Kill Switch Vol. 3 . . . Smartphones, Who’s At Risk?
A lot’s been stirred up after the “Save Our Smartphones” coalition (SOS) started bending the collective ear of mobile device manufacturers.
Background: Smartphone and other mobile device crime is up. 30-40 percent of all street crime in the U.S. is smartphone-related. Many of these crimes are violent in nature. An organized, international black market is paying top dollar for stolen smartphones (often the marketeer is as far away as Asia, e.g.). Smartphone victims are at risk, sensitive data and personal information vulnerable to hackers.
The SOS demand: Manufacturers must install a mandatory “kill switch” feature into the operating systems of new devices (no later than 2014). It’s not a retro-fit to existing devices already being used.
All well and good – this hoped-for, black-and-white panacea where a stolen or lost smartphone can be disabled as easily as cancelling a credit card. It’s an antiseptic, win-win solution: Security for you . . . and no economic “hit” to manufacturers (the replacement market is already soaring in the U.S. at $30 billion/year).
Of course, hackers may find (they always do) a “back door” to the kill switch, which then leads to: Who is responsible when second-party owners are involved? Are you involved?
Scenario: A consignment of bargain “gray market” smartphones is being offered on eBay for cheap – for a lot less than the same from Apple, Samsung or any other manufacturer. Despite commonsense thought, like “Buyer Beware,” these devices are selling fast. After all, we live in a “wired” age – so the “need” for a mobile device far outstrips any concerns. So you buy the phone in good faith, or at least with a good deal of trust. And . . . Hey, it works.
But here’s the risk: That “bargain” phone you bought on the Web may have been stolen.
And here are the big questions: Are you just an unwitting victim of the booming, global black market? Or are you complicit? Are you involved in a conspiracy to traffic in stolen phones? Is prosecution a real possibility?
The irony of this might be: You buy a phone for cheap – never dreaming of where it came from – and then someone flips the kill switch on you.
The Blanch Law Firm wants to know.
— Stephen Heath-Jones