U.S. carriers block Samsung's kill switch alternative to Apple's iOS 7 Activation Lock

Posted:
in iPhone edited February 2014
Samsung's plans to include a third party "kill switch" app on some of its premium smartphones to match Apple's iPhone Activation Lock theft deterrent system has been thwarted by phone carriers and fragmentation.



U.S. carriers, including AT&T, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile and Sprint, are refusing to support Samsung's efforts to pre-load its third party, LoJack-branded theft deterrent system on the devices they sell, according to note by New York Times blogger Brian Chen.

San Francisco district attorney George Gasc?n and New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman have led a campaign to deter rampant thefts via a "kill switch" mechanism advocated under their "Secure Our Smartphones" program.

The campaign was initiated in response to a crime wave that has targeted smartphones (and particularly iPhones) as being easy to steal, wipe and then resell, a practice that even carrier blacklists (when enforced) do little to slow because many stolen phones are being shipped overseas for use on foreign carriers.

The two politicians did not outline their own solution, but instead demanded a technical fix from hardware vendors.

Apple's Activation Lock gets official scrutiny, endorsement

Apple announced Activation Lock as a feature of iOS 7 this summer. Security experts in California working with Gasc?n examined the technology after it was released.

In September, Gasc?n responded to an inquiry by AppleInsider about the results of the study, stating that the experts studying various kill switch features decided not to publish their results "to avoid inadvertently creating a guide book for aspiring thieves" but had 'made recommendations to the manufacturers.'

@DanielEran we r not publishing results 2 avoid inadvertently creating a guide book 4 aspiring thieves, but made recs 2 the manufacturers

-- George Gasc?n (@GeorgeGascon)


Last week, Gasc?n tweeted an endorsement of Apple's solution to arresting phone theft, stating, "I'm using the IOs 7 with the find my iPhone feature which allows me to basically brick the phone if stolen or lost."

@hholmesktvu heather I'm using the IOs 7 with the find my iPhone feature which allows me to basically brick the phone if stolen or lost

-- George Gasc?n (@GeorgeGascon)


Police in New York have also advocated an upgrade to iOS 7 for the security feature.

No Activation Lock for Android

Gasc?n has equated Samsung's bundling deal with LoJack on certain models of its premium Android devices as an Android alternative to Activation Lock, although the service is limited to less than a third of Samsung's smartphone offerings.

Chen cited Gasc?n as complaining that while Samsung's proposed anti theft software "has the potential to safeguard Samsung customers," emails between Samsung and phone carriers indicated that they were concerned that Samsung's kill switch software, which is offered as an annual $29.99 subscription fee, would compete with their own insurance offerings.

Gasc?n alleged that "the carriers rejected it so they can continue to make money hand over fist on insurance premiums."

Chen also referenced the CTIA trade group representing carriers, which argued to the Federal Communications Commission in June that "a kill switch isn't the answer" to controlling device theft, noting that any preloaded software with the ability to remotely disable a phone could by hijacked and used by hackers to interfere with service.

Another problem the CTIA has with such kill switch apps is the concern that once a phone is remotely killed by a user, it could not be easily reactivated. Conversely, if it were easy to work around the lock, it wouldn't serve as an effective theft deterrent as thieves could work around it, too.

Apple's Activation Lock bypasses carriers

Apple's new Activation Lock feature aims to kill the market for stolen iPhones by requiring users of any locked iPhone reported as stolen to authenticate with iCloud before reactivating the device via iTunes, even after a device "wipe" reset.

The service is free, but requires setting up an iCloud account and locking the device with a passcode, a practice Apple has made more appealing with the convenience of Touch ID on iPhone 5s.

In addition to Activation Lock, iCloud also optionally allows users to turn on Find My iPhone, when enables them to find, track and remotely lock or erase a stolen iOS device. Activation Lock remains in place even after a phone is remotely wiped, making a stolen phone impossible to resell.

Apple's iCloud, Activation Lock and Find my iPhone features are all handled by the company itself, and don't involve the carrier. The features even work on non-mobile devices like a WiFi-only iPad or iPod touch.

In 2007, Apple disrupted the carrier status quo by negotiating a new user experience for iPhone, leveraging the device's incredible demand from users to elicit strong concessions from phone carriers that made Apple the central hub for all apps, media sales, cloud storage and software updates.

Carriers who resisted Apple's control over the iPhone ecosystem, including Verizon Wireless in the U.S. and NTT DoCoMo in Japan, were forced to watch their best subscribers leave in droves until they capitulated.

The iPhone's powerful leverage allowed Apple's iOS to skirt fragmentation issues erected by carriers who want to differentiate their offerings with their own app bundles and force users to buy content, insurance plans and security software through them, rather than the phone's hardware vendor.

Android open to theft, fragmented on solutions

Android licensees like Samsung just sell their devices to carriers, and don't activate their phones for end users or exert much control over the ecosystem, which is shared among the maker, carrier, and the platform vendor.

Samsung and other device vendors have little clout to demand from carriers the same kind of control Apple has over end users' experience because Android and Windows Phone vendors are selling commodity products with little differentiation.

Google hasn't addressed the problem of rampant device theft in Android, and can't really because it doesn't have any real control over how licensees use Android either; Google is powerless to demand concessions from carriers, and has little leverage with hardware makers.

Additionally, rather than seeking to exert leverage against carriers on behalf of end users to deliver a better hardware experience, Google has advocated the "openness" of Android as an competitive alternative to iOS, offering carriers the tantalizing opportunity to win back control and set up their own app stores, bundle layers of apps on their devices and interrupt the free distribution of software updates.

Even Google's own Nexus and Motorola-branded phones do not offer a built in kill switch mechanism similar to Apple's iOS 7 Activation Lock.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 75
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,060member

    Google hasn't addressed the problem of rampant device theft in Android, and can't really .

    Where do folks come up with this stuff? It's baked right into Android, and yes offered by Google themselves (even for Nexus and Motorola branded smartphones/tablets :\. )Carriers aren't in the way at all. Samsung's lone wolf feature may be a problem with them but not Google's.
    http://www.androidcentral.com/how-set-android-device-manager-lock-and-wipe-your-phone

    And for those curious if it's similar to Apple's "kill switch" (apparently it isn't) there's a video here.
    [VIDEO]
  • Reply 2 of 75
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,297member
    There was a pretty long segment on CBS Good Morning America this morning.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505263_162-57612922/inside-the-hidden-tech-battle-over-a-smartphone-kill-switch/

    It was pointed out that all five of the U.S. major carriers have declined to implement the kill-switch technology on Android phones proposed by Samsung. Since Apple does not allow carriers to customize their phone load images they bypass the carrier%u2019s reluctance.
  • Reply 3 of 75
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post





    Where do folks come up with this stuff? It's baked right into Android, and yes offered by Google themselves (even for Nexus and Motorola branded smartphones/tablets image. )Carriers aren't in the way at all. Samsung's lone wolf feature may be a problem with them but not Google's.

    http://www.androidcentral.com/how-set-android-device-manager-lock-and-wipe-your-phone



    And for those curious if it's similar to Apple's "kill switch" (it is) there's a video here.


     

    Author of article explains it all.

  • Reply 4 of 75
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,030member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post





    Where do folks come up with this stuff? It's baked right into Android, and yes offered by Google themselves (even for Nexus and Motorola branded smartphones/tablets image. )Carriers aren't in the way at all. Samsung's lone wolf feature may be a problem with them but not Google's.

    http://www.androidcentral.com/how-set-android-device-manager-lock-and-wipe-your-phone

     

    Uh, the capabilities are nothing like activation lock. I have a Nexus 5, the 2 options are lock and erase. Oh, and if they turn off the phone/take out the simcard/disable wifi, its utterly useless. Activation lock is a much deeper solution. 

  • Reply 5 of 75
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post





    Where do folks come up with this stuff? It's baked right into Android, and yes offered by Google themselves (even for Nexus and Motorola branded smartphones/tablets image. )Carriers aren't in the way at all. Samsung's lone wolf feature may be a problem with them but not Google's.

    http://www.androidcentral.com/how-set-android-device-manager-lock-and-wipe-your-phone

    I think they are referring to the fact that few of the Android phones out there run KitKat, which runs Android's Device Manager.

  • Reply 6 of 75

    Perhaps you should check your facts. The remote wipe offered by Google is only good if the phone hasn't been hard reset. The first thing a thief will do is remove the battery and then wipe the phone. Nothing will prevent it being reused on another network. So this remote wipe only protects your data and not the actual phone. 

     

    The Apple activation lock means that the iPhone has to check in with iCloud before it can be set-up on a new network, worldwide, even if the device is wiped. 

  • Reply 7 of 75
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by sog35 View Post



    So Samdung wants to sell activation lock service for $30 a year. What a joke.

    Lojack will recover stolen phone or pay out up to $1000. It cuts into carrier insurance business of $10/month

  • Reply 8 of 75
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post





    Where do folks come up with this stuff? It's baked right into Android, and yes offered by Google themselves (even for Nexus and Motorola branded smartphones/tablets image. )Carriers aren't in the way at all. Samsung's lone wolf feature may be a problem with them but not Google's.

    http://www.androidcentral.com/how-set-android-device-manager-lock-and-wipe-your-phone

    Funny that you wrote this. In Android Device Manager - yes you can lock your phone and this will frustrate efforts to access your information, although a savvy hacker can bypass it. Yes you can remotely erase your phone to clear all data and leave the thief with your phone restored to factory settings. Saves them the trouble. In iOS, you can find and lock and erase your phone. And with Activation Lock, unless you have the original ID, that phone is bricked and of no use to the thief. Quite a difference in the level of deterrence.

  • Reply 9 of 75
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,060member
    just_me wrote: »
    Author of article explains it all.

    Yeah, it says what I've just posted about Android Device Manager doesn't exist, and worse that Google couldn't offer such a "kill switch"" if they wanted to. Author of my link article explains why the author of this AI article is not up-to-date.
  • Reply 10 of 75
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



    Carriers who resisted Apple's control over the iPhone ecosystem, including Verizon Wireless in the U.S. and NTT DoCoMo in Japan, were forced to watch their best subscribers leave in droves until they capitulated.

     


     

    What? Verizon has been the largest carrier by subscriber in the US since 2008 (and 2004 prior). Facts do not support the conclusion.

     

    Quote:

     



    Google hasn't addressed the problem of rampant device theft in Android, and can't really because it doesn't have any real control over how licensees use Android either; Google is powerless to demand concessions from carriers, and has little leverage with hardware makers.

     


     



    Source? I thought no one wanted those crappy Android devices, now they're being rampantly stolen? Android has device manager built in to remote lock and wipe your phone much like find my iPhone. It's not an activation lock, but if your device (regardless what) is stolen, it's gone, If reported to your carrier it's blacklisted so what's the point? You prevent the thief from using it all? Yay? I still can't get it back right? I would think making sure my data isn't on it is the key. 

  • Reply 11 of 75
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by cwingrav View Post

     

    I think they are referring to the fact that few of the Android phones out there run KitKat, which runs Android's Device Manager.


    False. Device manager is based on Google Play Services which is updated quietly all the time. Device Manager supports Android 2.2 and higher. 

  • Reply 12 of 75
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post





    Yeah, it says what I've just posted about Android Device Manager doesn't exist, and worse that Google couldn't offer such a "kill switch"" if they wanted to. Author of my link article explains why the author of this AI article is not up-to-date.

     

    Unless you can post a credible link to where exactly Google claims any version of Android (including KitKat) does kill switch remote deactivation that prevents a wipe and resale, you need to remove your false allegations and apologize.

     

    I really don’t think you are confused. I think you are being deliberately misleading. Simple secure "remote wipe" was a feature Apple added to iOS 2.0 in 2008. That’s not what Activation Lock is. Remote wipe deletes sensitive data, but does nothing to stop trafficking of stolen phones. 

     

    It doesn’t even make sense that this could be done in software on Android phones, because an "open" device would let anyone who has access to a device load a new firmware. Only specific locked devices like Samsung’s Galaxy S4 can support a firmware-level kill switch like LoJack, which works somewhat similarly to Activation Lock. That’s what carriers are not interested in doing.

  • Reply 13 of 75
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post



    Yeah, it says what I've just posted about Android Device Manager doesn't exist, and worse that Google couldn't offer such a "kill switch"" if they wanted to. Author of my link article explains why the author of this AI article is not up-to-date.

     

    So i see you only replied to one person. Not any of the others that responded to your first post. And the base question is does "Android Device Manager" BRICK the phone, where no one at all can restore settings or back to factory default? If not then it is a Wipe Switch, so the article is correct about no KILL SWITCH. iPhone KILLS/BRICKS itself when told too. No restore, no factory defaults... BRICKED. So wiping is not kill switching... sorry.

     

     

  • Reply 14 of 75
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by thataveragejoe View Post

     

     

    What? Verizon has been the largest carrier by subscriber in the US since 2008 (and 2004 prior). Facts do not support the conclusion.

     

    Source? I thought no one wanted those crappy Android devices, now they're being rampantly stolen? Android has device manager built in to remote lock and wipe your phone much like find my iPhone. It's not an activation lock, but if your device (regardless what) is stolen, it's gone, If reported to your carrier it's blacklisted so what's the point? You prevent the thief from using it all? Yay? I still can't get it back right? I would think making sure my data isn't on it is the key. 




    Well then read the link or do some independent research of your own as to why Verizon abandoned its Android strategy after it failed to attract the kind of premium data subscribers that iPhone was bringing to AT&T. Your inability to understand or remember a subject does not make it controversial. 

     

    Again, this article is not about iOS 2.0 remote wipe. It’s about iOS 7 Activation Lock. You are five years behind. 

     

    Blacklisting doesn’t work or it would be working.

     

    Uninformed opinions aren’t really worth spreading.  

  • Reply 15 of 75
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post





    Yeah, it says what I've just posted about Android Device Manager doesn't exist, and worse that Google couldn't offer such a "kill switch"" if they wanted to. Author of my link article explains why the author of this AI article is not up-to-date.

    Author will also make changes with no disclaimer or update statement.

  • Reply 16 of 75

    Frankly I found this story odd - given that I doubt ANYONE would steal a POS Samsung product of any kind.

  • Reply 17 of 75
    Sooooo ... let me see if I've got this ....

    samsung and google, 2 stupidest companies on earth can't even come up with their own kill switch. They either copy Apple or pay third parties to get business going, eh?!?!

    What the f*** indeed! ROFLAMO


    EDIT: Those who buy android / samsung are dumb already. Who would be even dumber to steal one of those craps anyway?????

    EDIT #2: Look at these idiots' report too!!!

    http://www.ctvnews.ca/business/u-s-wireless-carriers-reject-anti-theft-kill-switch-for-phones-da-1.1550869

    Morons, it's NOT "phones". It's only about samsung shit!
  • Reply 18 of 75
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Slurpy View Post

     

     

    Uh, the capabilities are nothing like activation lock. I have a Nexus 5, the 2 options are lock and erase. Oh, and if they turn off the phone/take out the simcard/disable wifi, its utterly useless. Activation lock is a much deeper solution. 


     

    Sshhhh. Don't bring up what this is really about - theft deterrent. There's no theft deterrent with Android Device Manager like there is with iOS 7.

     

    I highly doubt GG has a response to this feature even though it's the point of the entire article.

  • Reply 19 of 75
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,060member
    teejay2012 wrote: »
    Funny that you wrote this. In Android Device Manager - yes you can lock your phone and this will frustrate efforts to access your information, although a savvy hacker can bypass it. Yes you can remotely erase your phone to clear all data and leave the thief with your phone restored to factory settings. Saves them the trouble. In iOS, you can find and lock and erase your phone. And with Activation Lock, unless you have the original ID, that phone is bricked and of no use to the thief. Quite a difference in the level of deterrence.

    Absolutely correct that Google's theft deterrent efforts are not yet as robust as that which iOS offers. At the same time the authors claim that "Google hasn't addressed the problem of rampant device theft in Android, and can't really. " is demonstrably false as I showed.
  • Reply 20 of 75
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Corrections View Post

     

     

    Unless you can post a credible link to where exactly Google claims any version of Android (including KitKat) does kill switch remote deactivation that prevents a wipe and resale, you need to remove your false allegations and apologize.

     

    I really don’t think you are confused. I think you are being deliberately misleading. Simple secure "remote wipe" was a feature Apple added to iOS 2.0 in 2008. That’s not what Activation Lock is. Remote wipe deletes sensitive data, but does nothing to stop trafficking of stolen phones. 

     

    It doesn’t even make sense that this could be done in software on Android phones, because an "open" device would let anyone who has access to a device load a new firmware. Only specific locked devices like Samsung’s Galaxy S4 can support a firmware-level kill switch like LoJack, which works somewhat similarly to Activation Lock. That’s what carriers are not interested in doing.




    In a previous thread you called me liar outright.  I proved your assertion to be wrong.  You did not apologise to me.

     

    Having set the bar rather low, it is hypocritical of you to demand others  meet a higher standard.

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