Security Phone

The Governor of Minnesota signed a new bill into law that prohibits the sale of any smartphone without anti-theft software pre-installed. The idea is to deter criminals from stealing handsets in the first place by allowing users to remotely disable and wipe a phone's data, rendering it useless. If a stolen phone is remotely disabled, there wouldn't be any monetary incentive left in the endeavour.

While the legislation does not mention the exact nature of anti-theft measures that need to be installed, it does state that all devices need to be "equipped with preloaded anti-theft functionality or be capable of downloading that functionality." Similar bills are underway in California, New York and Illinois. At the federal level, a Smartphone Theft Prevention Act bill was introduced in February, but it is still in committee.

In addition to anti-theft measures, the Minnesota legislature also states that second hand mobile devices cannot be paid for in cash, and that stores purchasing second hand devices will have to pay sellers by check, store credit or electronic transfer. Retailers as well as used phone vendors will have to keep records of all second hand device related transactions.

While individual states are taking matters into their own hands by introducing such laws, carriers and manufacturers are also undertaking measures to deter smartphone theft. Samsung, Google, Apple, and Microsoft have announced that they're committing to a CTIA "Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment," through which they'll be launching anti-theft tools that will allow users to remotely disable their devices.

The measures will be included in all handsets launched by these brands starting next year. In addition to handset manufacturers, all four major US carriers have also registered their interest in bringing anti-theft measures to consumers.

Source: The Governor of Minnesota's Office


Reader comments

First smartphone 'kill switch' bill in the US passed by… Minnesota


As another MN resident, I wish our lawmakers knew more about tech. :\ I dislike this

You can already lock/wipe and track your device, people just don't take advantage of it.

Exactly. But knee-jerking gets more news folk to the capitol building.

So does this mean any phones have been forced to stop selling as of today? Has this law actually "done" anything?


Blasted government trying to stick their nose where it doesn't belong again. This shouldn't be mandated, but left to the individual!


If I want anti-theft software on my phone, I'll get some. (And I really hope manufacturers start doing it more) But this is none of the governments business. If I want my phone to not have it, I shouldn't have to.

Just another example of the government becoming one step closer to fully controlling us.

Got Nexus?

It will have the software installed, You Don't Have To Use It. BTW Google has this built into Android already to locate, and now you can download it to wipe your phone or lock it up tight.

But you are OK with your carrier installing 25 Apps pre-installed on your phone that are all geared at sucking more money out of you?

-"But you are OK with your carrier installing 25 Apps pre-installed..."-

Pretty silly to think that this has any relevance to the topic of government mandated software.


No, they really don't.

Android Device Manager allows you to locate, lock, or wipe your device, but a "kill switch" would render the device unusable. A device that's been factory wiped is perfect for a criminal to sell. One that's had it's kill switch activated is perfect as a paper weight...

I don't see a bricking feature as a good alternative, especially given that the feature itself could go very wrong if there is a bug in the software governing the bricking mechanism. What if it was activated accidentally through a bug in the software, or someone gains access to the account (or whatever action activates the feature) and decides it would be funny to send the command to do so. I don't think we'll see any manufacturer willing to jeopardize their reputation with such a problem. The way the article is talking, it seems the "kill switch" they're talking about is exactly like Android Device Manager.

Which also means that this law will still be useless because yes, a factory restored phone is perfect for someone to sell :\

"equipped with preloaded anti-theft functionality or be capable of downloading that functionality." The mandate isn't for the individual, it's for the manufacturer. Now yes, many companies may install it as bloatware with the inability to remove it but many are already, and many more will continue to without government requirement. Regardless, even if it was installed and not able to be removed, if you don't want to use it, don't use it. The only people who should have a problem are those who make their money stealing phones.

The same magical free market that developed the phone and all the other technology you enjoy using. Socialism and innovation are far from synonymous.

As for the bill any legislation mandating a way to remotely erase my phone is terrifying.

Who said anything about socialism? Pointing out that the unregulated free market isn't flawless is hardly synonymous with government controlling the means of production.

I'm glad you're wetting the bed over a kill switch instead of getting mugged and/or killed for your phone.

I find it very cute that you think any aspect of our market system isn't regulated (if not over regulated). In fact, the majority of problems we have with the free market aren't actually the fault of that system but rather the unintended consequences of over regulation. I would like you name one product that you use that is unregulated. And if you think this law will prevent muggings/murders, well then I don't think I can take you seriously (even less so than I do now.)

Wait a minute, are you trying to tell me that people are killing each other for phones because of excessive market regulation? Is this another one of the Invisible Hand Can Do No Wrong lectures?

Trust me, I'm super bent out of shape that you don't take me seriously.

This is a sad news. What are the government plan for a stolen phone? Thief are smarter nowadays. I dont know what will happen next.

Ready to help you

I'm from Minnesota as well... and know how to find my own apps, but I can see some that are not as good at reading about technology and need these kind of things. *** Note to Verizon, AT&T, T-Mo, Sprint and everyone else... load the app, but make it so the SMART SMARTPHONE USERS can uninstall it if they want.

Another scheme to cut off communication in case of emergency... Think about it, in light of the Arab Spring organizing via smartphone, the mobile communication became a threat to any government, ours included.

The panda has spoken

They have the ability to do that right now. You could not use a cellular device in any way during the Broad Street Run in Philly (sans taking pics/playing know what I mean). They sure as hell don't need you to install an app on your device. That said, I do think this is ridiculous. They going to try to do that for cars, etc. etc. ?

I can't see this doing anything. Period. The bill states that the device must be "equipped with preloaded anti-theft functionality or be capable of downloading that functionality." Doesn't that sound like every smartphone in the world? There are anti-theft devices everywhere, on every market and app store.

As for the transaction itself - second hand devices cannot be purchased with cash - huh? How will that help with theft? It does not state that it only applies to retailers (ie pawn shops, etc...) - it could also refer to me selling my phone because I don't want it anymore. Do you REALLY think that if I am selling my phone to a stranger, that I will take a cheque from the guy? Or we can arrange for some electronic transfer? No. I will sell my phone to the first guy that can come up with the cash. I wonder if there will be an exception in that bill for personal sellers...

My thoughts exactly. MN government is simply mandating services that are already available. But this gives carriers a blank check to install whatever bloatware they please under the guise of "anti-theft" services. And this bill significantly undermines the used phone market there. So much for finding a good deal on MN craigslist. There is no way I would take a check or electronic money transfer from a buyer. I'd rather deal with selling a phone on eBay.

What the hell is this going to do to prevent someone from stealing your phone anyway? Lol

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What it does is kill the value of a stolen phone as they can be bricked.
Since they can not be resold the value of stolen phone drops to becomes in sellable

I don't get how so many people don't understand this...

EDIT: Of course the solution must be implemented correctly, and be impossible to bypass by a thief (with a hard reset for example).

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This isn't about anti-theft features. It's about the part talking about how 2nd party transactions take place. I don't think people realize how much the government truly hates off the grid cell phones paid for in cash with anonymous prepaid service.
These goobers are tracking and storing data out the yang on every American. That's all this is about.
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"or be capable of downloading that functionality"

LMAO - Walter Mondale, Jesse Ventura, Al Franken, and now this. Minnesota is just a joke factory.

No, they haven't accomplished anything but proving how inept they are, and how much none of them belonged if the offices they hold/held.

Yes, they've accomplished a lot. Even that dunderhead Bush accomplished things in his life. Fooling people is an accomplishment after all. Meanwhile, being a keyboard commando isn't exactly any sort of accomplishment is it.

Sadly, your retort applies as much, if not more, to you, than it does to me. I don't make my accomplishments here; this is leisure. I thought you would realize that.

Sad part is that manufacturers are the phone companies refused to do it already but then again a stolen phone for them meant more money as the person would have to go buy a new one.

What we need is a blacklist of the imei that the carriers would completely block from their networks. Fact of the matter is they will not do it.
This is an example of free market failure as the free market has incentives not to be able to brick a phone.

Let me point out a problem with your logic.... You state that "a stolen phone for them meant more money as the person would have to go buy a new one."

I submit to you that a bricked phone also means you have to buy another one! So yeah, there's that.

If I were so inclined to steal a phone the 1st thing I'd do is turn it off, wipe it, and reinstall the OS. This can be done on Android, iOS, and Windows phone with very little effort. Voila! Your antitheft software has been nullified.

Exactly!! If you can find your phone in the ten seconds it takes to power it down you may stand a chance. Beyond that, good luck!

Hence they need even more like the blacklist. Follow by another thing is tie the serial number/IMEI number to a databank. Phone hit the internet and oh look the IMEI is marked as stolen wiped. Brick.

The big part is this needs to be on the carriers putting a blacklist and ban stolen phones from working.

They need a universal blacklist that crosses carriers. You see a lot of phones for sale on eBay or Craigslist that say something like, "IMEI banned on T-Mobile but will work on other carriers". The carriers need to cooperate and share their lists.

I'd rather chance getting my phone stolen than have a government run list linking and tracking everybody's phones.


He didn't use the word 'government' did he?

You need to come out of the sun and clear your head. You are seeing things.

Actually wouldn't the first thing you would want to do is put it in airplane mode Or Faraday baggy it (like the cops do to prevent you from remote wiping), and then steal all the data, logins, make an image, then redo the OS? It's even more valuable if you can steal the bank info first.

The bill will do nothing, but put more bloatware on devices. It'd only work if they forced lock screens, full device encryption, and the device admin (for remote wipe) to be set. But they'd never do that, because with full device encryption it becomes useless to police when they confiscate it for no good reason.

This won't do a damn thing but earn some political points for a few people. Downloaded software doesn't stop someone from hard resetting the phone to undermine it, does it? Anything less than an implementation similar to (yes I'm saying it) Apple is just a band aid.
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I totally forgot about the no-cash part and the previous poster is right. This is also about providing transparency to the government, which has enough power as is.

If a mechanism was devised to place such an application as part of a ROM then no root would be required.

The quality of insurance is controlled by the private insurance industry. The government doesn't provide it. You are bitching up the wrong tree.

Actually, the new law mandates much of the "quality control" of what can and must be included in insurance policies, whether they are "features" you want/use or not. You should read it. It may surprise you. To say that insurance is controlled by the private industry is now an anachronism.

lmfao, really? There is absolutely no way to stop a thief who wants to disable location services. This is such a sad attempt it's not even funny. The only thing this will stop is an 8 year old with sticky fingers who doesn't know any better. Anyone who wants to profit from stealing smartphones knows how to wipe a phone and erase all tracking software instantly. Hell, with most androids you don't even need to unlock anything or even plug into a computer. just do a data reset from the native settings and pretty much any location app in the world is rendered useless. Until location services are attached to the bootloader there's nothing we can do about it. Unfortunately, I will never condone this being done, so we're stuck in a catch-22.

Just be smart about where you pull your phone out and buy headphones with a remote button. Keep your phone tucked in a pocket that's not easily accessible, and don't leave your headphone cable hanging out where someone can pull on it and grab your phone. That's about the best advice I can give anyone. Beyond that, there isn't much more reliable security available.

Actually, you can install Cerberus as a system app and it will survive a wipe. So, the thieves would have to completely replace the OS to get around it.

Plus, if the thief has to wipe your phone in order to use it post-theft, then part of the reason for such software is satisfied: your personal data is no longer accessible.

lol seriously?? nandroids are easily read by anyone with the knowledge of what apps to use, and they can contain every single piece of information stored on the phone. a simple adb pull command is also equally as effective, no recovery or unlocked bootloader prior to theft is necessary..

You give thieves too much credit. Most are not intelligent enough to do such a thing.

Here's the deal. A very effective anti-theft system could be devised and implemented if there was enough will behind it. All of the objections can be overcome. The problem is that there is no will on the part of individuals so the solutions we do have come with limitations. Government can sometimes supply the will and that's what seems to be occurring here.

Or have the capability to download it? Don't all phones now have that capability? There are all kinds of apps out there that do this.

That was my first thought, too. Only thing I can wonder if is they require it to be free to the user, rather than purchased. Android and iOS already meet the stated requirement without 3rd party apps.

This isn't sensible legislation. This is a law designed for prevention, rather then to establish a penalty for doing something that is actually wrong. That is not the purpose of law.

Preventing crime is a legitimate function of laws.

Meanwhile, I just bought some tin-foil futures.

Why the hell is this a State or even Federal matter? Hell, this shouldn't even be a local matter. We're talking about an individual's personal property. Theft is theft; we have a law and degrees of punishment for it already. These officials have so much more important crap to take care of...

The law is supposed to establish a penalty for illegal behavior, but we have entered the age of "pre-emptive" laws, designed to prevent illegal behavior from happening in the first place, which is not a true function of law. Anyone see Minority Report? Certainly, nobody is being put away for what they "might" do with this law, but it certainly offers a toehold to that mentality.

I'm sorry, I didn't realize you had passed the bar, or were a recognized scholar. Your opinion matters about as much as mine, otherwise.

This is actually smart as it would provide "herd immunity" by decreasing the likelihood that any theft would take place thus protecting everyone. The only problem is passing in a single state isn't going to cut it. It would have to be a national requirement to really have an impact.

I disagree on your last point. Even though the feature is only requried in one state, I don't see any manufacturers making a different software version specifically for that state. They'll bake the feature in for everyone.

Maybe, like how emissions standards first established in California forced manufactures to make cleaner cars. However, Minnesota is not the size of California. The effect remains to be seen.

Sigh keep believing that now your cell phone is safe. Nobody will steal it now, I swear nerds it's so many cell phone chop shops out there buying phones just for parts.
All this "now that can't use my phone, hahaha" is not going to get your phone back. You still have to buy another one. The person may still make some money off you.
Those phones will be restored and shipped out the country where people pay good money for high end phones.

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I can't help but almost die laughing at some of these comments. Here's a thought for some of you folks, the next time you start blustering about "state's rights", think about what your state may do with those rights. I get sick of people thinking that smaller state governments are somehow morally superior to the federal. You can throw in my local city government that can't even get holes in the road fixed.

This isn't about protecting you from thieves. This is about bypassing carriers and being able to have direct control of your phone. This is just a way to be able to control/turn off your phone if they need to if you are rallying at areas of protest etc. Say you're taking a picture of something you're not supposed to and they see large groups there you don't think eventually they will have the ability to delete whatever you just took or block it? The government could care less if your phone was stolen- give me a freaking break. This is a slice of strawberry cheesecake with fiber glass in it disguised to look good. Trojan horse.
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