Kill switch coming to Windows Phone to protect against theft

Microsoft has boosted its Windows Phone security features after signing up to CTIA's Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment in April.

Although the company previously used the Find My Phone feature on Windows Phone devices, allowing you to remotely find, ring, lock or erase your phone via a web interface on your computer, it will be issuing an update to all Windows Phone 8 devices in the coming weeks.

Following advice from the US government and the CTIA, Microsoft has boosted this service by adding the ability to remotely erase data, disable the device (although emergency services numbers will still work) and prevent reactivation of the device without the owner's consent.

Users can reactivate their phone if it's recovered and restore data using data stored in the cloud.

Fred Humphries, vice president, US Government Affairs at Microsoft said: "The wireless industry has undertaken voluntary efforts over the last several years, including consumer education initiatives, the development of shared stolen phone databases and offering new theft deterrent technologies.

"Last June, the Secure Our Smartphones initiative led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and supported by numerous law enforcement officials engaged with the wireless industry with the goal of developing more extensive technological solutions that would allow stolen phones to be disabled remotely."

Google has also agreed to implement a 'kill switch' in its Android smartphones after also pledging its support for the CTIA's Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment.

Both Samsung and Apple offer the ability to lock down devices if they are lost or stolen. Data from Consumer Reports shows that Apple thefts declined 24 per cent when a kill switch was installed, while Samsung thefts increased three per cent before it introduced its enhancement.

"With these additional features, we're hopeful that technology as part of a broader strategy can help to further reduce incentives for criminals to steal smartphones in the first place," Humphries said.

Clare Hopping
Freelance writer

Clare is the founder of Blue Cactus Digital, a digital marketing company that helps ethical and sustainability-focused businesses grow their customer base.

Prior to becoming a marketer, Clare was a journalist, working at a range of mobile device-focused outlets including Know Your Mobile before moving into freelance life.

As a freelance writer, she drew on her expertise in mobility to write features and guides for ITPro, as well as regularly writing news stories on a wide range of topics.