Android So Much Of An iPhone Wannabe That It, Too, Has A Kill Switch

from the remote-disabling dept

There was plenty of attention a few months back when it was revealed (first by a hacker, then confirmed by Apple) that the iPhone contained a kill switch that could remotely disable any application. Nancy Gohring, over at IDG, has gone through the terms of service for the first Google Android-based phone and noted that it appears to have a remote kill switch as well, though at least it's upfront about it. You can understand why mobile operators might want this (for example, to stop a bandwidth hogging app), but it's still rather troubling that an app that you thought you had placed on your own device might be remotely deleted one day. If we've been able to deal with rogue and runaway apps on PCs for all these years, you would think that mobile operators would be able to deal with it as well.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
    identicon
    Steven, Oct 17th, 2008 @ 4:40am

    No that bad.

    From my understanding Google can kill apps that you get from their 'market', but nothing stops you from getting the app direct from the creator. Of course it all depends on how it gets used.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    timothy, Oct 17th, 2008 @ 5:10am

    [Subject] StateDemocracy.org Equips You for the 2008 Elections

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    StateDemocracy Foundation Website Users Unite!
    Many of you have used our StateDemocracy.org and LobbyDelegates.com tools in recent times, and have hopefully found your experience uplifting and empowering. I encourage all of you to help spread the news about StateDemocracy.org to enable more of our fellow citizens to Connect! Engage! And Empower!
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    StateDemocracy Foundation
    Ken.Laureys@StateDemocracy.org

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    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    timothy, Oct 17th, 2008 @ 5:10am

    [Subject] StateDemocracy.org Equips You for the 2008 Elections

    Dear Citizen:
    Are you ready yet for the November 4th Elections? How about your friends, family, and neighbors?
    More Americans are expected to vote this year than ever before in history, so don’t be left out! Be sure to ask everyone you know the following questions:
     Are you registered to vote? If you moved recently, have you updated your voter registration?
     Did you apply for an Absentee Ballot? Do you know your state may not require any reason?
     Can you find your local Polling Place? Do you know it may have changed from last time?
    The answers to these questions -- and all your voting needs -- can be found at www.StateDemocracy.org -- the FREE 1-Stop citizen empowerment portal that Delivers Democracy to your Desktop! StateDemocracy is among the Internet’s first (since 2001) and most encompassing civic empowerment tools.
    In order to boost voter participation this year, StateDemocracy.org is offering FREE widgets for all 50 states. You can simply download and embed these widgets into your own website so your visitors can register to vote, get an absentee ballot or find their local polling place.
    Lobby Congress Via StateDemocracy
    StateDemocracy.org also equips you to maintain an active dialog with your state and federal lawmakers once they are elected. And RIGHT NOW is an especially opportune time to contact your U.S. Senators and House Member, as Congress takes up major legislation on such issues as offshore oil drilling, another economic stimulus package and all federal appropriations bills over the next few weeks.
    As you lobby your elected officials, remember that lawmakers view your constituent input as reflective of scores of other citizens who felt similarly, but didn’t have (or take) the time to share their opinions.
    LobbyDelegates.com Further Empowered Grassroots Voices
    Over the past 5 months, you may have visited www.LobbyDelegates.com, along with 26,000 other visitors. This latest public interest portal by the StateDemocracy Foundation remained the only online tool enabling rank-and-file Democrats to lobby all 800+ Super Delegates on which candidate to back for the party’s Presidential nomination.
    StateDemocracy Foundation Website Users Unite!
    Many of you have used our StateDemocracy.org and LobbyDelegates.com tools in recent times, and have hopefully found your experience uplifting and empowering. I encourage all of you to help spread the news about StateDemocracy.org to enable more of our fellow citizens to Connect! Engage! And Empower!
    Sincerely,
    Ken Laureys, Executive Director
    StateDemocracy Foundation
    Ken.Laureys@StateDemocracy.org

    P.S. If you are interested in becoming more involved in our StateDemocracy Foundation -- including volunteering as an Advisory Board Member -- please contact me.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 17th, 2008 @ 5:17am

    Android Kill Switch != iPhone Kill Switch

    Key differences:
    * You can install apps easily without using the Google Store Repository
    * The Kill Switch only works on Apps installed from the Google Store Repository
    * The Kill Switch is not meant to be used to censor programs, just to stop malicious ones that may get uploaded to the Google Store Repository

    Of course, only time can tell for sure. But Google isn't hiding it and from what I can tell those are the key differences. Apple's kill switch is used to prevent competition on their platform. Google's is there for liability reasons.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    matt, Oct 17th, 2008 @ 5:20am

    Re: Android Kill Switch != iPhone Kill Switch

    yeah, everyone hopes the intentions are good. However, unlike the iphone (where a majority of users do not know how to install without the app store), google customers will not have such an issue.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    some old guy, Oct 17th, 2008 @ 5:24am

    Re: Android Kill Switch != iPhone Kill Switch

    correction: apple hasn't used the kill switch yet, so we don't know what their intentions are with it other than what they say, which is the same thing google has said it's for.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    WolfWitch, Oct 17th, 2008 @ 5:29am

    Re: [Subject] StateDemocracy.org Equips You for the 2008 Elections

    And there is certainly no better way to really rally support for your organization than to spam message boards. Idiots.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    David, Oct 17th, 2008 @ 5:38am

    It depends on how it is used

    I don't object to the concept of a kill switch, I just want to see how it is used.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    TX CHL Instructor (profile), Oct 17th, 2008 @ 5:40am

    An interview with a mobile telco

    I recently interviewed with a mobile telco for a programming job (didn't get the job, which may have turned out to be the best possible outcome), and in the discussion, the manager showed me some real-time data from his network. In the data stream that flowed by, he spotted something that caused him to pause the display.

    "A hacker trying to break into the network..." He then punched a few keys, and suspended the account. He then explained that the system normally detects that sort of intrusion attempt and shuts it down automatically, but this one apparently learned what the pinging threshold was, and was staying just under it. The would-be hacker appeared to be trying to access a feature for which he had not paid. He would have been caught in a few minutes anyway, but the manager just happened to see it first.

    Now, supposed we had a few tens of thousands of zombied smartphones out there...

    I think I can see where a remote killswitch might be something a cell network would want. The alternative would be to suspend all of those accounts, and render the phones useless except for 911 calls. Much less impact on the users, much less burden on customer service, much better protection of the network.
    --
    www.chl-tx.com Nothing deters violent crime as effectively as the possibility that your intended victim might shoot you. Nothing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Joel Coehoorn, Oct 17th, 2008 @ 6:01am

    It actually makes a certain amount of sense for Google to do this. Since they don't _initially_ filter the apps going into the app store, they need a way to protect users from _malicious_ apps that might get installed. Of course, this is still just begging to be abused.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Eric, Oct 17th, 2008 @ 6:03am

    Re: Android Kill Switch != iPhone Kill Switch

    I'm not going to purchase and use a phone that has this "kill switch". I will install whatever I damn well please on my phone and use it in whatever way I choose and particularly apps that I pay for. I'm not going to have an app auto-delete from my phone remotely. No thanks. This is still America damn it. Any vendor who has such a "kill switch" on my phone will not get my business.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Bradley, Oct 17th, 2008 @ 6:06am

    Another difference

    I'd read here on Engadget that Google is even going so far as to make "reasonable efforts to recover the purchase price of the product ... from the original developer on your behalf" for any app they actually might use the killswitch on. That seems pretty fair to me, and comparing Google vs Apple's track records, I'd be much less concerned with Google killing off things they don't like or consider competition.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    some old guy, Oct 17th, 2008 @ 6:47am

    Re: An interview with a mobile telco

    You know... for like years now, I thought you were a cheerleader instructor.

    ...how 'bout that!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    asdf, Oct 17th, 2008 @ 6:52am

    can we add a kill switch to timothy's spam?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Corrector, Oct 17th, 2008 @ 7:14am

    Re: Re: Android Kill Switch != iPhone Kill Switch

    >correction: apple hasn't used the kill switch yet, so we don't know what their intentions are with it other than what they say, which is the same thing google has said it's for.

    Correction to the correction. Apple HAS used the kill switch.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 17th, 2008 @ 7:16am

    RE: can we add a kill switch to timothy's spam

    Are you serious? Voting in your country's election is very important. The guy isn't trying to tell you HOW to vote - he is just telling you TO vote.

    Now if he was trying to hawk some Viagra or Rickrolling you, then I'd agree with your beef.

    $.02

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    d_mat, Oct 17th, 2008 @ 7:18am

    Choice

    In the end it still comes down to choice. You either want a closed system that is secure (but based on open-source, i.e. best of both worlds... in a way) or a totally open system for flexibility. Its a choice that has always existed between Mac and Windows OSes.
    The kill switch is a new element in this system of choice (allbeit with some extra caveats) and you have to decide for yourself. Its a security thing, and I have to say, I think, in this case, I would go for security. I have a laptop for flexibility.
    The only issue to me is that Apple didn't say it upfront. I hope its not a bad sign about the future at Apple.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 17th, 2008 @ 7:32am

    Getting around the kill switch

    One thing people seem to be assuming is that the kill switch would actually take out a malicious application. My guess is that people who make malicious applications will find an easy way to prevent their applications from being disabled. This will leave only "honest" applications subject to the kill switch.

    Also, what is a malicious application? Will the US IP Czar decide that the lastest JibJab application is unfair to the President and is therefore is malicious and order Google to kill it?

    This is kind of like DRM. It is something that sounds great when the proposal is pitched in the board of directors meeting. In practice, it doesn't work out as planned.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    James, Oct 17th, 2008 @ 8:33am

    Re: Re: Android Kill Switch != iPhone Kill Switch

    hey Matt .. you're right, Apple hasn't used the kill switch yet....they haven't had to, they just REMOVE the apps from their store instead.. so nice of them.

    You only think you own your phone, but you got iPWNED!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    WHODAT, Oct 17th, 2008 @ 8:59am

    IPHONE BE DA BOMB

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 17th, 2008 @ 9:43am

    Re: Re: Android Kill Switch != iPhone Kill Switch

    not true, that famous "I am rich" was killed.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    JT, Oct 17th, 2008 @ 12:30pm

    Re: Re: Android Kill Switch != iPhone Kill Switch

    It would probably help to read some of the comments and understand it before posting a ridiculous rant.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 17th, 2008 @ 12:34pm

    Re: RE: can we add a kill switch to timothy's spam

    A double post in an article with nothing to do with voting? Sorry but the millions of dollars on the ads we have to endure every night should get the word out.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    JT, Oct 17th, 2008 @ 12:42pm

    Re: Getting around the kill switch

    The premise of the killswitch is to disable the app probably using undocumented/unreleased code. While I'm no expert, I would assume that it would terminate the application on another layer that the application would have no ability to alter.

    DRM is in place for a million different configurations, this is a proprietary platform. If you want a comparison, it would be closer to protection that console systems use rather than DRM.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Brian, Oct 20th, 2008 @ 2:13am

    I am always amused to see babble about Android "copying" iphone features that have existed for quite a while before the first iphone ever shipped.

    Fun fact: on-device stores/marketplaces/whathaveyou existed long before apple "invented" them. Sadly, like the apple marketplace, they've mostly been restrictive "walled garden" environments controlled by entities with motives nowhere in line with actual users of the devices.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Jesse, Dec 28th, 2008 @ 10:30am

    kill switch

    The kill switch is intended to stop an application that is hogging up the bandwidth. Take Facebooks mobwars for example.. you can download a bot and have that program running incessantly for days and days. The kill switch just stops the program... It doesnt keep you from keeping the program on your phone. enough with the conspiracy theory and big brother crap already

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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