Android, Windows Phone to add kill switch to thwart theft

Both Google and Microsoft say that they will add kill switches to the next versions of their mobile software.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read

The iPhone 5S already has a kill switch. Apple

Microsoft and Google have signed an agreement with the New York Attorney General to add a "kill switch" to the next versions of Windows Phone and Android.

Eric Schneiderman, the attorney general, released a report Thursday as part of his offices's "Secure Our Smartphones" initiative. That report, which detailed the importance of a kill switch to safeguard smartphones, said that both companies will include the feature in their mobile operating systems.

The kill switch has become a hot topic in the last several months. Many states around the US have argued over whether kill switches should be brought to smartphones. California, for instance, initially shot down the feature, which effectively reduces a smartphone to a brick once it's stolen, but quickly turned around in May to approve the kill switch bill. That bill will require that the feature be turned on whenever a new phone is purchased in the state.

The Secure Our Smartphones report cited Apple as proof that the feature works. Last year, the company built a kill switch feature into its iPhone that would allow owners to remove all data and information in the event their devices were stolen. In New York City alone, according to the attorney general, Apple product robberies fell 19 percent after that change.

The study also took Samsung to task for not including a kill switch in its devices last year. While Apple product robberies were on the decline, Samsung robbers in New York City jumped by 40 percent. Samsung has since introduced a kill switch into its devices, but the report didn't say whether robberies are down.

The report also didn't say exactly when Android and Windows Phone would have kill switches included in their feature sets, but once that's complete, nearly every smartphone available on the market will come with a feature that Schneiderman argues will improve "consumer safety."

CNET has contacted both Google and Microsoft for comment. We will update this story when we have more information.

(Via AP)