San Francisco News

Security experts test phone anti-theft solutions

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Half of the robberies in San Francisco involve cellphones. San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon is getting his first look at new anti-theft systems in Apple and Samsung smartphones. It's the latest step in his fight to reduce theft.

A thief snatched Kristen Viland's iPhone out of her hands at a Muni bus stop. It was a costly loss for her

"I didn't have insurance and the new iPhone is $700 and I just upgraded to the iPhone 5," she said.

It's a lucrative multi-billion dollar industry for the thieves who then sell the stolen smartphones on the black market.

"We believe a technological solution is the best answer to this problem; we want to remove the market value of this as a stolen item," Gascon said.

Last month, Gascon teamed up with the attorney general of New York to fight the rising epidemic of cellphone thefts. They urged smartphone makers to install anti-theft security features in all their devices that would have a kill switch to disable stolen or lost phones for good.

Gascon says there was resistance at first from manufacturers. But they were persistent. They gathered support from the public and law enforcement, including a letter from police chiefs around the country.

Thursday, representatives from Samsung and Apple met separately with the DA's tech experts. They brought their latest smartphones equipped with anti-theft systems. ABC7 News was given exclusive access to the meetings. The DA's tech staff tested the anti-theft features, trying to see if they could be disabled.

John Livingston founded Absolute Software, the company that's the security software that's now in the Samsung S4 cellphones.

"Absolute has developed Absolute LO JACK technology which can both kill the device if it's lost or stolen, but also importantly, to recover the device in case someone was harmed during the course of the theft," he said.

Gascon says he won't be disclosing what his tech staff found. He'll share that information with Apple and Samsung. And he hopes other cellphone manufacturers will be following suit.

(Copyright ©2014 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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Tags:
cellphone, smartphones, crime, iphone, blackberry, george gascon, samsung, iPad, apple, motorola, FCC, muni, android, SFPD, san francisco news, vic lee
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