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California Smartphone Kill Switch Bill Signed Into Law, Goes Into Effect on July 1 of 2015

Phones in sunlight

Starting July 1, 2015, smartphones sold in the state of California will be required to be sold with theoretical “kill switch” software baked in. Thanks to the bill, which was signed into law today, buyers who have their phones stolen will be able to remotely render their device unusable, with the ultimate goal being to help drastically cut down on theft of smart devices. 

Many companies who make the software found on devices, such as Apple and Google (Android Device Manager), have already begun this process for consumers, and in addition, a large group of manufacturers and US carriers have pledged to make smartphones harder to steal as part of a voluntary commitment with the CTIA.

The following excerpt was taken from the bill, SB-962, which lays out pretty well the exact details of the new law.

Any smartphone that is manufactured on or after July 1, 2015, and sold in California after that date, shall include a technological solution at the time of sale, to be provided by the manufacturer or operating system provider, that, once initiated and successfully communicated to the smartphone, can render the essential features of the smartphone inoperable to an unauthorized user when the smartphone is not in the possession of an authorized user. The smartphone shall, during the initial device setup process, prompt an authorized user to enable the technological solution.

The technological solution shall be reversible, so that if an authorized user obtains possession of the smartphone after the essential features of the smartphone have been rendered inoperable, the operation of those essential features can be restored by an authorized user. A technological solution may consist of software, hardware, or a combination of both software and hardware, and when enabled, shall be able to withstand a hard reset or operating system downgrade and shall prevent reactivation of the smartphone on a wireless network except by an authorized user.

Via: The Verge | The Office of Edmund Brown Jr.
  • FDA

    #dattouchwizdoe

  • cardi dark

    Good ideal but big brother will abuse it and shut your phone off if you use it to bash them

  • Disqus_n00b

    Hey, you guys loved it when the govt told manufacturers to unlock phones…you want the govt controlling phone makers, accept the consequences positive or negative

  • Brian Folks

    The nanny state of California is circling the drain.

  • http://www.youtube.com/lordstickmax LordStickMax

    CA is not a place i’d like to live but if there were a state of people most capable of circumventing this type of bill its the state of CA

  • flosserelli

    I already have a remote kill switch called Cerberus.

  • Daistaar

    I’m not one to rant or belittle the DL community, but everyone complaining about this on here are complete and utter idiots! How is this NOT beneficial?! If your device is ever lost or stolen, you lock it and prevent it from being usable, period! The only way for anyone to unlock it is with your Google or Apple ID and password. This cannot be circumvented with a device wipe or flashing a new rom. Your device ID is tied to your account and only you can break the link. This effectively renders your lost or stolen device a brick, which theoretically acts as a deterrent to thieves as there is no use or resale value in a paperweight.

    • jimt

      I cannot understand why the people think this is bad either. Idiots will be idiots it seems.

  • schoat333

    I like to have the ability to wipe my personal data if my device is stolen. Why do we even need a law for this?

  • Brian Neumann

    Is it wrong that I always read this as a “Kill Bill Switch”…??

  • bogy25

    It’s a Kill Bill………get it? Kill Bill? WA WA WA WAAAAAAAaaaaaaa.

  • chris9465

    piss off communistfornia….and apple and google can go to hell ill never buy a US GVT phone oh am sorry i mean apple or google….and all smart phones start having gvt kill switches ill never buy another smart phone again….THIS LAW IS COMPLETE BS

    • yankeesusa

      Then I guess you will be down to just some chinese phones. The kill switch is coming to every manufacturer sold in the us soon.

    • Jason Spangler

      Do you own a Kindle? Amazon had this since the inception. I had my kindle stolen 4 years ago. I called Amazon..BAM. Thief could no longer use it. Although, I suppose it would be an issue with devices that didn’t have their wispersync. Fortunately for me, it did. I’m sure the thief didn’t care, but the pawn shop likely lost $$ on the deal. Ha..priceless, showing the device to a customer and then “This device was stolen” flashing on the screen.

      I support the bill too! Why not? Vehicles have kill switches, why not smartphones?

  • LongShot

    Although I disagree with a lot of what California does (see gun control), I support this. In DC, phone snatch & grabs are on the rise. This is a good solution.

  • jak_341

    Gee. Here comes the Government to rescue us! We should all be thankful! /s

  • CarlosRubirosa

    My local verizon store in philly got robbed at gun point in the middle of the day to steal phones. So this is a good step.

    • hoosiercub88

      Sucks to be those guys.. stealing a bunch of phones with bad ESNs lol

  • Turb0wned

    Ahhhh yes, the great liberal state named California. What a dump.

    • chris9465

      its been renamed

      CommunistFORNIA

      • DanSan

        nooo its “Commifornia”

    • flosserelli

      The world’s top nanny states:
      1. England
      2. California
      3. New York

  • 213ninja

    as an Android Device Manager user i do apprecaite these features, but i don’t think government has any place here. over-regulation imo.

  • John Davids

    What a nanny-state. Are we going to start making laws requiring that all car owners have GPS tracking on their cars to reduce theft? How about mandating that all wallets have a remote self-destruct button.

    Absurd.

    • flosserelli

      The world’s top nanny states:
      1. England
      2. California
      3. New York

    • hoosiercub88

      Why do you hate protection of your own stuff so much? This is a good idea with the amount of smartphone thefts on the rise, having access to a smartphone that belongs to someone else can give you access to their personal information, private conversations, financial information, etc.. I don’t mind it, thankfully I have Android Device Manager and I can already do this sort of thing, with that said, almost all Android users can with the ADM app and web portal.

      You people are too GD paranoid for your own good. Cars with GPS to reduce theft or increase rate of recovery? Sure, that’s not new, it’s called Lo-Jack, is it a bad idea? No! Is it mandatory? Also no. Your wallet may not have a self destruct button *not sure how your special olympics degree in logistics works for that one* but when your wallet gets stolen, and you call your bank/credit card company, they will essentially self-destruct the cards making them unusable.. so again.. kind of the same thing.

      Lastly, Android, at least Android 4.x has built in location tracking that has been getting more and more accurate up to 4.4. I mean check this link out…
      https://maps.google.com/locationhistory/b/0

      Log in and it’ll show you everywhere you’ve taken that smartphone you have, I don’t know why people get so goddamn fussy about something that to most logical people would be common sense.

      • zurginator

        It’s not that we hate protection, it’s that we hate government mandates that end up making it harder for small companies to jump start, breaking capitalism.

      • John Davids

        Literally not a single word you typed has a single thing to do with my beef. Its about a local, state, or federal government passing laws that force people to comply to their wishes, principally under the banner of “its for your own good.” Its even worse when you start mandating how private companies make their products and what features they can / cannot, must / mustn’t include.

        Whether or not I want to purchase a phone that does or does not have the capability to be remotely wiped, remotely locked, and remotely tracked is between me and the private company I choose to do business with and no one else. Including the State of California or the United States of America.

  • Nikos Koufos

    What about an option that requires a password to shup down the phone, so you can at least try to track it

    • Jim Davis

      Android device manager has this already. There is a lock button that has the hover text: “Lock and reset device password”. There’s a locate button as well.

  • David Scott

    Don’t you just love the state helping us like this! We owe so much to our dear leaders.

  • Josh

    Thank God that I don’t live in California.

    • chris9465

      doesnt matter its the biggest market in the country ALL PHONES WILL HAVE THIS! thank communistfornia

    • Jeff C

      I think MN passed this as well. We’re just a colder version of the land of the fruits, nuts and flakes.

    • yankeesusa

      This will soon be passed for the whole united states.

  • Shane Redman

    There goes Samsung again, off doing it’s own thing at 6:07…

    • 213ninja

      huh??

      • Shane Redman

        Look at the times

        • 213ninja

          Sneaky sneaky sir

        • Michael Bassett

          The iPhone off screen is also 6:07, the Samsung is just copying it.

    • flosserelli

      That is just Touchwiz lag.

  • jimt

    This will have to be in all phones for all states and in California it will actually be used. The phone makers are not going to make a California edition, get serious. I bet that if you try to install a ROM it will set off the switch to brick the phone in any state.

    • Spinach Chin

      The bill clearly states that it can be a software-only solution, so you’re making assumptions about something that hasn’t even been implemented yet.

      Also, the text of the bill almost (kind of) implies an opt-out opportunity at initial setup.

  • Tommysmallss

    This function already exists. I’m guessing some lawmaker owns a company that makes this software.

    • John Davids

      Sounds more like a bunch of moms who got sick of replacing their retarded son/daughter’s stolen iPhones.

  • Ryan

    I can lock out or wipe my device with Android Device Manager. Why do we need this? What smartphone can’t be remotely locked or wiped already?

    • Suicide_Note

      A thief can just factory reset the phone and sell it that way. The kill switch makes the phone inoperable, and thus worthless.

  • John Om

    this is just going to boost theft for the next 10 months

  • http://gamingblather.com/ Drak

    S5 already has such a thing. Samsung does occasionally do something useful ahead of everyone else.

    http://www.samsung.com/us/support/howtoguide/N0000002/17296/229710/SCH-N330PWLXAR

    • jimt

      That does sound like what they are talking, Looks like sammy was first, you are right.

  • mcdonsco

    Good Ol’ Cali…

    While I’m all for the idea of a complete kill switch rendering a device unusable (ever), it needs to be done willingly by manufacturers and/or other software developers, not forced by the “state”.

    • jimt

      You might leave it in a cab or in a bar or someplace like that.

      • mcdonsco

        Been using cell phones for 20 years … Has never happened once; though I’ve known a number of people that have, but none I know of were unable to get it back.

        • jimt

          The point is if a thief got it somehow, they could not use or sell it so why steal it in the first place. It would be like picking up a worthless rock. I have only been robbed once in 67 years. You still have time.

          • mcdonsco

            True that…

          • Pakmann2k

            Ever see craigslist ads for phone repairs? Thos guys will buy bad ESN devices all day long. So yes, even stolen phones are worth something.

          • jimt

            Maybe for parts but if they are truly bricks what else could they be used for. Melting down for gold and other metals maybe. I don’t get why you guys think this is a bad idea, really. If the phone will never work again, what is wrong with that?

        • Suicide_Note

          First time for everything.

      • Sharkh20

        Finders keepers

      • chris9465

        find my phone app?

    • chris9465

      phones dont get stolen….even if they did if you’re not smart enough to load the find my phone app you’re to dumb to cross the street

    • Chris Hughes

      I asked this question yesterday and was shouted down like I was crazy for never having my phone ripped from my hand by some masked villain.

  • Dave

    This is a hardware based, excellent idea. I still say if we can unlock bootloaders and ROM, it doesn’t seem too unrealistic to eventually be able to work around this.

    • jimt

      Lets hope not, who wants to be robbed?

    • Spinach Chin

      The text of the law clearly gives the option of software, hardware, or a combination of both…

  • bassman418

    Ok, so who’s to stop someone from buying a phone from out of state…..

    • Braden Abbott

      There are not going to be separate versions of smartphones for California, this essentially forces this to happen for the rest of us in one swoop, no other states will need to pass this law now.

      • DanSan

        That isn’t always the case. There are a lot of bs laws that nanny state passes and the products the laws covered usually result in a special variation being made for that state. for example, cars which are 0 emission or PZEV. Yes a lot of other states followed california but it started with them in the beginning. same with guns, a lot of variants of the same thing are made to comply with their commie laws but the unaltered versions are sold through the rest of the US.

        • Jeralmac

          You shouldn’t be so vague with your political stance, it’s really hard to tell which side of the fence you choose to reside…..

          • DanSan

            Okay thanks, I’ll try to be a little more clear next time.

  • realfoxm

    We already have a kill switch. Its called Android Device Manager.

    • mcdonsco

      Doesn’t do dick if the phone isn’t connected to the internet and/or the thief factory resets it.

      Plus, to this day that dumb ass app STILL doesn’t log the devices last known GPS location…will only show it if it currently has a connection.

      • realfoxm

        Good point!

      • DanSan

        Also if you have a tablet with multiple user accounts, it will only work for the current user account that is logged in. My girlfriend uses my note 10.1 2014 edition a lot and is usually logged in under her so I can never track it or lock it even if i wanted to. it would have to be logged into my account.

  • moew

    The Samsung is in it’s own lost timezone. Check the cover pic!

  • Dustin Casper

    “Sever all communications”

    • Hypothetical Thief

      This is the obvious first step after (hypothetically) stealing a phone.

  • Michael Sahaid

    One more aspect of our lives they get control of.

  • Pakmann2k

    July 4th, 2015. Hacker Collective Group Lizard Squad exploits a security flaw in Californias mandated, kill switch software, shutting down millions of devices up and down the coast. The group has claimed the day as the first annual “Independence Day for Cels.”

    • Ihavenewnike

      I actually wouldn’t mind this happening to me with that namr. Lol. As long as I get a replacement :/

  • E. Batista

    Kill Bill… switch

  • Willie D

    We have to sign this into law? I mean, really? As if they multitude of apps, GPS as well as network locking/blocking lists AREN’T good enough? Now we have to have a remote kill switch law too?

    • DanSan

      This is coming from the same commie state that insists a cancer warning be put on almost everything manufactured known to man.

      • koopadoop

        I always love product manuals that have simple generic laws to consider for states like Georgia (like lemon law, etc) but when you look at California’s the list is 100x longer and tells me I shouldn’t eat the plastic in my car because it might give me cancer (Californians must try to eat plastic or something).

        • DanSan

          Thats what happens when you try to nanny them and grow a population of babies.

    • chris9465

      its so during public protests right before the police unleash hell they can throw the kill switch shut them all down no pictures or recording

  • TC Infantino

    Don’t most security apps have this functionality already? I believe that the one I am using, Lookout Security, has this ability. It seems like a simple thing to have this baked in to the OS.

    • Jason Bittner

      The bill states it must be deeper than the OS level, says shall be able to withstand a hard reset or operating system downgrade. Meaning it must at least be part of the bootloader/recovery

      • TC Infantino

        Ah, thanks. I see what you mean. Would it be that much more difficult for Google to contract with an existing security app company to provide the code and the infrastructure for a built in security system? I am not completely versed in how the bootloader and recovery software is designed and run on bootup. I am assuming that it is like the BIOS on a computer, where it has to be designed specifically for the hardware of the motherboard and attached boards.

        • Jason Bittner

          It sounds like to me at least, this would be something the hardware vendor would deal with totally outside the OS level. Meaning Google would not need to be involved. They might be at some point but not needed.

    • koopadoop

      Yeah but this way California can make money off of fining Google and Apple when hackers crack their protection (and they always will).

    • Pakmann2k

      Depending on the device, you can connect them to a PC and re-load the factory image making the device like new again. Many a time I bricked my Droid and had to use RSD to flash a new SBF file to it.

      • jimt

        The article says that would not work so what are you talking about? The article says bricked forever with no way to flash.

    • jimt

      I think this is more at the bios level comparing it to a pc. I use lookout security, I think a good “bad guy/hacker” could wipe the OS and reinstall and get the phone to act like a brand new phone, thus resell it on ebay, craigs list, etc. He might not be able to get your data, contact lists, secret company stuff with lookout security that’s all.

  • Tirionfive

    I can’t see this as being anything but good for us, the consumer. iPhone already has it, and Android is in desperate need to implement this. Google: A word of advice: Buy Cerberus.

    • Jason Bittner

      I dont think any phone has this as stated in the bill at this time. Most phones do have a software level deactivation of some type, however it can be bypassed with either a reset or reloading the OS

      • mrjayviper

        Not on the iPhone

  • coolsilver

    Mass kill switch bug in 3….2….

    • E. Batista

      Hackers will mass kill all phones in 3…2…

    • chris9465

      its not a bug its also apart of the system….

      mass protest cops throw the kill switch no phones will take pictures or record

  • Damian

    That S5 looks so out of place…..

    • Nobody

      Dat dumb button.

    • koopadoop

      Because they have a launcher/icon pack/etc on the others.

      If they did it to the S5 they couldn’t be biased and make fun of Samsung for their rabid fan.

      • Damian

        Haha I know, but that was the first thing that came to mind :P

  • Wesley Proctor

    I like how all the phones say 11:07 besides the GS5 saying 6:07 :)

    • Ted Wilson

      It’s just lagging a little…

  • devenstonow

    What’s the icon pack on everything but the S5 in that image?

    • jimmyzaps

      looks like a bunch of different circle icon packs, try click UI and look at it’s related apps

  • inklenotrump

    this probably won’t have unforeseen negative consequences.

    • T4rd

      Resonance cascade imminent!

    • koopadoop

      What do you mean, every law in Commiefornia is meant to help you comrade. Nothing negative can possibly happen in the motherland!

      • Kate M. Johnson

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      • Nunyur_Biznezz

        if you hate California so much there are 49 other states to move to. choose one.

        • chris9465

          so you must be the head of communistfornia?

        • koopadoop

          Your avatar suits you well :D

          Also I don’t (and wouldn’t) live in that awful “state”.

        • zurginator

          48*. New York is just as bad.

        • Mandingo

          I did!

      • DanSan

        How dare you insult the Peoples Republik of Commifornia!

        Its for your own good minion, obey!

        /s

    • Ihavenewnike

      What would be the warranty on this sort of thing. I mean it is software based, but like the developer did for the bootloaders, he was able to blow a capicitor. I am assuming that is what this will do, blow a capicitor to have it locked. If it is a software lock, obviously thiefs could still access it.

      • Jared K

        Cant be micro capacitors since it HAS to be able to be reversed.

        • jimt

          This device will self destruct in 15 seconds.

        • Ihavenewnike

          I says a “technological solution.” What does that mean? Lol. Again, hook it up to a computer, run ODIN, and flash a stock image.

          • Jared K

            It’s supposed to be able to withstand flashing and wipes. But ODIN is low level stuff so I wonder if it can survive that. If its at the hardware level then I would suspect even odin can’t wipe it out.

          • Daistaar

            It’s supposed to prevent you from activating the device. This effectively keeps it in a Pre-OS, Boot state since the device ID is locked by the user who originally activated the device. It bricks your device and the only person who can unbrick it is the one who is signed in on the device. You’d unlock with your Google or your Apple ID and password.

    • Peter Stover

      More big gov stepping in! Can’t wait for them to turn off my phone at “random”.

      • Daistaar

        Scared much? Do you know how this works, because I do, and you’ll be happy you have it when you need it.

      • michael arazan

        Corporate Shills. God Forbid that the Government ever does anything to Help Consumers to you people.

        Fear everything I don’t understand, Rabble, Rabble, Rabble

    • mrjayviper

      Doesn’t seem to be a problem with apple. If they can do it, a company like Google can certainly build it into their software.

    • Justin Kos

      Its only a matter of time until the gov is able to shut down your car and phone now

    • Daistaar

      Such as? I’d love to hear your opinion on one, especially since you’re in control of the kill switch. This is derived from Apple’s Activation lock.