Over recent months, Microsoft has been working with others in the wireless industry to develop voluntary principles for implementing more robust theft-deterrent technologies in smartphones.
As a result of this work, Microsoft signed on to CTIA’s Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment in April, and today we are able to confirm that we will meet these commitments before the CTIA goal of July 2015. To do this, the current capabilities of the “Find My Phone” feature in Windows Phone will be extended to include the following capabilities:
(1) Remotely erase personal data from the smartphone
(2) Render the smartphone inoperable by unauthorized users, except the ability to call 911
(3) Prevent reactivation or setup of the smartphone without the authorized user’s permission
(4) Reverse the inoperability if they recover their smartphone and restore user data stored in the cloud if the smartphone was erased
The new theft deterrent features will be offered as an update for all phones running Windows Phone 8.0 and newer, though availability is subject to mobile operator and phone manufacturer approval. Additional details on functionality and availability will be provided closer to the official release.
Smartphone theft has increased as smartphones have grown in popularity. Effective theft deterrence requires a multi-pronged strategy that involves law enforcement efforts, consumer education, use of stolen phone databases and new technology features. 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. The CTIA commitments are an important part of that collaborative process.
We’ve been focused for some time on helping to protect our customers and their phones. Windows Phone, and before that Windows Mobile, have included a free service provided by the Find My Phone feature, which allows the owner to remotely find, ring, lock or erase their phone from the Web. Lock and Erase help keep user data from prying eyes while Find and Ring help users locate a lost phone.
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.