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Wireless providers offer up anti-theft tool commitment

A wireless providers trade group says the nation’s biggest mobile device manufacturers and carriers will soon put anti-theft tools on their gadgets to try to deter smartphone theft.
By TERRY COLLINS, Associated Press Published: April 16, 2014
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— A trade group for wireless providers said Tuesday that the nation’s biggest mobile device manufacturers and carriers will soon put anti-theft tools on the gadgets to try to deter rampant smartphone theft.

CTIA-The Wireless Association announced that under a “Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment,” the companies including Apple Inc., Samsung Electronics Co., Verizon Wireless, AT&T Inc., U.S. Cellular Corp., Sprint Corp. and T-Mobile US Inc. have agreed to provide a free preloaded or downloadable anti-theft tool on smartphones sold in the U.S. after July 2015.

Kill switch

Owners’ options will include remotely removing a smartphone’s data and preventing reactivation if a phone is stolen or lost, the association said.

It appears the wireless industry has somewhat reversed course as law enforcement and elected officials in the U.S. demand that manufacturers implement a “kill switch” to combat surging smartphone theft across the country. Industry officials have previously said putting a permanent kill switch on phones has serious risks, including the potential that hackers could activate it.

“We appreciate the commitment made by these companies to protect wireless users in the event their smartphones are lost or stolen,” CTIA CEO Steve Largent said in a written statement. “This flexibility provides consumers with access to the best features and apps that fit their unique needs while protecting their smartphones and the valuable information they contain. At the same time, it’s important different technologies are available so that a ‘trap door’ isn’t created that could be exploited by hackers and criminals.”

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