General Crime

Apple and Samsung Installing New Technology to Kill Stolen Cell Phones

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San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon is convening a meeting today with two top smartphone manufacturers to test new anti-theft software being installed in the companies’ phones. At the meeting, which is taking place in San Francisco, technical experts from the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center and elsewhere will test new “kill switch” technology designed to curb the theft of phones made by Apple and Samsung, according to the district attorney’s office.

The experts will be given a new Apple iPhone 5 with a feature known as “Activation Lock” and a Samsung Galaxy s4 with the feature “Lojack for Android” and will try to circumvent the anti-theft software, prosecutors said. Gascon and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman held a summit in New York City with smartphone makers last month to discuss how to address an increase in cellphone thefts in recent years.

Police estimate that about half of all street robberies in San Francisco involve the theft of a cellphone, and Gascon has criticized the manufacturers for not doing enough to render stolen phones inoperable and reduce the incentive for such crimes. Apple announced its new anti-theft feature at a developers’ conference in San Francisco the same week as the prosecutors’ summit.

The feature would require the phone owner’s Apple ID and password to turn off the “Find My iPhone” app or to reactivate the phone. Users whose phones are stolen or lost can also display a custom message with a phone number and a request to return the device, according to Apple officials. “While we are appreciative of the efforts made by Apple and Samsung to improve security of the devices they sell, we are not going to take them at their word,” Gascon and Schneiderman said in a joint statement today.

“We will assess the solutions they are proposing and see if they stand up to the tactics commonly employed by thieves,” the prosecutors said. “Together, we are working to ensure that the industry imbeds persistent technology that is effective, ubiquitous and free to consumers in every smartphone introduced to the market by next year.”

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