U.S. carriers stopped Samsung from including a kill switch in phones to deter theft

phone theft (shutterstock riopatuca)

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon has said five major US mobile networks have blocked a proposal to install a “Kill switch” on newly sold smartphones, which could render the hardware useless in the event of a theft. The proposed installation of Absolute LoJack software was put forward by Samsung, with Gascon’s backing, but it was rejected due to concerns over – ironically – security. The networks named are AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and US Cellular, all of whom were against LoJack’s software coming ready to go on Samsung’s phones, according to the Associated Press.

Absolute’s software helps you and law enforcement locate a stolen smartphone, lock it remotely, and finally delete stored data. Cleverly, LoJack still operates even after a factory reset. Samsung has been working with Absolute for a while, and has installed the software on several phones already.

However, in a series of emails between Samsung and the above networks, examined by Gascon, the company was told it needed to be removed as a standard feature. It still exists on some phones, but users must activate and pay the subscription costs themselves. It’s not clear whether Samsung would cover the subscription fee for a set period, should LoJack be enabled as standard.

Gascon says he’s, “Incensed” by the network’s refusal to implement LoJack’s system, calling it a solution which could, “End the victimization of their customers.” So what’s the problem? According to the CTIA Wireless Association, it’s security, as there is a risk hackers could gain access to the system and maliciously disable phones. Gascon has a different view, saying the implementation of a kill switch cancels out the need for device insurance, a lucrative revenue stream for some networks.

Samsung says it’s continuing to work with carriers and DA Gascon, who has been championing mobile kill switches for a while, to find a suitable solution.