Prosecutors propose 'kill switch' to prevent smartphone theft

June 13, 2013 at 5:12 PM

NEW YORK, June 13 (UPI) -- U.S. prosecutors proposed Thursday smartphone makers offer a "kill switch" in new phones produced by the start of 2014 to help cut down on thefts.

The "Secure Our Smartphones" initiative, which calls for manufacturers to make it easier to disable lost or stolen smartphones, comes as law enforcement officials across the United States face growing crime related to smartphone theft, particularly the Apple iPhone, PC World reported.

The initiative, announced by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon at a news conference in New York, involves state officials, police chiefs, district attorneys, attorneys general and consumer advocacy groups. The goal of the initiative is to find technological fixes to reduce theft.

About 1.6 million people were victims of smartphone theft in the United States last year.

"Something on the order of 30 percent to 40 percent of all robberies are robberies of smartphones," Schneiderman said. "All too often these robberies turn violent. There are assaults; there are murders."

One of the ideas Schneiderman presented is a "kill switch" that would render a smartphone useless. Disabling a smartphone should be as easy as canceling a credit card, Schneiderman said.

"We believe this is a problem that should be solvable at the very outside within a year, that all new products being produced by the first part of 2014 should have kill switches or comparable technology involved," Schneiderman said.

The initiative was announced ahead of a "smartphone summit" in which the prosecutors will meet with Apple, Google, Samsung and Microsoft, PC World said. Prosecutors said smartphone companies previously have been resistant.

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