Internet Storm Center Infocon Status

Does Your Phone/Laptop Have a KILL SWITCH? Probably.

Last week I finished reading Tiger Trap by David Wise.  The book was good, but I’m not going to delve into a full review here.  However, I will mention that I was a bit disappointed that the book only barely mentioned “kill switch” technology that the Chinese may be putting into technology.  If the Chinese possessed the ability to kill our tech, they would probably do it.

The Chinese aren’t the only ones we need worry about killing our tech.  We can look to our own government and industry for additional concerns.  Laptops and phones are being built in a nearly unrepairable manufacturing process.  When you purchase your tech now-a-days, you purchase devices that cannot even have batteries replaced without sending it to the factory.  More than likely, when even just a battery needs replacing, you will receive a replacement device instead of actually having your phone repaired.

Devices are becoming more expensive, yet unrepairable.  Does that even make sense?  Security is even being built in using the “throw away” mentality as well.  Government has the ability, in many cases, to disable a cell phone (PoliceOne article here).  We simply value data security more than the device itself, which is logical.

That’s all fine and good, right?  I mean, we all know that no one else could possibly figure out how to kill your cell phone.  Well, that’s not really true.  Past experience tells us that building things like this into technology come back to bite us when the hackers figure them out.  Figuring out challenges like “killing” someone’s phone is part of the hacker’s playground.  Such a project could even be funded by state actors.

It would make much more sense to me that we would make better attempts at securing our data rather than just relying on a chip to do it for us, but people want everything easy.  Thus, we have chips that can make our phones and laptops inoperable.

Does your device have a KILL SWITCH?

Intel Processors?  Probably – Starting with Sandy Bridge in 2010 processors can be disabled using 3G cellular network even if the laptop isn’t powered.

AMD Processor?  Inconclusive – Could not find information verifying whether or not AMD uses kill switch technology.  It looks like they are not using it.

Apple iPhone?  Yes – Beginning in iOS 8.

Google Phones?  At least some, Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 does, but you have to check your specific model

One question you may be asking right now is “What can I do about this?”  Probably nothing.  It is part of the way the world thinks about security right now.  If you don’t need a powerhouse of a computer, then maybe you will think about researching AMD processors and pick one of those in your next laptop.  As for smartphones, you are pretty much stuck.

ePrepper is going offline this month and will likely be offline before the end of January 2017, unless I can find someone to either take over the site or migrate its content to. Properly maintaining the site has been taking up too much time and cutting into my family. I would like to see the content of ePrepper get absorbed into a larger site. If you run a blog and are interested using content from ePrepper, please email dan [dot] michaels [at] eprepper [dot] net.

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