“Kill Switch” Technology is Reducing Smart Phone Theft

Existing technology can protect personal information when a smart phone or tablet computers are lost or stolen.

According to the CT Better Business Bureau, more than three million of the devices were stolen last year, accounting for almost half of all thefts in major cities.

In some cases, victims were attacked by thieves trying to make them let go of their phones. However, in the face of legislation, manufacturers will be obliged to make the software a standard security feature as of next summer.

A “kill switch” is a free application that allows the owner of a smart phone or tablet to locate a lost device on a map, lock it and even erase all of its contents in order to prevent private information from falling into the wrong hands.

Stolen smart phones fetch several hundred dollars when resold, but the quality and quantity of data stored on them can be just as valuable. Many consumers fail to realize that a smart phone is in fact a portable computer that has the ability to make phone calls. Most owners fail to password-protect their smart phones or tablets, or take advantage of “kill switch” technology.

After one manufacturer introduced a smart phone app, San Francisco police report theft of that brand of phone dropped 38 percent. By passing mandatory kill switch implementation, legislators are trying to make smart devices less appealing to thieves, the same way as thefts declined when vehicle security systems were improved.

Here is how the technology works:

If you lose your device, you can log on to any computer to find the device on a map and cause it to play a sound (which is helpful if you misplace your device at home or in the car), lock it or erase it. Unfortunately, this will only work if you installed a kill switch on your device and keep your Wi-Fi or data service enabled.

Look for kill switch apps that are available through your manufacturer’s website.

A little preparation can protect your information and make finding your missing smart phone or tablet possible. This is especially important as we head into the busiest and most distracting shopping season of the year, and spend a great deal of time on our smart devices in public areas.