When you lose your phone, the first thing you do is call the number and try to pull it up on its locator technology, like Find my iPhone. Then you hope (and probably pray a little) that whoever has your phone is a good human who will return the device to you, even if it takes spotting the good samaritan a little cash kickback.
But when your phone simply disappears into the pawn shop and eBay world to never be seen again, you do what you can to protect your data, especially if you can’t remotely wipe whatever is on your phone (both iOS and Android allow you to do this though, by the way).
But what if you could simply remote-destroy your lost or stolen phone or laptop? New technology developed out of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia allows you to do just that. It can even be installed on your current gear, says electrical engineer Muhammad Mustafa Hussain.
The self-destructing tech uses an expandable polymer which crushes an electronic device’s chips in just seconds. It can be remotely activated, at which point heated electrodes draw power from the device’s battery to activate the expanding polymer. The polymer then grows to seven times its original size, destroying the device before anyone can steal your data or just sell it to some other sucker.
They say it can be triggered by anything from geolocation (say, “destroy this phone if it ever enters London”) or if it’s just taken outside of a particular building.
As for whether or not the device will hurt those who have taken your stuff, chances are pretty good, but researchers haven’t gotten that far with the tech. They originally designed it for high-security situations like intelligence communities and financial institutions.