The S.O.S coalition's call for action includes having preloaded kill switch software on every smartphone, rather than leaving the impetus to individual manufacturers and carriers. Currently, a consumer must report a stolen smartphone to a carrier and request to have it disabled. Likewise, consumers must either install after-market tracking apps or rely on manufacturers to offer remote-kill features built into their operating systems. With a kill switch installed, you would send a special text message to your phone which would make it inoperable if it was stolen [source: Ben-Achour].
But according to a U.S. Federal Communications filing made by CTIA, a kill switch would be an attractive target to hackers. Hackers could find out the kill message on a phone and disable it remotely. This is a particular risk for people who work in defense or law enforcement. Further, phones could be permanently disabled if multiple messages were sent [sources: Schwartz, Ribeiro]. The idea that hackers could worm their way into a smartphone's code and use it to bypass built-in safeguards like logins and passwords is alarming.
Kill switch proponents, however, are quick to blame the CTIA's reluctance to adopt the technology on another reason: profit. Smartphone carriers offer stolen-phone coverage through consumer insurance programs. The top four wireless carriers in the U.S. -- AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon -- will bill an estimated $7.8 billion in protection plan premiums in 2013 [source: Warranty Week].
Some of the individual mobile carriers have said they are not against a kill switch, per se, but they want one that works on every type of phone and will have safeguards against hackers – which will take time to develop [source: Ben-Achour].
In the meantime, what can you do to protect yourself against theft?