Proposed 'kill switch' could be solution to smartphone thefts

In the time it takes you to read this story, more than 225 smartphones will be lost or stolen in this country.

People across the country have been stabbed and mugged at gunpoint for their electronic devices, which are easy to resell. A stolen iPhone can fetch $300 or more on the black market.

The district attorney in San Francisco calls it a "national epidemic."

The numbers confirm that 1.6 million Americans had a handheld device stolen last year, and one in every three robberies nationwide now involves a stolen cell phone.

The San Francisco district attorney and the attorney general of New York will hold a smartphone summit in Manhattan tomorrow.

The plan is to ask the nation's four largest mobile device manufacturers - Apple, Google/Motorola, Microsoft and Samsung - to find a technological solution to this crime wave.

The two prosecutors believe a "kill switch" is this answer.

This technology would make stolen devices inoperable on any network, anywhere in the world, if they are reported stolen.

As they envision it, that kill switch would disable the device even if it's turned off, the SIM card is removed, or the phone is modified to avoid detection.

Block the ability to reactivate the mobile device, and the incentive to steal it would be eliminated, they say.

Earlier this week, Apple announced plans to increase security features in its new operating system.

Apple says "new security features in IOS 7 make it harder for anyone who's not you to use or sell your device."

Prosecutors and police around the country applauded Apple's effort to address smartphone theft, but they say, they need to know more about the new "activation lock feature" before they really comment on it.

More information can be found on the New York Attorney General's Office website.


Herb Weisbaum is The ConsumerMan. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter or visit The ConsumerMan website.