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Next Version of Android Will Include “Kill Switch” Functionality

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Google is becoming more serious about security on Android. The search giant issued a statement yesterday confirming it will introduce a so-called kill switch into the next version of Android, a feature that will enable owners to prevent thieves from factory resetting stolen phones. That follows Apple’s implementation of a similar technology in iOS 7, which one consumer advocacy group said helped to reduce iPhone thefts in San Francisco by 38 percent.

The company spokesperson was vague about how the feature will be implemented, but it’s a safe bet the functionality will be rolled into an Android Device Manager update down the line. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely Google will be able to introduce it through Google Play Services – a “kill switch” would require low-level access only accessible to baked-in firmware code. Devices that don’t receive an update to the next version of Android, then, may ultimately be left without.

Should a “kill switch” be priority for the Android team? Sound off in the comments.

Via: Bloomberg
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    I thought this was going to be about giving users an easier way to manually force close misbehaving apps :P

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  • Bad_Attitude

    I personally don’t feel that the added functionality in the Android Device Manager is really necessary but then my Nexus 5 has a Ruger kill switch. I guess I can admit how it might be useful to some! ;)

  • TC Infantino

    Kill Switch Engage!

  • anonymous

    Actually you can thank the State of Minnesota for this feature. They passed legislature this year requiring all cell phones sold to have this feature by a certain date. http://www.startribune.com/politics/statelocal/259318961.html

  • Eric Whitaker

    Are there really a lot of cellphones being stolen these days?

    • aBabyPenguin

      My gf was pretty careless with her phone. She has had 2 phones stolen. One she left in a restroom, another sitting on a table at a store. It’s usually for about 10 or 15 minutes until she realizes it’s missing. Of course when we go back to find it, it is gone. We have left our info with lost and found and they never turn up, no surprise.

      • abbynormal

        thats not called “stolen” thats called carelessness.

        • Justin W

          I agree with your comment, however, most humans have left their devices somewhere and not known where it is (misplaced). If someone happens to take it, it’s theft, and having ADM with a kill switch will be nice – the next time it’s connected to the net (mobile data or wifi), just having it automatically completely clear everything will be a good increase in security.

    • GJV

      Tons. They are often shipped overseas where carrier IMEI locks make no difference.

  • http://www.chasehammer.com/ Chase Hammer J

    Nice idea. In practicality it wont affect much. The thieves still will part out the phone or sell it as broken and still get money. Im all for the options just keeping my expectations low.

  • Jason Lewis

    Or get Cerberus and you can remotely take pictures and get a location of whomever stole or has your phone.

  • PD

    It should go on all phones, not just the latest ones.

    • Twilightlicous

      That isnt up to Google, That’s up to the developers updating their devices.

    • velocipedes

      The motive politicians have for pushing this should be questioned. It’s a little strange so many of them are so hysterical about this… did they learn nothing from the NSA leaks?

  • Taylor Abrahamson

    This definitely should happen.

  • charesa39

    I’m just curious how this would be implemented. Would it just lock it down to make it impossible to reset? Or would it nuke the whole phone, essentially bricking it, so even if by some chance you got it back, you wouldn’t be able to use it anymore?

    • Taylor Abrahamson

      It would prevent it from being reset, but not brick your phone.

      • ceejw

        If a remote wipe is sent though it basically bricks the phone if you don’t have a password. If it works like how it does on an iPhone you wont get past the boot screen without a password.

        • Taylor Abrahamson

          There is no such thing as “basically bricking” a phone. It’s either bricked, or it is not. There is no way that google is going to write code and provide a button to brick your phone if it’s lost or stolen. I’m sure this will just let you add some kind of pin to protect against booting or wiping.

        • niuguy

          Wipe doesn’t brick the phone. Just wipes your data off.

    • PoisonApple31

      HTC plans on nuking the whole phone – so they can sell more phones and remain relevant.

    • ceejw

      On iOS when you try to do a factory reset it asks for your password, and if you remote wipe the phone it won’t let you past the boot screen unless you give it your password either.

  • Bryan Mills

    Absolutely

  • Santi

    I was mugged 2 and in both occasions my phone was taken, how i would’ve loved to just be able to brick my stolen phones so that those pricks couldn’t sell it

    • Bryan Mills

      Apparently non working phones sell too

    • http://www.facebook.com/joeyklatzko Joseph Klatzko

      Get the app Cerberus. It gives you full remote control of your phone. It snaps a photo when somebody removes your SIM/gets the pin wrong. You can record video, wipe, lock and track your phone plus more. If you’re rooted you can install it so that only a wipe from recovery will get rid of it. Always the first app I install.

  • Good_Ole_Pinocchio

    Sure, why not?

  • Ray

    I can see carriers blocking this somehow. They don’t want this

    • Ben Brocka

      Why would carriers want stolen devices active on their network?

      • Ray

        I read something about them not wanting kill switches because they make a killing on insurance claims/off contract devices.

    • chris125

      Carriers would love this. Less risk of stolen phones on their network

  • Andrew

    I wonder how a kill-switch would interact with the easily unlocked bootloaders on Nexus devices?

    • Taylor Abrahamson

      That’s a good point. For those of us with a custom recovery, would the kill switch somehow activate before the recovery loads? That would have to be a hardware change wouldn’t it?

      • niuguy

        I could see it not working on a custom recovery… *shrug* We’ll see!

        • Taylor Abrahamson

          Yeah, I really don’t know if it will work for those of us with custom recovery. It seems like it would have to be a hardware feature to show a lock screen before the recovery is loaded.

    • grumpyfuzz

      I’m guessing when you unlock your bootloader and flash a custom recovery, this “feature” will not be supported.

  • EC8CH

    Remember Efuse on the first Droid X…. ah memories

    The OG brick switch! /s

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