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The Real Deal: A smartphone 'kill switch'
ALBANY -- If you've ever had your smartphone stolen, you know it can feel like quite a loss both personally and financially. Thieves have become more brazen, sometimes stealing the phone right out of your hand or right off of a table where you're sitting. Stolen smartphones are worth big bucks on the black market but law enforcers are now hoping Washington can help curb the problem.
NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman along with Congressman Jos E. Serrano announced new legislation on Monday that would require a kill switch on all smartphones. Basically, if the phone were to be stolen, you'd call your provider and they'd have to "kill" the phone by making it completely inoperable and wiping all personal data from the device.
Nearly one out of three larcenies now involves the theft of a smartphone and many of them have turned downright dangerous. "I kinda thought it was someone playing a prank on me and then I realized with how forceful they were, when they whipped me around that it was not a jokeHis friend came around the side of me and hit me in the face twice and took the phone out of my hand," says Ashely Sedia who had her smartphone stolen.
While some stolen phones are still sold online or at shady second-hand dealers, a growing number of them are winding up thousands of miles away, "overseas is a growing market for U.S. smartphones, Hong Kong, you can sell a smart phone there for $2,000, so there's a real market, a real gain and if it costs nothing to get this smartphone out of the pocket of a consumer then everyone up the chain is making money," says Marty Mack the Executive Deputy Attorney General for New York State.
While the AG's office has been pushing manufacturers to add a kill switch that would render a stolen phone useless, there's been a lot of push-back, "the argument in any of these situations is the cost but the cost of the crime, really trumps that and the cost of lives trumps that and there have been people killed when involved in a smart phone theft so I think it's going to be hard to argue that over time," Mack says. The nation's biggest carriers say a kill switch could allow a hacker to disable someone's phone but consumer protection advocates think there are plenty of ways the proper protections could be put into place to avoid that.