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posted by Woods on Friday April 25 2014, @02:34PM   Printer-friendly
from the my-favorite-kind-of-switch dept.

The California Senate on Thursday voted down a state measure that would require smarter anti-theft security on smartphones. The bill, introduced by State Senator Mark Leno and sponsored by George Gascon, San Francisco's district attorney, would have required a so-called kill switch which would render a smartphone useless after it was stolen on all smartphones sold in California. The proposal needed 21 votes to pass in the 40-member chamber. After debate on Thursday morning at the Capitol, in Sacramento, it fell two votes short of passing, with a final count of 19 to 17 in favor.

 
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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by MrGuy on Friday April 25 2014, @04:57PM

    by MrGuy (1007) on Friday April 25 2014, @04:57PM (#36184)

    So, I don't get the idea of the so-called Kill Switch.

    I get the idea remote wipe - have software running that can wipe the hard drive/memory.
    I get the idea of IMEI blacklisting.
    What I don't get is an alleged feature that renders the hardware "inoperable."

    If the IMEI was in read-only ROM that was soldered to the board, IMEI blacklisting would be MOSTLY a kill switch - the hardware wouldn't be usable unless you were really handy with a soldering iron. But it's not - IMEI's can be changed in software (for rooted phones).

    I don't see how any non-hardware solution can permanently render a phone useless. Unless you're breaking a tiny acid capsule on the motherboard that damages the chips, how can any software solution "permanently render" phones inoperable?

    I forsee a rise of DIFFICULT TO UNDO software "kill switches." But not UNDOABLE. Which just means there will be specialized "chop shops" resurrecting phones. The market isn't gone, just changes.

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  • (Score: 2) by RobotMonster on Friday April 25 2014, @06:18PM

    by RobotMonster (130) on Friday April 25 2014, @06:18PM (#36233) Journal

    Time for CPU manufacturers to implement a proper HCF [wikipedia.org] opcode (Halt and Catch Fire). ;-)

  • (Score: 0, Flamebait) by VortexCortex on Friday April 25 2014, @06:21PM

    by VortexCortex (4067) on Friday April 25 2014, @06:21PM (#36235)

    Intel chips now have voltage regulation in the silicon, they can cook themselves. Intel has demonstrated their ability to kill their cellular enabled "anti-theft" chip remotely. Intel would like a piece of the mobile pie. This law would be great for Intel, both the company and the government's Intel agencies' openly anti-activism capabilities. [theguardian.com] Not really beneficial to anyone else though. If you want to protect your data, just encrypt the damn phone. They'll wipe the encryption key-pair on too many attempts to unlock it, thus making the data disappear. IMEI blacklists can already keep petty thieves from using the device if you report your phone stolen. We don't need governments with the ability to selectively kill phones, computers, and cars (now that black boxes are mandated for vehicles).

    If a thief has my phone already, I don't care. I have insurance on the things that are important. My phone's lock screen says: "Care for Androids properly. Email R2D2@[my-website].com for help."

    This close vote is terrifying. It means it'll come back up soon, and again and again until the legislation is passed since the targeted kill switch is key to making the NSA, Pentagon and Stasi wet dreams a reality. No amount of solder will help if the CPU chip itself refuses to operate. Switching to white lists where cars, computers and mobiles only work if they ping approved towers would be all too easy once that hardware kill switch is in place. Late on a bill? You can't drive or call in to work. Think XP's artificial scarcity EoL is bad? (paying folks still get updates to fix MS's code fuck-ups, but no one else will)? Just wait till the devices brick themselves to force obsolescence -- upping the ante of the standard commercial planned obsolescence racket. [archive.org] Want to report a strange black van following you after making a politically incorrect dissenting remark online? Too bad, your devices go dead, your car dies on the road, and so do you. Any risk of that far outweighs my fear of smart-phone theft.

    • (Score: 2) by hamsterdan on Friday April 25 2014, @06:54PM

      by hamsterdan (2829) on Friday April 25 2014, @06:54PM (#36258)

      People get hurt (or killed) in phone muggings. Reducing the chances of someone stealing your phone reduces the chances of you getting hurt. If they can't resell or use your stolen phone, they won't try to steal it. I'm all for kill switch, not just a IMEI blacklist like the one for north-america.

    • (Score: 0) by Lazarus on Friday April 25 2014, @07:12PM

      by Lazarus (2769) on Friday April 25 2014, @07:12PM (#36270)

      How is this terrifying unless you're an enemy agent, or so mentally ill that you think the scary government wants to kill your phone?

      >Want to report a strange black van following you after making a politically incorrect dissenting remark online? Too bad, your devices go dead, your car dies on the road, and so do you. Any risk of that far outweighs my fear of smart-phone theft.

      Mental illness it is.

      • (Score: 2) by dmc on Friday April 25 2014, @11:14PM

        by dmc (188) on Friday April 25 2014, @11:14PM (#36407)

        How is this terrifying unless you're an enemy agent, or so mentally ill that you think the scary government wants to kill your phone?

        >Want to report a strange black van following you after making a politically incorrect dissenting remark online? Too bad, your devices go dead, your car dies on the road, and so do you. Any risk of that far outweighs my fear of smart-phone theft.

        Mental illness it is.

        I'll take VortexCortex's possible mental illness combined with their technical knowledge over your shortsightedness any day of the week. You're dismissal of the _technical and tactical insight_ of someone because they are mentally ill makes your comment less worth spending time reading that VortexCortex's. For the sake of argument, let's assume you are correct, that V is both mentally ill and paranoid. These facts alone do not make the threat models they describe, nor the technical issues involved dismissable (if you take the longterm benefit of society as a value). I.e. just because - again, for the sake of argument - V's paranoid threat models and described technical tactics may in fact not be highly relevent to themself, does not mean those same threat models and technical tactics aren't possibly *invaluable* to some courageous journalist out there in the process of uncovering the next big story that tremendously benefits society at the expense of violent criminals entirely willing to shed blood to keep their current criminal profit streams flowing.

        Do you really think that the U.S. government wouldn't use the kill switch feature, in exactly the ways described, if their was a next generation Snowden in the process of trying to get their data and story out to one of the very small set of journalists courageous enough to try and publish it? Of course the NSA and CIA would use the phone kill switch to terrorize some journalist that just got handed a pile of data from a future Snowden-esque leaker.

        Go back to basics. Think about the fourth ammendment, versus a society that allows its police to perform random inspections of all homes as part of it's anti-terror and anti-crime tactics. The reason people (i wish all of them, but those that share my view on this) don't let the police do that sort of thing isn't because they want more terrorists and criminals to succeed. Because of course random residential home inspections would succeed in fighting legitimately harmful terrorists and criminals- the reason people like me are opposed to those police powers is because if they have them, *there will most certainly come a day when they are abused by organized criminals against journalists to keep their sufficiently secret criminal revenue stream flowing*. And a world where that is enabled thusly, scares people like me more than the legitimate benefits to society for allowing that level of police power.

        Also, when the gestapo are too powerful, you will find more and more insight cloaked in art, metaphor, mixed with some amounts of insanity, and religious interwtingling. Well blended with some proportion of intentional, and unintentional partial mistakes in logic. Call it steganography, call it mental illness. I call it too valuable, and the stakes too high, to ignore and dismiss as you do.

  • (Score: 2) by Open4D on Friday April 25 2014, @09:07PM

    by Open4D (371) Subscriber Badge on Friday April 25 2014, @09:07PM (#36350) Journal

    IMEI's can be changed in software (for rooted phones).

    That's what worries me about these proposed laws. Wouldn't they require users to be locked out from full control over their phones?

    Even if theoretically the answer were no, I fear in practice that's what would happen. Manufacturers already have mixed feelings towards making phones rootable. With a law like this, the easiest thing to do is surely remove as much control over the phone as possible (except the officially supported features).