SMARTPHONE SAFETY: Thefts surge nationwide, kill-switch urged - New York News

SMARTPHONE SAFETY: Thefts surge nationwide, kill-switch urged

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  • SMARTPHONE SAFETY: Thefts surge nationwide, kill-switch urgedMore>>

  • SF, NY prosecutors push for anti-phone theft moves

    SF, NY prosecutors push for anti-phone theft moves

    Thursday, June 13 2013 12:52 PM EDT2013-06-13 16:52:19 GMT
    The top prosecutors in San Francisco and New York planned Thursday to an attempt to thwart a surge in smartphone thefts.
    The top prosecutors in San Francisco and New York planned Thursday to announce the formation of a nationwide initiative and coalition of police, prosecutors and other officials in an attempt to thwart a surge in smartphone thefts.
MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) -

Smartphone thefts are surging across the country, and top prosecutors in New York City and San Francisco are calling on providers to implement industry-wide kill switch technology to make pilfered phones worthless.

The city of Minneapolis saw 1,700 smartphone thefts in 2011 alone, and the rate of thefts jumped 33 percent last year. This year, the numbers are on track to exceed last year's record and police say something needs to be done to remove the incentive

Most people who have a smartphone often have a story to tell as well. Susan Hanover's began and ended inside a crowded bar.

"My purse was closed and zipped and everything," she recalled. "Next thing you know, my phone and wallet were gone."

Those who own iPhones are often targeted for so-called "Apple picking," and that's because demand is hot. On the local Craigslist, there are 2,500 iPhone listings with more than 130 ads posted by Thursday evening. How many are stolen is anyone's guess.

With smartphone theft becoming such a ubiquitous problem, the cell phone industry is now warning customers to protect their devices with PIN codes, passwords and remote wipes. Apple is taking it a step further with new, kill-switch software.

"It's a very good idea," said Jake DeWoskin, a security expert with McGladrey. "The fact that Apple and some of these other manufacturers are recognizing the need is really a step in the right direction."

The idea is simple: If a phone is lost or stolen, the owner can connect to iTunes on another computer and completely disable the device.

"With the kill switch on the Apple, it's really an authentication-driven solution such that a phone's tracking information or tracking capabilities and/or data cannot be deleted off unless an Apple ID and password are provided," DeWoskin explained.

DeWoskin predicts that before long, a theft solution will come with nearly every smartphone.

"We're going to see a lot more solutions … whether it be a call to the cellular provider or the users themselves can actually log onto a website, track their device, decide what they want to delete if the device is gone," he said., "and have a higher degree of comfort that their information isn't compromised."

DeWoskin said many businesses already have mobile management software to kill smartphones and tablets that are stolen, and it's only a matter of time before the consumer market catches up.

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