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Experts to test phone anti-theft locks

Prosecutors said security experts will test locks on <span>Apple iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy S4. </span>
Prosecutors said security experts will test locks on <span>Apple iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy S4. </span> Bebeto Matthews /Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — The top prosecutors in San Francisco and New York say they are bringing in state and federal security specialists to test the newest anti-theft features designed to thwart a surge of stolen smartphones nationwide.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Thursday that security specialists will be in San Francisco to test Apple’s iPhone 5 with its activation lock and Samsung’s Galaxy s4 with Lojack for Android.

Gascon said specialists will treat the phones as if they were stolen and try circumventing their antitheft features to draw their own conclusions on their effectiveness.


‘‘We are not going to take them at their word,’’ the prosecutors said in a statement Thursday. ‘‘Today we will assess the solutions they are proposing and see if they stand up to the tactics commonly employed by thieves. ‘‘

Last month, Gascon and Schneiderman met in New York City with representatives from Apple Inc., Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., Google Inc., and Microsoft Corp. as part of their ‘‘Secure our Smartphones’’ initiative, urging them to create a ‘‘kill switch’’ to render stolen smartphones inoperable.

The prosecutors said they ‘‘asked the companies to commit to develop effective solutions to this national crime wave and install them on all new products within one year.’’

Almost 1 in 3 robberies nationwide involves the theft of a mobile phone, according to the Federal Communications Commission, which is coordinating the formation this fall of a national database system to track cellphones reported stolen.

‘‘Together, we are working to ensure that the industry imbed persistent technology that is effective, ubiquitous, and free to consumers in every smartphone introduced to the market by next year,’’ the prosecutors said.

Nearly 175 million cellphones — mostly smartphones — have been sold in the United States in the past year and account for $69 billion in sales, according to IDC, a Massachusetts-based research firm.


Lost or stolen cellphones cost consumers more than $30 billion last year, according to a study cited by Schneiderman in June. In New York, police have coined the term ‘‘Apple-picking’’ to describe thefts of the popular iPhone and other mobile products like iPads.