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Qualcomm Says Its Chips Can Power a More Secure Smartphone Kill Switch

Using hardware and software can help prevent against even sophisticated efforts to reset a stolen phone, Qualcomm says.

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Qualcomm says using its Snapdragon processors can help in the effort to ensure that cellphones can be rendered useless when stolen.

While there has been a big push for so-called “kill switches,” the chipmaker says that adding a hardware component to a kill switch has big advantages over a software-only approach.

“It’s just a lot more secure,” Qualcomm Senior VP Raj Talluri told Re/code. For instance, using the chip can help ensure that thieves can’t just factory-reset a phone, or flash the device with new software.

Qualcomm plans to detail its approach on Sunday, and said the technology should show up in new phones starting next year; it may also be made available for some older phones.

It’s not enough to just add chip-level support, though. Qualcomm will have to work with phone makers and carriers to implement the technology, and Talluri said talks are under way.

Qualcomm’s move comes as increasing attention is being focused on preventing cellphone theft. California, for example, recently enacted a law requiring that such kill switches be added to future smartphones.

While Apple has added activation lock in iOS 7, it is a tougher problem for Android, given the wide range of devices and implementations, and the limited control Google has over how the software is used.

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