Microsoft details Windows Phone 7 kill switch

Windows phone 7

Marketplace could remove apps is they pose a security threat

Microsoft has outlined how it might use the little publicised “kill switch” in Windows Phone 7 handsets.

A kill switch is a tool that allows software controllers to remove certain apps or software from handsets if they pose a security or privacy risk, such as a Trojan planted in an app.

Apple's iPhone and Google's Android phone software also have kill switches built-in to cover the evetuality that they need to remove malware, or even just apps that break guidelines, but talk of a kill switch on Windows Phone 7 handsets has been muted since the platform launched last month.

“We don't really talk about it publicly because the focus is on testing of apps to make sure they're okay, but in the rare event that we need to, we have the tools to take action,” said Todd Biggs, director of product management for Windows Phone Marketplace.

“Market Place is a complex operation and we need to have the capability for dealing with different situations.”

According to Biggs, Microsoft's strict testing of apps when they are submitted for inclusion in Marketplace should minimise kill switch use, but he explained how the company would react if an application was deemed unsafe once it had been approved.

“If in the Marketplace an app does get through and goes rogue there are a couple of things we can do about it, depending on what it was,” he said.

“We could unpublish it from the catalogue so that it was no longer available, but if it was very rogue then we could remove applications from handsets - we don't want things to go that far, but we could.”

Rather than pushing out an instant zap the kill switch would be activated when handsets “checked in” with Marketplace as part of routine maintenance.

“From a high-level perspective, phones check in to see if there are any downloads or updates available and it will also check if there are any apps that shouldn't be on there,” he said. “There might be instances where we would remove the app.”

Microsoft was reluctant to give examples of situations that would warrant app deletion, but agreed privacy and security concerns would be on the list.

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