New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is calling on Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung, and Motorola Mobility to work with his office to curb smartphone thefts. Schneiderman sent a letter to each, criticizing the companies for potentially failing to meet security promises that he says they make to consumers.
He believes that each of the five have overly emphasized data security to the detriment of device security, and suggested that the companies ought to be able to develop technology that would make a stolen device inoperable, and therefore of minimal use on the black market.
Smartphone theft is of increasing concern in New York City, which last year saw its first increase in crime over the last two decades, mainly due to a massive increase in iPhones being stolen.
Schneiderman’s letters to the companies suggested that their efforts to curb theft have been paltry, saying: “I would be especially concerned if device theft accrues to your financial benefit through increased sales of replacement devices.” The letters request that each of the four companies brief his office on its current antitheft efforts, as well as offer help to his office in finding and developing solutions to the rising crime issue.
Schneiderman has also enlisted the help of Lookout, a developer of security software for Android devices. The Attorney General wrote that the company’s knowledge of mobile security will be of use to his office. It is unclear what role they will play.
Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile already share serial numbers of stolen phones and refuse to activate any that show up in their databases. However, the registry of numbers does not extend to carriers outside of the U.S., which allows stolen phones to retain their value overseas. While Apple and Microsoft both offer tools to locate, lock, and wipe their devices remotely, thieves may be able to disable that security before a user can get to another device to enable them. Google has yet to offer an official tool to perform such actions on their devices.