How to flip your phone's 'kill switch' right now
Starting next summer, every smartphone sold in California must have an anti-theft device. But many users don't have to wait to safeguard their phones.
By Kara Brandeisky, Money
Smartphone theft just got a whole lot less lucrative. This week, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill requiring that all smartphones sold in the state include a "kill switch," software that makes it impossible for thieves to use stolen phones.
Here's something you may not know: Your phone could already have such a switch. Both Apple (AAPL) iPhones and Samsung (SSNLF) phones have new software that "locks" the device so that unauthorized users are unable to activate it. According to the San Francisco Police Department, the city saw a 38 percent drop in iPhone thefts in the six months after Apple released its kill switch.
In June, Google (GOOG) and Microsoft (MSFT) promised to offer kill switch technology in their next operating systems, and for now, both offer other apps to help you protect a lost phone. (Microsoft owns and publishes MSN Money.)
The California bill requires that tech companies make the kill switch feature standard on all phones starting July 1, 2015. In the meantime, you can enable your phone's available security features by turning on the right settings. Here's how.
Do this right now: Make sure you have iOS7 software (if you haven't already, you can download the upgrade on iTunes). Go to Settings, then iCloud, and then flip on "Find My iPhone." If your phone gets lost, you'll be able to track it on icloud.com.
Do this if your phone gets stolen: Go to icloud.com/find and sign in using your Apple ID and password. There, a button lets you play a sound on your iPhone to help you locate the device. You can also put the phone in "lost mode," which gives you the option to display an alternate phone number and a message explaining that the phone has been lost, so Good Samaritans will be able to find you.
If you're sure your phone has been stolen, erase the data. Remember that this is a last resort: Once you've erased your phone, you won't be able to track it. But that way, the only way someone will be able to activate it is by entering your Apple ID and password. (And in the event that you find your phone again, you can restore the data using iCloud backup.)
Do this if your phone gets stolen: Sign in to the Android Device Manager using your Google account and password. Again, you'll be able to play a sound, track your phone, reset the screen lock PIN, and erase the data. (Remember, once you erase the data, you won't be able to track the phone anymore.)
However, hackers may still be able to reset and reactivate the device. Expect a tougher kill switch feature in Google's next software upgrade.Samsung
Do this right now: If you've got a Samsung Android phone, you're in luck. Go to Apps, then Settings, and then Security. Check the box next to "reactivation lock." You'll be prompted to either sign in to your Samsung account or create one.
Do this if your phone gets stolen: Go to findmymobile.samsung.com and log in with your Samsung account. Like "Find My iPhone," Samsung lets you track your phone, play a sound to help you find it, and lock your device remotely.
If your phone has been jacked, the reactivation lock renders it useless. Once you've turned the feature on, no one can reset the device without your Samsung account and password.
Do this right now: Windows phones don't have kill switches yet either, but they do have a device tracking feature. Go to Start, then App, then Settings, and then "Find My Phone." You can opt to save your phone's location every few hours, which could give you a more accurate reading of its last known location if the battery dies.
Do this if your phone gets stolen: Go to windowsphone.com and sign in with your Windows Live ID. You'll be able to track your phone, play a sound, lock your phone with a message, and erase your data.
Windows also plans to add a kill switch in the future.
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It hasn't quite ceased to amaze me how in the name of Safety people welcome the tools and means of tyranny. Domestic and Foreign policy.
Used to be your rulers were openly cruel, merciless monsters and you disobeyed or it was off with your head. Now they just have to highlight how it's for your own good and people offer their heads for free.
Given my absence of fondness for smart phones I get whatever is free. Other than phone numbers I don't have any data that I know of. I do use the internet occasionally and text message on very rare occasions. Some of the features are useful when I travel although not so much that I would be afraid to travel without them.
I know many people love smart phones. Perhaps it's good that they have such expensive phones that they can worry about theft. It's hard to brag about an inexpensive phone. My phone isn't that tempting and I don't want anything that adds to the complexity of using it. I particularly don't want features that require typing with my fat fingers on the tiny buttons. Can I just take my chances and have the lock thing remain optional?
Blackberry users: Carry on. Chances are if your phone is stolen, it will be mailed back to you within 3-5 business days.
(I am a BB user, by the way.)
Just send erase to phone from BES and no data no more.
Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.
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