Microsoft, Google To Introduce “Kill-Switch” Function As Report Shows The Deterrent Cuts Thefts

Smartphone manufacturers appear to be taking consumers’ and legislators’ demand for anti-theft measures to heart. Just a month after Minnesota became the first state to pass a law requiring manufacturers to create kill switches Microsoft and Google announced that they would introduce the theft deterrent technologies into their products. And that’s a good thing considering a new report highlights just how effective kill switches have been reducing the theft of technology.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced today that both Microsoft and Google have made commitments to install kill switch technology, while at the same time touting a decrease in phone thefts following the implementation of Apple’s theft deterrent technology last year.

In a blog post Thursday, officials with Microsoft say the new feature will build on the capabilities of the “Find My Phone” program currently available on Windows phones and will be offered as an update for all phones running Windows 8.0 and newer.

With implementation of the anti-theft feature, consumers will be able to remotely erase personal data from their smartphone, render the phone inoperable by unauthorized users, prevent reactivation or setup of the phone and reverse the inoperability if they recover their phone.

Officials with Google tell the Associated Press that the next version of Android will include “a factory reset protection solution to help deter smartphone theft.”

Both Google and Microsoft signed a voluntary agreement promising to include such anti-theft tools in their products back in April. Under the agreement, manufacturers had until July 2015 to create preloaded or readily available by download theft deterrents.

Thursday also marked the release of a report [PDF] by state attorneys general, prosecutors, police and other officials from around the country that highlighted the stark difference a kill switch makes when it comes to phone thefts.

In 2013, an estimated 3.1 phones were stolen nationally, costing consumers nearly $2.6 billion. Those number are likely to drop now that the “Secure Our Smartphones” initiative found that Apple’s introduction of the “Activation Lock” feature dramatically decreased number of phone thefts reported.


In just the first five months of 2014, robberies and grand larcenies in New York involving Apple products dropped 19% and 29%, respectively. Statistics from San Francisco show a similar outcome, with iPhone robberies declining 38%.

However, the report found that at the same time that thefts of products without kill switches increased. In New York robberies and grand larcenies involving Samsung smartphones increased over 40%. In San Francisco thefts of those devices increased by 12%.

While the findings were an improvement to previous theft statistics, officials say there is more to do.

“We can make the violent epidemic of smartphone theft a thing of the past, and these numbers prove that,” San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón says in a news release. “It was evident from day one that a technological solution was not only possible, but that it would serve as an effective deterrent to this growing threat.”

Crime data show iPhone ‘kill switch’ cuts thefts [The Associated Press]

A.G. Schneiderman And D.A. Gascón Announce That Google And Microsoft Will Include A Smartphone Kill Switch In Next Operating Systems [Attorney General Eric Schnedierman]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.