“Kill switches” have become a standard part of most mobile operating systems. Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Google each have the ability to remotely delete malicious applications from users’ devices without permission. With the launch Windows 8 later this year, millions of computers will receive similar functionality for the first time according to Bloomberg. Microsoft hasn’t spoken publicly about Windows 8′s inclusion of the feature, having only confirmed to Bloomberg that it will have the ability to remotely delete or update applications downloaded through the Windows 8 app store. Any software installed from a flash drive, DVD or through a Web browser will remain outside of Microsoft’s reach.
A few days ago Google was made aware that there were over 20 apps in the Android Market that were up to no good. These malicious apps gained system-level access to your handset when downloaded and would intercept and covertly transmit private data to 3rd party servers. Some of these apps have been downloaded more than 50,000 times. To try and fix the problem, Google has started using a remote kill switch feature in Android to wirelessly nuke those installed apps on user’s handsets. That’s not the entire story, though, as Google is actually installing new code in the process. The new code undoes the exploit and prevents your data from being shared, and it’s kind of creepy to plainly see how much control Google has over your Android phone from afar. Affected users have started receiving emails that the process has been completed. More →
Good news, future Windows Phone owners — Microsoft has further clarified its position on the app kill switch tied to Windows Mobile 6.5 we reported earlier this week. Apparently it’s not as bad as everyone thought. In short, the remote deletion of apps from users’ handsets will supposedly only occur in the event an app goes haywire:
In the vast majority of instances where an application is removed from Windows Marketplace for Mobile, users of this application will continue to be able to use these applications on their phones. In the rare event an application from Marketplace exhibits harmful behavior or has unforeseen effects, Marketplace has the capability to remotely uninstall these applications. While we hope to avoid this scenario, we will make refunds available in such cases.
So in the end — assuming Microsoft holds true to its statement — the Marketplace for Mobile kill switch shouldn’t have any negative impact on users. Of course “unforeseen effects” leaves a bit of room for interpretation, but Redmond’s vow to issue refunds in the event an app is remotely uninstalled should help everyone feel all warm and fuzzy again. Satisfied, WinMo fans?
We have a bit of troubling news from Windows world today as a developer in attendance at Microsoft’s Tech.Ed New Zealand has relayed some interesting tidbits. Regarding the “Windows Marketplace for Mobile” — Microsoft’s version of the Apple App Store — Microsoft has confirmed the existence of a ‘kill switch’ for apps. In the event an approved app is later removed from the Marketplace, the app will also automatically be removed from users’ handsets. We’re not sure what this means for paid apps, though we doubt refunds will be issued automatically as well. Microsoft isn’t the only company with this policy of course, but it’s a bit unsettling all the same. The bottom line is that this could spell bad news for users and developers alike, though we highly doubt Microsoft will rule over the Marketplace with an iron fist to the extent that Apple does. Let’s just hope that if and when Redmond does start killing apps, there’s a good reason for it. Hit the jump for more interesting tidbits from Tech.Ed as reported by The Unofficial Tech Ed Blog.