Imagine that you are walking down the street with your new phone, the one that you spent $500 on – for some people, that is a sizable portion of their monthly income – and a thief appears from a dark alley and takes it away from you. Every hour of hard work spent at the office can go through the window in that scenario.
Sometimes, however, the money isn’t even remotely close to the first thing in your list of worrisome occurrences. You could also have two or even three years with your smartphone, with a full contact list, crucial documents, photos, videos, personal notes, and all kinds of information that is extremely valuable, and watching a bully with a weapon steal it from you is not only painful but highly inconvenient.
You may think that only poor or developing countries are prone to phone robberies, but that is a mistake. In fact, big cities such as London, New York, or San Francisco have numerous documented cases in which a person reports a stolen smartphone.
However, that trend has been declining in the last few years thanks to a fantastic feature available in most smartphones these days: a kill switch. With it, the rate in which these devices are being stolen is decreasing dramatically, for a variety of reasons.
What is a kill switch?
A kill switch functionality is the one that renders the device useless or impossible to operate when enabled or activated. It can come in the form of hardware or software but is more usual to find it in the latter way these days.
Numerous kill switches erase the phone’s information in a remote way or come with activation locks for security reasons. Enabling the kill switch in a smartphone is a very straightforward process.
Having the kill switch on is the best defense against thievery that you can have for your phone and your digital assets currently resting in it. According to recent reports, the rise of kill switches have helped decrease robberies by 50%, and the state of California, in the United States of America, has mandated that all smartphones have to be manufactured and shipped with the functionality available.
The Smartphone Theft Prevention Act is the legal instrument in question, approved and sanctioned by California’s District Attorney George Gascón. The rate of smartphones robberies has been cut in half since 2013, and in nearly 25% since 2016.
So why are phone robberies seeing a reduction in the number of cases?
Thieves and criminals steal valuable commodities to sell them in the black market. It is a practice that has been around for years and depending on the item in question, it can report these shady people with relevant funds.
Smartphones are extremely valuable. Even the cheapest ones often surpass the $100 dollar mark, and the most sophisticated ones can approach or surpass the $1,000 mark. Android devices and iPhones are the most sought-after.
Why are phone robberies seeing a reduced rate if it is such a big business? Well, because of kill switches. If smartphones owners have the option of remotely erasing all the information that they contain or blocking the device completely, it is not so valuable anymore.
Who in his/her right state of mind would want to purchase a smartphone that won’t be available for use because it was blocked by the original owner with a kill switch? Yeah, that’s what we thought.
How to make your smartphone non-functional if stolen
Android users have the option of activating kill switch on their phones and using the “Find my Device” feature to locate it. You can access it on the Settings page, and it will let you know where your device is from any browser you are logged in your account. Once signed in, google “Find my Phone” and you will see its current location if you have the “Find my Device” option active.
You can also unmask your device from Google Play: you can do it by accessing the Google Play settings section and toggling on or off depending on what you want.
Then, follow these steps:
Step #1: Activate Remote Access
- Go to the Google settings page.
- Select the option for the Android device manager.
- Choose “Allow ‘Remote-Lock and Factory-Reset'” and “Remotely Locate This Device”.
Step #2: Access Device Location and lock your phone
- If somebody stole your smartphone, connect to the Internet with another device or phone.
- Sign in to your Google account.
- Go to the panel for the “Android device manager.”
- You will see the location of your device on a map.
- You will have the option to ring, lock or erase the device if you so desire.
The mentioned method enhances your security because the criminal will now have to prove that they are you if they want to set the phone to factory conditions and make it as good as new. However, if the information can’t be shared at the moment of configuration and setup, the phone will not be able to be used after a factory reboot.
How to activate kill switch on iOS
Locate your device using the “Find My iPhone” functionality
Fortunately for iPhone users, this smartphone also comes with a kill switch available for configuration. In fact, the last version of the brand comes with the functionality already activated as a standard measure. For older models, users have the ability to enable it.
Statistics show that criminals and thieves in big cities prefer iPhones because they are regarded as the top smartphones in the market and because they can be sold at higher prices than other brands.
Every iPhone is linked to an iCloud account, which has an Activation Lock and a “Find My iPhone” feature. The former can track the latest known location of your iPhone, while the latter needs you to enter a username and password to enter it.
If by any chance you need to sell your iPhone, you have the ability to disable the Activation Lock, which requires for you to switch off the “Find my iPhone” and erase the account from your device.
If your iPhone has been taken away from you or you lost it, the Activation Lock will surely put off criminals in their tracks. They won’t have the ability to link the iPhone back with their account, rendering it unusable and, as a consequence, impossible to sell on the black market.
Follow these steps:
Step #1: Enable the “Find My iPhone” option
- Go to the Settings.
- Access your iCloud account page.
- Enter your Apple ID and your password.
- Activate the “Find my iPhone” feature.
Step #2: Enable the “Lost Mode”
For suspicion of misplacement or robbery, users also have the option of activating the “Lost Mode.” Apple also provides the option of customizing the lock with a contact number, which will make sure that you can have a chance of getting it back.
In conclusion, smartphone thievery is a very common occurrence, even in big, secure cities. However, these devices are now being shipped with a useful functionality, which is called kill switch: by enabling it, you can make sure to render your phone useless for future sales in the black market, lowering criminals’ motivation to engage in their shady activities.
iPhones are the most commonly stolen devices, but their users can use the “Find My iPhone” feature to locate it and they can enable the Lost Mode, too. They can also block it or erase all of its content from a remote location. Android owners can activate remote access and lock their phones as well.