iPhone disable your phone? For all I remember it did find it and you can send texts to it but that's about it

Posted with zee flicking coolest smartphone evah

Yes, it does. They added an "activation lock" with iOS 7. If Find My iPhone is installed, the device cannot restored using iTunes. iTunes will prompt you to disable FMi on the device, which of course will require pass code (if enabled) as well as the Apple ID/password associated with said device.

Posted via CB10

LMFAO... I see Birdbrain the troll is back. I'm curious how those security flaws in iOS that all people to disable the "Find my phone" function are working out for you?

Posted via CB10 from my amazing Q10

Ah, mnhockeycoach99...the penultimate BlackBerry fanboy. The type who cuts down the competition and hurls personal insults when he can't properly refute a valid point. Magnificent!

Birdman......brrrrrdddd!

Swiped via CB10 with my T-Mobile USA (Only T-Mo rep still pushing  )  ‎BlackBerry Q10...oh wait a sec....its my new  BlackBerry Z30 (STA100-5), son! The holy grail of phones! Once you go BlackBerry, everything else is wack-berry! LOL!

Hella long signature! Haha! I'm going add to it too

Swiped via CB10 with my T-Mobile USA (Only T-Mo rep still pushing  )  ‎BlackBerry Q10...oh wait a sec....its my new  BlackBerry Z30 (STA100-5), son! The holy grail of phones! Once you go BlackBerry, everything else is wack-berry! LOL!

"Find my phone" is utterly useless. It's a laughable attempt at providing security after the theft. Spiking the phone is a much greater deterrent.

From my Neutrino Powered Z10

How so?

You can't wipe or use the phone as a fresh iPhone while it is enabled. Seems pretty useful to me. You'll just be stuck at the setup screen.

It works. I got my dad's iPhone back with it. Also we had someone come and get their iPhone back using that feature also (it was lost on the road and we got a phone call that they were in the area).

I had a kid have his iPad stolen from the classroom and of course he was quite sure they'd be able to track it and get it back because of that process, but of course whoever stole it knew how to bypass it and ended up with a free large( feminine hygiene product) pad.

From my Neutrino Powered Z10

Isn't it true that you can't even hard reset a BlackBerry 10 device? Most phones even when locked can just be hard reset and your phone can still be used until you report it stolen to your carrier. The carrier will block the IMEI so they can't use the phone. But with BlackBerry you can't even perform a hard reset. That's awesome!

Swiped via CB10 with my T-Mobile USA (Only T-Mo rep still pushing  )  ‎BlackBerry Q10...oh wait a sec....its my new  BlackBerry Z30 (STA100-5), son! The holy grail of phones! Once you go BlackBerry, everything else is wack-berry! LOL!

What do you mean by a "hard reset" ?, Reset to factory defaults? Security Wipe?

You can do both on a BlackBerry, BBOS or BB10, the former involves an OS reload, the latter is available from Settings.

Posted via CB10 on Z30 STA100-2 /10.2.1.2141 on O2 UK - Activated on BES10.2.2

Yep an excellent start to track single individuals at all time...big brother doesnt need to invest anymore you will pay and supply the technology to be tracked.

Dave, you got it.

This is a backdoor attempt to be able to have the ability to frickin' disable ANYONE'S phone remotely, if the gov't turns nasty and wants to. Plenty "anti-terrorism" laws already in place....

Just like the "do something about child pornography" censorship bull-nonsense is an fake, hypocritical attempt to censor and monitor the web.

"No Q10?" -> "Buy from Chen... "

Not only that, this seems like a barely hidden measure to track the sale of all phones, new or used. Even IF the remote wipe/lock of a phone were truly private to the individual and not government accessible, all phones will be tied to a person. Oh, the juggernaut that is the end of all privacy in our wonderful digital world...

Incidentally, would this bill (or others like it, or future iterations) ultimately prevent the cash sale of used phones between private parties? I would assume the carriers would definitely be on board with that...

Posted via CB10

Get a licence to carry a phone that can shoot off tweets and BBMs in all directions!

Ban private sales! Register IMEIs. Block all unregistered phones! Ban undesirable persons or subversive elements from carrying or registering a phone! Change the constitution! Censor what you can! Track anything and anyone!

Welcome to 1984. The telescreen is now in your pocket. And soon on your wrist.

/sarc off

"No Q10?" -> "Buy from Chen... "

Now we will have to hear all the I sheep go on about this new software that allows them to remotely wipe the phone.....

Posted via CB10

I think carriers have always had the ability to lock phones if reported stolen??

Posted with the brilliance of my Z10!!!

Too bad most people don't care about blackberry to realize that they've been rocking antitheft tech for years now. I bet you that agreement between samsung/apple/others will be considered revolutionary and ground-breaking.

Posted via CB10

You mean like how the author of this article fails to mention BlackBerry at all, even though it's published on CrackBerry?

Yup. Where is BlackBerry in this? No mention how BlackBerry has been doing this for years? Shows you how insignificant BlackBerry is in the states.

From my z30

BlackBerry Protect do:
- View the current location of your device on a map.
- Make your device ring (even if it's in silent mode).
- Display a custom message on your locked device to provide instructions about how to contact you.
- Set or change your device password and remotely lock your device.
- Delete all of the data from your device.

But not disable the phone. Well, even if you disable the phone, it's still lost/stolen.

Posted via Astro on Z30STA100-2/10.2.1.2947

Public knowledge of the ability to disable the phone makes it less attractive to steal in the first place. The kill switch is not intended to prevent you from losing your phone. It's to lessen the incentive for thieves.

With BlackBerry Protect, you can remotely lock the phone and set a password. Without a password, you can't do anything with the phone. Even a wipe or loading an OS from autoloader will still maintain the password.

It can also lock your phone remotely... which is kind of disabled. Not all people know how to wipe the phone. Then again, I guess anyone could accidentally wipe it by typing in the pwd wrong 10 times, then you got a new phone; good to go! lol

I didn't do that. I went into the settings and wiped from there. I remember when the phone restarted, it asked me for a password which I found to be interesting. This was back on 10.1. It could be that things have changed since then; I'm not sure.

If you were able to access settings, your phone wasnt locked in the first place. What I mean is that if the phone is lost/stolen and locked, 10 attempts to unlock it will wipe the phone, and return it to factory state, without a password.

I'll try again before I load the next leaked OS. What I meant earlier was I had a password set but I knew my password so my phone was unlocked at the time when I wiped the phone.

Either way, that last step seems quite simple for BlackBerry to add a command to disable the phone that you can perform through Protect if it is stolen.

From my Neutrino Powered Z10

I know that with BBOS Legacy devices, if you report your BlackBerry device stolen to BlackBerry they will blacklist your PIN and prevent it from accessing any cellular network for data rendering it useless for anything other than phone calls, text messaging or WiFi. Not sure if BB10 works the same way.

That's the problem with this mobile nations cross site news posting system. I'm willing to bet this guy's never even used a BB before and thus has no idea of the long time security that;s been in place.

If BlackBerry properly marketed these type of functions then isheep and samdung users would know BlackBerry has been doing this for Aa long time but that's not important to users until the sheep are told by the government/media that it necessary.

 BlackBerry Q10  Keep The Faith 

A common thief cannot care less about personal data but steals the phone to sell it. Unfortunately there are no software able to permanently brick the phone. In one way or another there will be always another software able to restore the OS.. both black and grey market dealers are really ingenious to create "restore software". The only way to make really unusable the phone is to turn on a switch that physically damages the internal electronic for example short cutting some circuits.. but that well would be kind of drastic measure lol!

That is the purpose of banning cash sales, so there is always a record of who sold the phone. Thieves will only except cash. If they get someone else to take cheques for them, that person will be laundering money.

Bricking the phone isn't necessary.

Posted via CB10

I agree with you for the most part, but bricking or disabling the phone ( and the general public's awareness of this feature) will certainly lessen the incentive to steal the phones. R

Only thieves accept cash? If I am selling a used good cash is king or money order. No way I would accept a check from a stranger. This really hurts the little guy who wants to get the most money for his/her phone.

Posted via CB10

I think thats more for vendors of phones... so if you had a second hand cell phone store, or if you had a pawn shop or whatever, then you could not accept cash for used phones... I dont see it being a problem doing a cash sale between two consumers

A true kill switch that bricks the phone and is built into the firmware is the only foolproof method. Once a phone is in airplane mode no app is going to help.

Posted via CB10 on my Z30

How is any of this anti-theft? Maybe - maybe you can protect your data, if the thief is dumb enough not to turn off the antenna. But if they are, they can simply put the device in airplane mode, hack out any of your private info they want and then wipe the OS and sell it as a bad ESN/ EIN for a particular carrier. only way to prevent theft of personal info is to force utilization of on device and sd card encryption and password protection. Only way to stop thieves is to take away the incentive - - that is, to create an international blacklist. It's not difficult, time consuming or expensive. There is simply a lack of general will or desire to accomplish this.

They have to crack your phone password first in order to turn on airplane mode. That may give you enough time...

 CB10 

Im not sure there is a huge amount of people who are petty theives that possess the skills necessary to crack any decent password...

You won't be able to brick it in airplane mode either. If the phone is in an area with no signal, the firmware can be changed to remove the function. I expect most thieves are not that savvy, just looking for a quick buck.

Posted via CB10

In the US muggers just get mad if you have a Blackberry. They don't want anything that the public at large does not want ...

LOL.. gotta agree on this one.

Well, look at the bright side, at least we know we are safe..

Posted via Astro on Z30STA100-2/10.2.1.2947

I am not sure how I see this as a win. I would like to see who lobbied for this to pass.

Every time the government has to make a law to "protect" the little man I get suspicious.

What is wrong with the system we have in place right now? If they really want to deter people from stealing phone there needs to be an auto destruction feature that can blow up the phone.

I think that it is a loss for the consumers as a whole. While some might be blinded by the good hearted place this bill is in. You know, it's to deter people from taking your phone. While your judgment might be clouded who really lost?

The consumer, now with this law you cannot sell a phone for cash and you have to take it to a dealer. Even if you are legit. If you are a used phone salesman you have to keep records (will that require a cell phone re sell license?) We know that we won't get our true value of our phones if we take it to our carrier. Just like video games they give you pennies and sell the game for damn near retail. We know if we sell our phone on ebay or Craigslist we can get more money for our phones

All this does is protect the carriers and manufacturers from losing in sales.
Right now I have a blackberry. I can wipe my phone. Check. I also have insurance on my phone. If I lose my phone I can get a new one.

So I don't see this as a good thing.

Posted via CB10

This sounds like a bunch of pointless posturing.

BlackBerry has had BlackBerry Protect for a long time, we were covered. Do I care about "the other 98% of mobile users"? No. I really don't give a **** about them.

This bill would mean something if not for the fact that if says being capable of downloading anti theft tools is good enough. Android was already capable of that with Lookout, Apple has their own thing going. Seems more like a "puppies and kids" do nothing bill meant to make a politician look good to the ignorant voting masses to me.

Posted via CB10

Actually I'll amend that comment. It does accomplish SOME things. It makes it more of a pain to sell your used phone to a business legitimately, and forces business owners to buy some stuff while creating more headaches and bureaucracy.

No surprise Amy Klobuchar's name is on this. She has a history of flipping out and trying to ban things that don't actually need a law banning them to make herself look good. Typical disgusting American politician.

Posted via CB10

It's actually a pretty big deal. The carriers are being blamed for the increase in phone thefts because it's believed thefts could easily be curtailed with kill-switch technology. Law suits have been threatened (if not already filed) against the carriers. It's alleged that it's more profitable for carriers to sell replacement phones, than to provide this easy and inexpensive deterrent. The onus is being out in the carrier to provide this Vs an app download.

Posturing is part of politics, but this is not pointless posturing.

Hello all you other phone makers, BB has had this. Can someone from BB get grow a set and market your phones the right way and you will be amazed how your sales will sky rocket

It's too bad BlackBerry hasn't been in front of media saying "we already have ALL the features ppl are proposing. Have had them for years (BlackBerry Protect)". Another great marketing opportunity lost by BlackBerry.

Posted via CB10

Interesting. So, handguns can be sold to deranged felons under a highway overpass, but phones are subject to strict legislation. Good luck to the NRA gun nuts, keeping us safe from government tyranny with a loaded assault weapon in one hand and a cancelled credit card and dead cell phone in the other....

Posted via CB10

Woooo!!! I grew up in Minnesota and Minnesota is pretty much the same as BlackBerry when it comes to marketing and publicity...slim to none!! Get it where you can!

Posted via CB10

....My question is, isn't there a market for selling used phones and if you you misplace your phone and remotely brick it and someone returns it to you (say you left it in a friends car) now you own a brick that is worthless to you or your carrier. How is that a good thing?

The law is pretty dumb Android has a couple hundred of apps that do that for quite a while. If people are so concerned about it they should take it upon themselves to download it themselves.

BB Protect. Been around for ages.

Funny thing is everything thinks Apple had the idea first... I dunno when Apple got a similar feature, but I overheard a girl at my work saying "Apple just came out with this awesome feature that lets you track your lost phone from the internet" ... *sigh*

Equally, (regarding the girl at work) that is what a lack it awareness, questions, and research does to a brain.

BlackBerry is easiest to trackdown due to its unique PIN! But then needs the help of the service provider to trackdown thiefs!

Posted via CB10

Good lord! Did anyone read the referenced article before commenting? Also,this is not a new issue. Carriers are being pressured to act on this through threat of law suits. Politicians in several states are being pressured to enact this type of legislation, as thefts increase with the release of of every next big thing.

What does it mean for every user? You can't buy/sell smartphone on Craigslist with cash. So you can't do whatever you want with your property. For your safety ;)

none of you guys understand what the law is all about. go read it.
sad
nobody cares about your property, politicians are professional thiefs after all, the law is about taking over control legally of your devices.
hail the police state sheeps

Posted via CB10

Not that I'm aware of, which is why most of these comments are so baffling. BlackBerry Protect does not disable your device. It allows you to locate and remotely lock it. Without assisting the aspiring BlackBerry thief any further, let's just say BlackBerry Protect falls short of the capability of a carrier kill-switch.

So glad I have blackberry in my hands. Security is #1. Always use a password!

Posted via CrackBerry 10 (CB10) application using my BlackBerry Q10.

It's a stupid law. Consumers will push the marketplace and companies will listen. If they don't, they won't last. To say someone can't pay for a phone in cash is ridiculous also. Next you won't to be able to pay for gas or tweezers or bubblegum or beer or anything else for that matter, with cash. Leave us alone, let the market decide. What is the penalty if you pay with cash? Jail time? A fine? A stout lashing with a bull whip? Give me a break!! Another lame attempt to have government weasel into ones life... Sorry for the rant, but enough is enough.

Posted via CB10

Android already has device manager and doesn't reporting the imei stolen make the phone useless? Feel food legislation bulls hit

Sent from my Z30 STA100-1 (FTW), Z10, Q10 ,or Q5

BlackBerry Protect has been around for ages and i loved it but it's pretty much defunct on BlackBerry 10

Tapping and flicking on my Zed 10

Having a kill switch BUILT IN to phones' hardware means the government or carriers can shut it off at any time. They can not only block the phone (which they can already do), they can lock, wipe, or make it explode. I'd rather NOT have a kill switch built into my phone that can overload the circuitry and burn a hole in my pocket!

Carbon Fiber Z10 w/Leather Holster

Do you actually think our government is doing this because they are trying to help you? No they are not. The other side of this law which the government doesn't want you to know is that they can block you, the owner of said device from wiping it yourself. They can also extract all your data remotely from your device and They can also monitor what you are doing and where you are at all time w/o your knowledge or a search warrant. If our government was so noble, why not do something about the cost of fuel. Wake up people there is a hidden agenda here.

Posted via CB10

We had a congressman try and pass a similar bill with a "no cash sale" clause as well a couple of years ago. Failed overwhelmingly with threats of a recall election lol. Not happening in my state.

Best way to stop a thief? 000 buck @ 1250 fps does a pretty good job...won't have to worry about 'em stealing from anyone again.

Posted via CB10

I don't really like this legislation for a couple of reasons:

1. Private buyers and sellers are assumed to be bad. This has the same affect as saying "guilty until proven innocent." If I want to pay or receive cash, it is assumed that I am doing something illegal and thus don't want to be tracked rather than assuming that I simply want to pay with a specific form of tender. Most of us aren't bad. Most of us just want to go about our lives the way we wish. This is just another example of government erecting a giant wall rather than empowering its people to protect their selves and be responsible for their selves.

2. Businesses will have to change their plan. If I sold a subscription for an app that protects people's phones, then this legislature seems aimed to bring it down a notch or two. What's the point of a paid service when a equally protective product is automatically provided by law? Now, I'd have to sell an EXTRA product that adds redundant protection. I say extra because if the protection required by law is forced to be installed, I doubt it'll be allowed to be removed. Therefore, the subscription will be another product taking up space and resources on the device for the same protection again. Companies may have to find extra services simply so their customer can justify their now redundant subscriptions. So, my choice in how I protect my device and with what I protect it with is effectively removed.

So, essentially, I see this as another case where the government thinks it knows better that us and assumes we're all thieving and conniving criminals just waiting for an opportunity to steal someone's phone. Here's a personal example of how I think the government assumes wrongly once again:

My coworker was out on a delivery run and found a brand-new iPhone 5s on the side of the road. It had a good case on it so it wasn't damaged at all. It looked like the case had gone through the ringer so we guessed it belonged to a construction worker. There are a lot around here.

Anyway, she got all worried that someone lost their precious phone and started calling friends and asking them and me how she can find the owner. It was locked and thus we couldn't get into the phone. Luckily (unluckily maybe too?) the iPhone's lock security really blows, so she was able to bypass the security to make a call to one of the contacts. The owner came and picked it up and was happy as a clam.

She said afterwards that the deed made her feel really good. As a note: she has an iPhone herself. The shell is cracked, the battery glitchy, and she never really stops complaining about how much she wants a new phone. She could have been tempted to keep it even as a phoneless iPhone. Instead, she tried hard to get the phone back to it's owner and didn't even think about whether or not she should keep it until AFTER she returned it. I'd like to think I would have done the same.

Nifty Foods! C003262E5

This is not an attempt to protect people from cell phone thieves. This is an attempt to protect the government from cell phone communications capability in the hands of citizens.

Posted via CB10

Well look at it as another NSA means of accessing and controlling you. A little light can hide a lot of darkness friends.

Posted via CB10