Wireless Companies Providing Voluntary Anti-Theft Tool for New Smartphones in 2015

Activation-LockToday, CTIA and participating wireless carriers announced major anti-theft protection for new smartphones, starting in July of 2015. The voluntary program , which includes participation from major carriers such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon Wireless.

New smartphones manufactured after July 15, 2014 will feature remote wipe and other methods of rendering the device inoperable to thieves.

  1. Remote wipe the authorized user’s data (i.e., erase personal info that is added after purchase such as contacts, photos, emails, etc.) that is on the smartphone in the event it is lost or stolen.
  2. Render the smartphone inoperable to an unauthorized user (e.g., locking the smartphone so it cannot be used without a password or PIN), except in accordance with FCC rules for 911 emergency communications, and if available, emergency numbers programmed by the authorized user (e.g., “phone home”).
  3. Prevent reactivation without authorized user’s permission (including unauthorized factory reset attempts) to the extent technologically feasible (e.g., locking the smartphone as in 2 above).
  4. Reverse the inoperability if the smartphone is recovered by the authorized user and restore user data on the smartphone to the extent feasible (e.g., restored from the cloud).

Steve Largent, President and CEO, CTIA:

We appreciate the commitment made by these companies to protect wireless users in the event their smartphones are lost or stolen. This flexibility provides consumers with access to the best features and apps that fit their unique needs while protecting their smartphones and the valuable information they contain. At the same time, it’s important different technologies are available so that a ‘trap door’ isn’t created that could be exploited by hackers and criminals.

As reported before, smartphone companies have been under pressure from authorities to create kill switches for stolent devices, which have given rise to high numbers of criminal activities. Minnesota and California have both been working on legislation that would require kill switches. In fact, Minnesota is “poised to pass the nation’s first ‘kill switch’ law as early as next week,” said Minnesota State Representative Joe Atkins. If effective, kill switches would save consumers $2.6 billion annually in insurance premiums and replacement costs.