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Google, Microsoft add kill switch to mobile OSes

Kill switch will allow remote disabling of handset in case of theft

Google, Microsoft add kill switch to mobile OSes
Authorities had campaigned to add kill switches to mobiles to help reduce smartphone theft.

Google and Microsoft are to add a ‘kill switch’ to their mobile phone operating systems.

The kill switch will allow a user to remotely disable a handset in the event of theft, making it worthless to thieves.

The addition of the feature was announced by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who has headed the ‘Secure Our Smartphones’ initiative, alongside San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón.

The initiative is intended to deter theft of mobile devices by making them irreversibly locked, which in turn would reduce violence related to thefts.

Schneiderman said in a statement that smartphone thefts were on the rise around the world, but tehfts of devices that have kill switch capability were decreasing. In the first five months of 2014, the theft of Apple devices fell by 17% in New York City, and similar declines had been seen in London and San Francisco since the launch of the kill switch feature in iOS.

“With the majority of phones still without a kill switch, smartphone-related thefts and violence remain a tragic reality. Criminals now target devices not likely to be equipped with a kill switch, increasing the importance of immediately implementing the life-saving technology across all manufacturers,” Schneiderman said.

Apple already has a similar feature, Activation Lock, in its iOS, and Samsung has a Reactivation Lock in some of its handsets, which offers a similar function. By adding a kill switch to the next versions of Android and Windows phone OS, 97% of all new smartphones will be protected.

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