Law Enforcement to Phone Makers: Be Smarter About Mobile Security
Cell phone theft is on the rise. A few months ago, New York City Police issued a report that showed 40 percent of all robberies in the city now involve cell phones. California is facing a similar problem. In Los Angeles, more than one quarter of all robberies have to do with mobile devices. By May of this year, Oakland had already seen 1,300 cell phone robberies, and in San Francisco, the issue was so large that the city launched a campaign aimed at public transportation riders, reminding them to "be smart" with their smart phones.
"This is your modern-day purse snatching," San Francisco Police Captain Joe Garrity told USA Today. "A lot of younger folks seem to put their entire lives on these things that don't come cheap."
Because phone theft can cause big problems in terms of mobile security, law enforcement agents from New York City and San Francisco are issuing a plea today, asking smart phone makers to help them in their efforts to protect mobile privacy for Americans.
Why Phone Theft Matters
You may think that the main issue that comes from phone theft has to do with hardware. While it's a pain to replace a phone that costs $300 or $400, that's not the biggest price victims of this crime will pay. When thieves steal a cell phone, they are also taking the user's mobile identity, which can cause major privacy headaches. Think of all the sensitive information you have on your cell phone. Bank statements, passwords, email accounts and contact numbers will all be compromised if you have your mobile device stolen.
The Plea for Help
In the wake of these startling statistics, law enforcement agents plan to meet with major smart phone makers today to discuss ways to decrease cell phone theft. San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will come together with representatives from the leading smart phone manufacturers groups, Google, Apple, Samsung and Microsoft, reports the Associated Press. The result of the meeting will be what law enforcement agents are calling the "Secure Our Smartphones Initiative."
There are a number of actions Schneiderman and Gascon want these tech giants to take. One is known as the "kill switch," a function that would make smart phones essentially worthless when stolen.
Currently, users can download an app called Find My iPhone, which makes it possible for them to locate their device in the event that it's stolen. However, if thieves are able to access the phone's app, they can simply disable or delete this program, meaning they'll still be able to use and resell the phone. Additionally, thieves can remotely wipe all data from a device and then reboot it to for resale purposes.
Apple has already taken steps to combat this issue, as the company announced during its recent unveiling of iOS 7, the new operating system coming soon to iPhones. With the update, users will need to enter an Apple ID and password before they can disable Find My iPhone, according to CNN. On top of that, users will need that same Apple ID and password to erase any data, meaning Apple phones won't be able to be wiped and replaced so easily.
Keeping Your Device Safe
There will likely be more changes coming following the Smartphone Summit happening today, but until then, users must be sure to keep their mobile devices safe. Don't flaunt your phone when you're out in public, and be sure to keep a second phone number that you can easily delete and replace should your device fall into the wrong hands.