Telcos say phone kill switches need more study, maker support
MANILA, Philippines – Major players in the telecommunications industry said Monday, February 23, that the kill switch issue for mobile phones is also the responsibility of phone manufacturers, with the issue requiring more study in the Philippine context.
The kill switch is an emergency shutdown mechanism, often activated when a device cannot be shut down normally, such as in the case of loss or theft. In the case of cellular phones, a kill switch could either render a device inoperable, wipe the data, activate geolocation, or a mix of specific protective actions for users. (READ: DOJ to telcos: Have phone kill switches to prevent theft)
Ramon Isberto, spokesperson for the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT), said in an interview that the company supports the Department of Justice's (DOJ) call to install kill switches to allow subscribers to remotely disable cellular phones and erase data when phones are reported stolen, lost, or missing by owners.
However, Isberto also said the proposal would have to be studied carefully. The Philippine market, Isberto noted, is different from the US market, with the US having around 90% of its market as postpaid subscribers.
“We are supportive of the objective. However, we have to make it work since the situation in the Philippines is different from the US where majority of the subscribers are postpaid,” he added. PLDT owns brands including Smart, Sun Cellular, and Talk n’ Text.
Isberto added 9 out of 10 subscribers in the Philippines pick up their mobile devices from the market rather than from telecoms providers.
Isberto explained that manufacturers of mobile devices would also have to cooperate with the proposed installation of a kill switch in smartphones.
In the US, it took a year for all 13 companies comprised of mobile phone manufacturers and providers to agree to offer the Kill Switch technology to be implemented by the middle of 2015.
Yoly Crisanto, Globe Telecom's senior vice president for corporate communications, said in a statement that device manufacturers should enable its smartphone devices to have the kill switch.
“If telcos will be given the mandate, but the smartphone devices are not enabled, we will need an additional layer of security such as a security app to remove data on the device. Also, it is important that this be done by the customer themselves so an opt-in feature is necessary," Crisanto said.
She explained that telcos today are capable of disabling a reported stolen mobile device systematically through a number called the Intenrational Mobile Station Equipment Identity, or IMEI. This disabling, however, does not wipe data from a stolen phone.
“When a stolen mobile phone purchased from Globe is reported by a customer, we already have a process of immediately disabling the device through our system using its IMEI number but we don’t wipe out data stored in the phone which is device-based,” she added.
Crisanto also said the service is only limited to devices of Globe subscribers. Crisanto called on mobile phone users to proactively secure their devices from theft by familiarizing themselves with the built-in features.
“Latest Android phones like Samsung have already added two anti-theft features such as the Find My Mobile and Reactivation Lock while Apple’s IOS has a tool called Find My iPhone which can wipe-out data,” she said.
Last February 17, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima called on telecommunications providers to immediately install the kill switch software in mobile phones to protect the security and privacy of users and to not wait for the passage of House Bill 4511 and House Resolution 93.
“We do not need legislation to implement this. It is the responsibility of telcos as public utilities to prevent crimes and ensure that technology is used to address peace and order issues,” De Lima said in a statement.
Both HB 4511, authored by AMA party list Rep. Lorna Velasco, and House Resolution No. 93 introduced by Bicol party list Representatives Christopher Co and Joel Batocabe are sseking to require all network service providers to install the software on mobile phones. – Rappler.com