National News

June 14, 2013

Prosecutors push for anti-phone theft measures

NEW YORK — Law enforcement officials nationwide are demanding the creation of a “kill switch” that would render smartphones inoperable after they are stolen, New York’s top prosecutor said Thursday in a clear warning to the world’s smartphone manufacturers.

Citing statistics showing that 1 in 3 robberies nationwide involve the theft of a mobile phone, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced the formation of a coalition of law enforcement agencies devoted to stamping out what he called an “epidemic” of smartphone robberies.

“All too often, these robberies turn violent,” said Schneiderman, who was joined at a news conference by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon. “There are assaults. There are murders.”

The coalition, called the Secure Our Smartphones Initiative, includes prosecutors, police, political officials and consumer advocates from more than a dozen states. It will pressure smartphone companies and their shareholders to help dry up the secondary market in stolen phones.

The announcement came on the same day Gascon and Schneiderman were scheduled to co-host a “Smartphone Summit” with representatives from major smartphone makers Apple Inc., Samsung Electronics Co., Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp.

“We’re prepared to deepen our inquiry if that is appropriate,” Schneiderman said, though he would not elaborate on how far his office might go to ensure that manufacturers comply with the coalition’s demands.

He likened the functionality of a “kill switch” to the ability for consumers to cancel a stolen credit card.

The general public should not be forced to pay more for smartphones that have a “kill switch,” Schneiderman said.

After the summit, Schneiderman and Gascon released a statement saying they “asked the companies to commit to develop effective solutions to this national crime wave and install them on all new products within one year.”

Apple said at a developers’ conference this week that such a feature would be part of its iOS7 software to be released in the fall. Gascon and Schneiderman said in a statement they were appreciative of the gesture but would reserve judgment until they could “understand its actual functionality.”

“Apple has been very vague as to what the system will do,” Gascon said at the news conference earlier Thursday. “We’ve been led to believe that it is not a ‘kill switch.”’

Gascon was particularly critical of Apple, saying that he had met with the company in January but was rebuffed by executives.

“The industry has a moral and social obligation to fix this problem,” Gascon said.

To drive home their point about the danger of violent smartphone thefts, authorities introduced relatives of 23-year-old Megan Boken, who was shot and killed in St. Louis in 2012 by an assailant who was trying to steal her iPhone.

Boken was chatting with her mother on the phone at the time, said her father, Paul Boken.

“All of a sudden, the phone went blank,” he told reporters. “Megan never picked the phone up again.”

In New York, police have coined the term “Apple-picking” to describe thefts of the popular iPhone and other mobile products, like iPads. Phone thefts comprise 40 percent of all robberies in New York City, authorities say.

Authorities are pushing for the industry to move ahead quickly with this new security-focused technology. By early next year, all smartphones should be equipped with the new protective software, Schneiderman said.

 

1
Text Only
National News
  • Police: Suspected killers wore GPS devices

    Two convicted sex offenders dutifully checked in with police every month and wore their GPS trackers around the clock — the rules of parole that are designed to tip off authorities if a freed felon backslides.

    April 15, 2014

  • Questions linger year after Boston Marathon bombs

    A surveillance video shows a man prosecutors say is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev placing a bomb near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, just yards from where an 8-year-old boy was killed when it exploded.

    April 15, 2014

  • 10 Things to Know for Tuesday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday:

    April 15, 2014

  • Aw, geez, 'Fargo' is on TV with Billy Bob Thornton

    After failed attempts and broken dreams, by golly, someone went and put “Fargo” on series TV.

    April 15, 2014

  • Little sign of progress as Obama, Putin speak

    Speaking for the first time in more than two weeks, President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin showed little sign of agreement Monday, with the U.S. leader urging pro-Russian forces to de-escalate the situation in eastern Ukraine and Putin denying that Moscow was interfering in the region.

    April 14, 2014

  • Drivers in California crash had clean records

    Both drivers in the fiery Northern California crash involving a FedEx truck and bus full of students had clean driving records.

    April 14, 2014

  • Post, Guardian win Pulitzers for NSA revelations

    The Washington Post and The Guardian won the Pulitzer Prize in public service Monday for revealing the U.S. government’s sweeping surveillance programs in a blockbuster series of stories based on secret documents supplied by NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

    April 14, 2014

  • Police: Utah mom admitted to killing her 6 babies

    Authorities say a Utah woman accused of killing six babies that she gave birth to over 10 years told investigators that she either strangled or suffocated the children and then put them inside boxes in her garage.

    April 14, 2014 1 Story

  • Deal signs bill extending tax-free holiday weekends

    Gov. Nathan Deal today signed House Bill 958, legislation that will extend the statewide back-to-school tax-free holiday and ENERGY STAR and WaterSense appliance tax-free holiday weekends for an additional two years.

    April 14, 2014

  • Chances of getting audited by IRS lowest in years

    As millions of Americans race to meet Tuesday’s tax deadline, their chances of getting audited are lower than they have been in years.

    April 14, 2014