So California, with the best of intentions as always, is trying to pass a law saying all smartphones sold there have to have a “killswitch” - a feature that will allow the carrier to kill the phone dead as a rock. The theory is that this will make smartphone theft (which is now 40% of robberies, apparently) pointless.
Okay, good on paper. You get held up, they take your iPhone, you call AT&T, the phone is turned into a brick. Sooner or later da bad guyz stop taking smartphones.
However… aren’t nearly all stolen phones re-chipped and re-serialized to hide their identity? It’s already possible to find a stolen phone within minutes by looking for its IMEI number on any network, so my understanding is that experienced phone thieves (1) immediately pull the battery, switch the phone off or put it in an RF-proof container to get it off the network, and (2) sell it to someone who will rechip or reprogram it. When it reappears live, it’s no longer traceable.
How could any extension of embedded ID work, then? If phones have to be mass-produced and then programmed or burned with their individual ID, someone else can hack or re-burn that information later. Adding this “kill switch” feature would depend on being able to identify the stolen phone 5 minutes or more after theft, plenty of time for the phone to disappear into an RF hole.
About the only use tracing and cutting off a phone now achieves is cutting the carrier’s losses due to punk theft and expensive or crime-related calls; not one in 100 is going to be tracked down and recovered. So “bricking” a phone remotely means the thief has to leave the phone active, not rechip or reprogram it, and whatever the “kill switch” does has to be beyond the ability of already-skilled hacker/reprogrammers to fix.
As I said, good intentions… but do they completely ignore reality here?