Minnesota becomes first U.S. state to approve mobile device 'kill switch' law

If you live in Minnesota, your next smartphone or tablet could have pre-installed software that will allow you to disable the device remotely. That's due to Wednesday's decision by the state government to pass a bill into law requiring such "kill switches" on mobile devices.

CNET reports that the governor of Minnesota, Mark Dayton, signed the bill into law on Wednesday. It will require that all mobile connected devices have anti-theft software installed by July 1st, 2015. It's the first state in the U.S. to pass such a requirement.

The California state senate tried and failed to approve a similar bill in that state in April, but a second voting attempt by that group last week was successful. However, the bill is still in committee and has yet to go to the governor for his approval.

In April, a number of smartphone companies, including Apple, Google and Microsoft,  along with the major wireless carriers in the U.S, pledged to voluntary install remote free remote wiping software on all of their devices starting with new units sold after July 2015. Previously, some parts of the smartphone industry have resisted adding in such software, claiming that it could lead to making devices more open to hackers.

Source: CNET | Smartphone image via Shutterstock

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27 Comments

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I don't disagree with having a kill switch, but if the kill switch gets into the wrong persons hands, say some hackers some how manage to get access to icloud db or whatever similar service and went on a kill switch spree. That would cause a lot of headaches, remote whipping peoples info, etc.

Pointless, phone theft should already be almost impossible. The IMEI number >.>.
Most stolen phones don't get their IMEI number reset, they just switch carriers.

For some reason the plan of sharing IMEI numbers to find thefts is never taken into action.

IMEI number reset? You can't unblock an IMEI, you can only block it (to prevent stolen phones being re-activated by not-so-legit staff).
You can change an IMEI using various hardware/software hacks, but it's not easy stuff and it's not legal to do.

I'm aware there's devices and software to change the IMEI number, but the vast majority of phone thefts is not done by organized crime which has access to such tech.
But by random(######) individuals taking an opportunity.
And police and carriers do nothing, you can report your phone for being stolen, even the IMEI number. And still the stolen phone is being actively used without anything more then a change of SIM card.

Apple, MS and Google are taking more action and putting a ton more effort into a system we've already had for a very long time but never put into use.

No you are a bit wrong there, if you report a phone as stolen and the phone company has the IMEI on file, the device is BLOCKED and will refuse to function as a phone (emergency calls will still work) in any country that has the same blocklist. Your phone doesn't just start working when it's turned on, it sends it's IMEI out and gets a response stating that it's either valid, invalid or blocked.
This system has been used for well over 20 years now

Because it is always good that you can rely on smartphones to be in contact with your service. what if in 5 years we don't have sim cards anymore and the government has no way of contacting the device properly

some parts of the smartphone industry have resisted adding in such software, claiming that it could lead to making devices more open to hackers.

Indeed, could be messy if it got exploited.

My thoughts exactly. A software kill switch that can be trigger remotely? Awful, awful idea. I can't wait until this blows up in their faces when someone figures out a way to send this signal to every device that is listening for it.

How about turning over the responsibility to telecom providers, they earn enough off us already. They can kill sims, but not the device you paid 3x more for (under contract) if it's stolen :p

Steven P. said,
How about turning over the responsibility to telecom providers, they earn enough off us already. They can kill sims, but not the device you paid 3x more for (under contract) if it's stolen :p

They can, CDMA devices are blocked because the network just disables the access ID, GSM phones have their IMEI blocked which make the devices useless unless they have their IMEI changed or are shipped to a country that doesn't use IMEI blocklists.
Only difference between that and this is a blocked phone still has all the data on, this is meant to erase said data (I'll bet £1000 you can easily bypass it and still get the data or recover the data once it's been deleted)

Steven P. said,
How about turning over the responsibility to telecom providers, they earn enough off us already. They can kill sims, but not the device you paid 3x more for (under contract) if it's stolen :p

They've been leading the resistance to this. Samsung was forced to open thousands of phones that were ready to ship in order to remove their solution because the US carriers wouldn't accept delivery otherwise.

I couldn't find the article detailing this exact instance, but this one talks to the resistance Samsung has been facing: http://www.businessweek.com/ar...h-for-mobile-devices-is-doa

If people were more responsible for their things, this wouldnt be needed. I know know how many times at restaurants I see people leave their phones at the table and get up to use the restroom. Or leave their phones out in the open in their cars.

This, I never leave my phone unattended unless at home. I care more for it then my wallet since it has much easier access to my whole life.
And people I know that get their phones and such stolen, are the people you describe :)

Mandosis said,
Its not people leaving their phones unattended its people having their phones stolen at gun point. Its a big issue.

Not aware its that bad in Minnesota.
Few years ago a guy got its ipod stolen by a guy holding a knife, this was world news for us, and it happened in Belgium.

I live in Minnesota and I hear about it on the news all the time. Its usually somewhere around the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis but sometimes in other places as well.

"have not heard much about phones being stolen at gunpoint. Think this would be headline news if it was a big issue."

I guess you don't watch CNN...

01Michael10 said,
"have not heard much about phones being stolen at gunpoint. Think this would be headline news if it was a big issue."

I guess you don't watch CNN...

Lol, who still watches CNN? ;)