Digital Fraud

Can smartphone thefts in India be prevented with a kill switch?

Starting from July 1, smartphone manufacturers in California will be forced to have a ‘Kill Switch’ on all phones. A Kill Switch is a software solution that enables  users to remotely wipe or lock the phone, rendering it useless to the one who has stolen it. This technology is already available in smartphones that Apple and Google  manufacture. While Apple’s feature is called Activation Lock, Google’s feature is called Device Protection.

However, as this was not a default feature which was turned on, meant that customers who were not technologically savvy did not turn on this feature. California’s recent legislation changes this by mandating that every smartphone user must be prompted during the phone setup to enable the kill switch. The legislation mandates that every smartphone must have a default kill switch option enabled, and must be an opt-out feature (which means that users can disable the kill switch if they want to).

Already, there is enough evidence of the impact of such a legislation. For example, Reuters reports that the number of stolen iPhones dropped by 40% in San Francisco and 25 percent in New York after Apple introduced a kill switch on its devices in September 2013.

In India, the government has asked people to check the list of stolen mobile handsets on ZIPNET, a government portal which lists stolen mobile phones in addition to other information. ZIPNet (Zonal Integrated Police Network) enables sharing of crime and crime-related information in real-time. Currently, Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan Police, Punjab and Chandigarh Police share information on this portal. The government has issued various notices advising people to check the list of stolen mobile handsets on the ZIPNET portal before purchasing a pre-owned mobile phone.

You can check this portal here: ZIPNET

You can check the IMEI Number of your mobile phone by typing *#06#. This IMEI number can then be used to trace and lock your phone, if it is stolen.

If devices are rendered useless, there would be less motivation for thieves to steal your phones. The kill switch option if implemented in India, can be a boon to consumers and be a big deterrent to smartphone thieves. With a fast rising smartphone population, it is time for India to take a cue from California.

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