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Anti-theft mobe KILL SWITCH edges closer to reality in California

Senate greenlights bill to mandate remote-brick features

Mobile application security vulnerability report

The Golden State is one step closer to passing a law which would require mobile phone vendors to implement remote bricking capabilities in all handsets.

The California Senate has approved SB 962, the bill which mandates a "kill switch" mechanism in phones which could render stolen handsets useless and hopefully deter thieves.

The law faced opposition from mobile phone vendors, who argued against being forced to implement the feature into their devices by government mandate. The bill was first presented in February and was initially voted down, but has since been amended with endorsements from Apple and Microsoft.

San Francisco representative Mark Leno, who authored the SB 962 legislation, applauded the companies for changing their stance on the law and working to make the measures more palatable to vendors.

"The theft and robbery of smartphones is the fastest growing crime in many cities across California because thieves have a financial incentive to steal and then resell these valuable devices on the black market,” Leno said in a statement following passage of the bill.

"We can end this crime of convenience and protect the safety of smartphone consumers by ensuring that every new phone sold in our state has theft-deterrent technology installed and enabled by default. Nothing less will solve the problem.”

The bill will now be passed to the state Assembly for approval and, should it be passed, would then reach Governor Jerry Brown to either be signed into law or vetoed.

Should a measure pass in California, the effects could be felt throughout the industry. As the most populous state in the US and the world's eighth largest economy, California holds significant buying power and is home to industry heavyweights Apple and Google.

A killswitch mandate in the state may well also lead to a speeding up of regional and international rollouts of anti-theft technology. US mobile industry firms have now agreed to a national kill-switch system, but not until the middle of next year.

Law enforcement groups have noted that mobile phone theft is an increasingly common crime in most cities. Even at times when all other serious crime rates are dropping, the theft of handsets and tablets has grown.

Thus far, proposed laws for killswitch implementation have been struck down by legislatures under pressure from the mobile industry, making this week's vote by the California Senate all the more significant. ®

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