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Securing the data on consumer smartphones is essential.

Legislators debate smartphone security

6/12/2014

Standardizing IT security measures is a common practice, and mandating smartphone network protection may become a more popular idea as time progresses. Accessing the Internet from the palm of one's hand isn't a new concept, so setting up firewall protection and other defensive measures is extremely important. A number of companies even provide iPhone insurance and other warranty offers to those who want to make sure they'll be reimbursed in the event their device is compromised. 

The problem is that many consumers don't often think about downloading applications that protect their smartphones. Network intrusion has typically pertained to home and office desktops. The assumption that the four- or five-inch devices people carry in their pockets don't hold information cybercriminals are interested in obtaining is one that could cause a lot of stress for those who use smartphones to read their emails or access business files from cloud environments. 

There are two primary threats that may cause people to invest more in cell phone insurance. First, pick-pocketing and armed robbery hasn't died out. Second, many deviants have realized that operating behind a computer screen carries much less risk than pointing a gun to someone's head. 

A safe technique? 
Those who intend to physically steal smartphones in the hope of gaining access manually are usually hard-pressed to succeed in that endeavor unless they have someone who's particularly tech-savvy to assist them. Some of the security features on many mobile devices nowadays are like something out of a James Bond film. According to InTheCapital, phone manufacturers are beginning to install fingerprint scanners on their products, but lawmakers still remain apprehensive about the effectiveness of these systems. Senator Al Franken, D-Minnesota, believes the technique to be largely inept. 

"Fingerprints are the opposite of secret," wrote Franken in a letter to Samsung, as quoted by InTheCapital. "You leave them on countless objects that you touch throughout the day: your car door, a glass of water, even the screen of your smartphone."

Franken also pointed out that fingerprints - unlike passwords - cannot be changed, so if someone gets a hold of one, he or she can automatically gain access to that person's smartphone. In addition, a digital copy of a biometric can possibly cause irreparable damage to the individual who uses it to gain access to other machines. In contrast, if a criminal hacks a victim's password, the latter can change it. 

Killing the kill switch? 
The Daily Democrat took note of California's failed efforts to pass a bill that would require "kill switch" technology to be installed in all smartphones sold in the state. Although the regulation failed to appeal to California's Senate members, big name providers such as AT&T and Verizon announced last week that they plan to deploy such a mechanism in their devices voluntarily. 

The news source reported that the kill switch was endeavor was spearheaded by Senator Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, in response to steep increases in phone thefts in numerous communities. The source referenced the Federal Communications Commission's findings that two-thirds of all robberies in Oakland involve smartphones. Law enforcement officials supported the endeavor. One article in the bill gave consumers the option of refraining from using the precaution if they so chose. 

Essentially, the kill switch feature would allow victims to shut off access to the information in their smartphones in the event their devices were stolen. This would render the device unusable and bereave thieves of the ability to gain access to vital information. As an addition to cell phone insurance and other safety measures, activating the mechanism appears to be a viable idea. The technique may become popular among manufacturers, so legislators may not even have to put the practice into law. 

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