Phone ‘kill switch’ now mandatory

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Phone ‘kill switch’ now mandatory

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All Korean-made smartphones will be loaded with a “kill switch” this year, the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning announced yesterday.

The new function will allow the owner of the phone to fully deactivate the device if it is lost or stolen and will be applied to Samsung Electronics’ Galaxy S5, which is being launched globally today. All successive smartphones released by Samsung will also contain a kill switch, the ministry said.

LG Electronics will also install the function in its phones starting from the third quarter. Pantech, the country’s smallest handset maker, has been embedding a kill switch since last year.

The measure comes as the number of missing or stolen mobile phones in the country has been increasing. According to the top three mobile carriers, SK Telecom, KT and LG U+, the number of lost mobile phones increased from 940,000 in 2012 to 1.23 million last year. The number of mobile phones reported stolen rose more than five times in four years from 5,575 in 2009 to 31,075 in 2012, National Police Agency data showed.

The mobile carriers have tried to tackle the problems with a “lock” app, which allows the phone’s owner to lock or delete data remotely if the phone was lost or stolen, but it proved ineffective because the app disappears once the phone is reset.

Samsung said last week it will also include a kill switch, named Reactivation Lock, on Galaxy S5 phones sold in the United States. U.S. Congress is considering legislation that would require mobile phone makers to install a kill switch to combat mobile phone theft. Apple also installed a “reactivation lock” on the iPhone 5S it released in September.

“Samsung takes the issue of smartphone theft very seriously, and we are continuing to enhance our security and anti-theft solutions,” the company said in a statement.

Another anti-theft feature called Find My Mobile will also be loaded onto the 5.1-inch smartphone, allowing the owner to lock the device, delete data and locate the device.

“Since new smartphones released by local manufacturers will be loaded with a kill switch, we expect that the damages mobile users suffer from the loss or theft of expensive smartphones will significantly decrease,” said Kim Joo-han, director general of the telecommunications policy department at the ministry.

The kill-switch feature must be manually activated by the owner in order for it to function.

A total of five Pantech smartphones released since February 2013 have included the feature: Vega No. 6; Vega Iron; Vega LTE-A, Vega Secret Note, Vega Secret Up. Vega Iron 2, which is to be released next month, will also have a kill switch, the company said.

The Galaxy S5, along with smartwatch Samsung Gear 2 and smart wristband Gear Fit, will be released in around 150 countries today, Samsung said.

Local mobile carriers began selling the Galaxy S5 on March 27.

BY MOON GWANG-LIP [joe@joongang.co.kr]


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