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Why gadget makers wield a ‘kill switch’

In Big Brother on May 18, 2011 at 10:52 am

By Mark Millan

When you buy a video game from Best Buy, you don’t give the retailer the right to barge into your house whenever it wants. So why do we give that permission to software companies?

Most popular smartphone operating systems and other electronic gadgets include what security researchers refer to as a kill switch.

This capability enables the company that makes the operating software to send a command over the Web or wireless networks that alters or removes certain applications from devices.

Apple, Google and Microsoft include this function in their platforms, along with a few lines in their usage agreements describing the policy. Google and Apple executives say this feature is important in order to protect against malicious software.

“Hopefully we never have to pull that lever, but we would be irresponsible not to have a lever like that to pull,” Apple CEO Steve Jobs told The Wall Street Journal in 2008. It’s there as a fail-safe for when the App Store gatekeepers erroneously approve an app that has problems, he said.

Apple doesn’t appear to have used this feature in the four years since introducing…

Full article…

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