Beta

Slashdot: News for Nerds

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

An Easy Way To Curb Smart-Phone Thieves, In Australia

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the thanks-a-lot-jerks-at-att dept.

Android 234

First time accepted submitter xx_chris writes "Cell carriers can and do brick jail broken cell phones but they won't brick stolen cell phones. Except in Australia. The Australians apparently have been doing this for 10 years and it reduces violent crime since the thieves know they won't be able to sell the stolen phone. The article points out that cell carriers have a financial disincentive to do this since a stolen phone means another sale."

cancel ×

234 comments

Disincentive? (1, Insightful)

grahamsaa (1287732) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254496)

It sounds like the carriers have an incentive to brick stolen phones, not a disincentive as the summary states. If a stolen phone results in another phone sale (to the person who's had their phone stolen) this doesn't sound like a disincentive to me.

Re:Disincentive? (5, Insightful)

djmurdoch (306849) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254516)

If a phone is stolen, they get another sale. If the phone is unusable after being stolen, it's less likely to be stolen, so there are fewer thefts and fewer sales.

Re:Disincentive? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38254642)

Does anyone else think that artists have entitlement issues nowadays? First of all, it costs nothing to make a copy of something. Digital copies can be made an infinite number of times at no cost to the artist. Yet they have the audacity to complain that pirates are costing them money? Something seems off.

Our society is brainwashing people to believe that copying is bad, and stealing money from customers (the artists) is good. How can we stop this?

Re:Disincentive? (-1, Offtopic)

Gideon Wells (1412675) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254676)

These kind of posts seem to be popping up a lot and off topic the last day or so. Are they always this bad or did I just not notice them till I was trying to burn off my mod points?

I don't see a link... so not an advertisement.

This is Slashdot where the cool-aid has already been drank, urinated, recycled through open sourced urine recycling hardware/software pirated from NASA, and drank again. Not astro-turfing unless it is of the 2-minute hate variety. Of course it could be trojan-astro-turfing by coming off as so vitriolic and annoying to drive people away from that mentality.

Just trolling maybe?

Re:Disincentive? (1)

wygit (696674) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254796)

I think djmurdoch was replying on the wrong thread.
I was just reading a thread here on /. about copyright... it was... um... here somewhere... DAMN!

Re:Disincentive? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38254952)

I think djmurdoch was replying on the wrong thread. I was just reading a thread here on /. about copyright... it was... um... here somewhere... DAMN!

Your a dumb nigger so you just got confused that's all.

Re:Disincentive? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38255106)

This has been happening for YEARS and you notice now? I think it is, plain and simply, a bug in Slashdot. It even happened to me once (posted in one thread, and comment appeared in unrelated thread)

Re:Disincentive? (3, Interesting)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254656)

... except that now the thieves have an incentive to buy the higher-operating-margin pre-paid phones when they need a "burn phone" to discuss illegal stuff.

Re:Disincentive? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38254772)

here's a way to get rid of phone thieves: kill niggers

99.999% of Blacks are better human beings than you (0, Offtopic)

gavron (1300111) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254794)

Here's a way to improve the world. Get rid of racist foul-mouthed jerks.

Re:99.999% of Blacks are better human beings than (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38255240)

So, you're both in agreement then.

Re:Disincentive? (2)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254964)

Why wouldn't they just buy a new sim instead of a whole new phone?

Re:Disincentive? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38255000)

they brick it with the IMEI number of the phone (akin to the mac address of an ethernet card)

Re:Disincentive? (4, Informative)

dutchwhizzman (817898) | more than 2 years ago | (#38255274)

because both the SIM and IMEI of the phone itself get logged. If the police or a secret service of some sort later starts looking for you, they will search for either one. Also, phone taps are usually issued on the person and all their known IMEI, SIM and landline calls. This means that in case of a tap, you'll want a phone that can't be associated to you in any way.

Re:Disincentive? (4, Insightful)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254922)

If a phone is stolen, they get another sale. If the phone is unusable after being stolen, it's less likely to be stolen, so there are fewer thefts and fewer sales.

Exactly. This is why there are consumer protection laws; yes, I know, more laws = big government, but that's not always bad. In cases like cell phone carriers where there are precious few choices and very little difference among the choices there are, having a law requiring the service provider to brick the customer's property at the customer's request only makes good sense.

Re:Disincentive? (3, Informative)

Malvineous (1459757) | more than 2 years ago | (#38255208)

I'm not sure how it works in other countries, but in Australia you generally don't buy a phone. You buy a plan from a telco, and the plan comes with a free phone. So a stolen phone means the owner will sign up for a new plan and get a new phone, which you, the telco, have to pay for. So as a telco, if you can keep someone on the same plan with the same phone for as long as possible, you save money.

Hence reducing theft means Aussie telcos can spend less on buying phones from Apple or whoever.

Re:Disincentive? (2)

similar_name (1164087) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254526)

I think they are saying that bricking phones discourages theft which depresses theft related sales of new phones. I don't know how much revenue is generated replacing stolen phones so I don't know if it's a true statement.

Re:Disincentive? (3, Insightful)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254570)

Interesting.. but wouldn't that expose them to liability for the theft?

I mean, we're suggesting that the cell companies are deliberately refusing to take action with the intent of exposing their customers to a greater risk of theft...

Re:Disincentive? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38254640)

Ummmm. No. If you think you are correct, please show me a single lawsuit against a carrier for not bricking the phone.

Re:Disincentive? (2)

shentino (1139071) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254700)

Your challenge assumes that the liability you are questioning would be actionable even if it was there.

I'd say that corporate might would protect it from being sued regardless.

Re:Disincentive? (2)

similar_name (1164087) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254652)

Since Australia has been doing it for ten years perhaps a class action law suit is in order to demand a refund on all phones purchased as the result of theft in the last ten years.

Re:Disincentive? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38255242)

On what grounds? Receiving of stolen goods is presumably illegal in Australia the way it is in pretty much all other countries and I doubt very much that they're bricking phones that haven't been reported stolen by the owner.

Re:Disincentive? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38254764)

Also- new contracts.

Re:Disincentive? (2)

QuasiSteve (2042606) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254528)

It's a disincentive because the very same blurb you read also mentioned that it reduces violent crime since the thieves know they won't be able to sell the stolen phone. Less theft, thus.

Re:Disincentive? (1)

black6host (469985) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254800)

It's a disincentive because the very same blurb you read also mentioned that it reduces violent crime since the thieves know they won't be able to sell the stolen phone. Less theft, thus.

And that is a good thing. But in my world, whether it's broken (and then I have to pay a fee even though I have insurance on it) or stolen, I still have to pay something for a new phone. As an aside, how many thieves study their quarry to see what phone they have before robbing them. My guess is they'd rob them anyway and whatever they get that is good.... so much the better

Re:Disincentive? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38254948)

Don't forget that the parts of a phone sell for more than the phone can give, especially an Apple device. Take the front/black glass, digitizer, and iPhone case. Even if the electronics are shot, just the other stuff can easily sell for a couple hundred bucks easily. As far as I know, Apple doesn't use Gorilla Glass, so there is a thriving secondary market for replacement panels, especially factory grade as opposed to Chinese knock-offs, and you can't get any more factory than stuff from a stolen device for the most part.

This is the same with laptops and bicycles. These get stolen, broken up into components, and sold for a nifty haul (cash for the fence, meth rocks for the tweakers.) Serial numbers are not really going to matter -- Shimano XTR or Dura-Ace parts are not numbered, and just breaking off and selling a complete set is more lucrative by far than trying to find a buyer for a stolen bike. With this in mind, it is no wonder why people will break a carbon fiber frame in half just to get the bike off a lock, or just go and steal the fork and wheels, leaving the frame locked in place.

Apple does use gorilla glass (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#38255018)

Apple doesn't use Gorilla Glass, so there is a thriving secondary market for replacement panels, especially factory grade as opposed to Chinese knock-offs

That's wrong in a few ways. First, they do use gorilla glass - in my experience the phones are really sturdy, unless you have the misfortune of a corner hitting something very hard. But it's not like they are going to scratch from keys in a pocket.

Second, there is no such thing as a "Chinese kickoff iPhone 4 screen". This is because the LCD is RIGHT under the glass, basically adhered to it. The glass breaks, it means also replacing the LCD.

I agree the parts could be worth something, but I don't know how much a thief would think about that angle since very few people are buying extra parts (way fewer then with bike parts), and Apple is usually very lenient about replacing broken phones (even without Applecare I got a phone I had cracked totally switched out, though YMMV on that one).

Phone theft much easier (2)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254956)

My guess is they'd rob them anyway and whatever they get that is good.... so much the better

Not really - there are lots of phone thefts because it is so easy. The victim is distracting themselves, showing you exactly what you will get, and furthermore holding it up for you to grab.

With any other theft you have no idea if the target is really worth it, what they really have... and you have to get it off them, when they may already be on guard to start with.

Be eliminating any profit from the one singularly easy theft to pull off, I could easily see crime rates being reduced.

Re:Disincentive? (4, Informative)

fryjs (1456943) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254568)

It's my understanding that they don't really brick the phones, all of the networks just block the phones by IMEI number based on a common database.

Re:Disincentive? (1)

citizenr (871508) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254728)

It's my understanding that they don't really brick the phones, all of the networks just block the phones by IMEI number based on a common database.

and changing imei is just one click away, at least for older models

Re:Disincentive? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38254668)

It looks like you have trouble with reading and comprehension.

They have a disincentive to brick phones, because that could decrease sales.

They have an incentive to NOT brick phones, because that could increase sales.

Re:Disincentive? (1)

Ksevio (865461) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254702)

Or maybe the cell carriers have an incentive to steal phones in other countries. They already know about where the person is, and what kind of phone they have - plus they can sell the phone they steal to new customers!

Re:Disincentive? (4, Interesting)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254820)

It sounds like the carriers have an incentive to brick stolen phones, not a disincentive as the summary states. If a stolen phone results in another phone sale (to the person who's had their phone stolen) this doesn't sound like a disincentive to me.

Don't underestimate the cell phone carriers - if such a stolen phone registry were to be implemented in the USA, the carriers would make sure that all off-contract phones got put on the list automatically, eliminating the used phone market. They'd justify it with some reason like "to prevent fraud" or "old phones cost too much to support on our network" -- kind of the same reasoning they use to justify high ETF's that still cost over $100 one month before the contract ends.

Re:Disincentive? (1)

click2005 (921437) | more than 2 years ago | (#38255082)

It would be easier to pay a few politicians to pass a law requiring it because drugs dealers/terrorists/pedos/whoever use them for some bad thing or other.

Re:Disincentive? (1)

Sinryc (834433) | more than 2 years ago | (#38255198)

You are much to paranoid. Carriers can, and do block stolen phoens based on their IMEI numbers in the USA.

disincentive? (1)

starblazer (49187) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254498)

Don't you mean incentive? Considering it's another sale...

Re:disincentive? (1)

syockit (1480393) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254592)

Therefore it (the bricking of stolen phones) is a disincentive.

Telco Bastards (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38254504)

Figures where their priorities lie.

Violent (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38254508)

reduces violent crime

Is violence that associated with phone theft?

Re:Violent (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38254534)

When a nigger sticks a knife or gun in your face demanding your iphone, yes, it suddenly becomes "violence associated with phone theft".

Re:Violent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38254536)

In America, yes. Violence is a pretty common part of everyday life in cities like Philadelphia, Detroit, LA and many parts of NYC.

Re:Violent (3, Insightful)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254572)

I've lived in two of those cities and never been mugged. I'm not saying they aren't dangerous, but it's not a part of every day life.

Re:Violent (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38254590)

Were you the "gangsta thug" mugging innocent people?

Re:Violent (4, Interesting)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254726)

I've lived in two of those cities and never been mugged. I'm not saying they aren't dangerous, but it's not a part of every day life.

You don't have to have been mugged to have violence be a part of everyday life. There are many parts of my city that I refuse to go to at night, because it's known to be dangerous. There are other parts that I avoid even in the daytime for the same reason. There are many nice ethnic restaurants in those areas that I'd like to go to but in general, I don't because I don't want my car broken into or to be mugged myself.

Re:Violent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38254746)

A beat-up junker to drive, and dress-down Goodwill clothes for being seen in. Problem solved.

Re:Violent (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38254992)

You will still find your head with a new skylight installed courtesy of a gangbanger's 50 cal piece even if you have nothing on you. It is considered part of becoming a gang member by spilling the blood of another race in a lot of areas. This is why you don't stop at rest stops on I-10. There is a good chance of someone knocking on your window and giving you a .0000 buckshot shampoo to the face with a sawed off twelve gauge for their "blood in" ritual.

Re:Violent (4, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#38255264)

Quit watching so much TV, it's bad for you.

Re:Violent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38254890)

Going there broadcasting, Yuppie Foodie with your white earbuds, and socks and sandals is what get's you mugged.

Open carry, Guarantee you wont get mugged in the worst part of town.

Re:Violent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38255212)

You could go to those parts of town if you wanted to. The problem is that people who are mugged look like victims. Intimidating people aren't mugged.

Re:Violent (1)

reve_etrange (2377702) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254550)

Do you typically hand over personal possessions to anyone who asks?
Muggings at knife, gun (or fist) point are violent crimes.

Re:Violent (1)

similar_name (1164087) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254596)

I understand that muggings are violent I just wonder how much bricking stops your typical mugger from still wanting your wallet and how much it stops opportunity theft when someone sets there phone down and walks away from it for a moment.

Re:Violent (4, Insightful)

jamesh (87723) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254768)

I understand that muggings are violent I just wonder how much bricking stops your typical mugger from still wanting your wallet and how much it stops opportunity theft when someone sets there phone down and walks away from it for a moment.

The problem with stealing a wallet is that it might turn out to be empty (and if you flash your wallet around so others can see it's contents, you're an idiot). As soon as you see someone's phone you know what it is and roughly how much you can get for it. If it's a good phone that you can easily get some money for then you might take the risk of robbing the owner. If you know you won't get anything for it because a stolen phone will be bricked before you can sell it, you won't.

Nobody is saying it will stop all violent muggings, just that it does make a difference.

Re:Violent (1)

similar_name (1164087) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254790)

Fair enough. I'll concede the point.

Re:Violent (2)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254836)

I would think that it wouldn't affect the rate of muggings all that much, just the rate at which cell phones are taken in muggins, just like easily cancelled credit cards would reduce the rate at which muggers attempt to use those after they mug someone. Muggers often won't know what kind of cell phone you have until they mug you, and there are probably bigger clues to a good target. The most obvious to me would seem to be a nice gold watch, as well as general attire. That said, despite the stereotypes, I seem to recall the most common victims of mugging (and most violent crime except for rape) to actually be poor black males in the US.

Re:Violent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38254554)

Getting robbed at gunpoint is a violent crime. I know two people robbed at gunpoint for their cell phones.

Re:Violent (1)

petman (619526) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254616)

Why? It seems to me, if the only thing the thief wants is a cell phone, it would be easier to just snatch one of the hands of someone off the street or in the subway and run. Fact is, most people don't protect their phones as tightly as their wallets.

Re:Violent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38254634)

Thats been happening in San Francisco lately. Usually accompanied by such things as a blow to the face, or a macing.

Re:Violent (0)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254900)

Most macings are done by police to innocent non violent people.

Re:Violent (1)

wygit (696674) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254812)

Bingo. You just described a violent crime. Not VERY violent, but violent nonetheless.

Re:Violent (0)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254562)

The summary is wrong. People who publicly use their phones in a rude, annoying manner cannot annoy those around them into beating them to a bloody pulp after their phones are stolen.

So yes, phone theft reduces violent crime.

Re:Violent (1)

517714 (762276) | more than 2 years ago | (#38255092)

"Theft" is the word used throughout the article, robbery was never mentioned by the interviewee, it was an off-topic and obviously clueless suggestion of the reporter in the last paragraph. I suspect the author gets punched because he is an asshole and people take his phone with the intention of shoving it up his ass rather than stealing it.

Let's examine the potential impact on violence: You mug someone. Do you let them keep their cellphone so they can dial 911, 000, 999 or whatever the local emergency response number is? No? Then there won't be fewer robberies (violent acts).

The difference in the value of the "transaction" is the fence value of the phone which is typically under $20 since there aren't many items one would receive from the victim that are more traceable than a cellphone. That is a very small disincentive to the robber who is also taking a wallet, watch and ring. The thief will leave the iPhone sitting on the bar - perhaps Apple should do their testing in Australia!

Re:Violent (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 2 years ago | (#38255204)

I left my blackberry in a Wendy's during a working lunch once. I realized I'd left it in the restaurant by the time I got to the car, but by the time I got back to my seat at the restaurant it had disappeared. Ended up getting a touchscreen smart phone. I really miss having a physical keyboard on a phone without a shit-ton of crapware installed :( This was before cyanogen was a reliable thing.

every stolen phone is a potential new sale (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254538)

sounds like game stop.

So cell carriers, just do it (1)

cultiv8 (1660093) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254548)

Profit!

Re:So cell carriers, just do it (1)

cultiv8 (1660093) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254556)

Hate to follow-up on myself, but it should be: 1) Brick cell phone if stolen 2) ? 3) Profit

Do carrier make money off phone sales? (1)

petman (619526) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254594)

Aren't the carriers subsidising the phones they sell? I thought they make money mostly from the contracts. So it seems to me they would have an incentive to reduce phone thefts since this would mean would have to spend less on the subsidies.

Re:Do carrier make money off phone sales? (1)

Dayze!Confused (717774) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254610)

They subsidize when you sign a contract, in mid contract you don't get a subsidy with your new phone.

Re:Do carrier make money off phone sales? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38254872)

Yes but the carrier generally don't get money for a new phone sales even if they do buy a new phone. Carrier make money for the service and lose some money to pay for phones so they sign up for their service. If a person already has the service, what incentive is there to encourage them buying a new phone when their is no profit for them? It's quite simple why carriers don't brick lost phones. It's too much hassle (in terms of support). Support for US carriers is generally crap. Providing better support cost more money (albeit a minor amount compared to how much they make).

Greed, incompetence, lack of motivation; pick one as any one of them is equally likely for these companies.

Note the following scenarios though:

1) phone is misplaced / lost / stolen without being noticed
do they brick?
if yes, hassle if phone is found/recovered.
if no, high possibility it ends in hand of somebody you don't want it
This is the most common scenario

2) phone is actually *knowingly* stolen like through a mugging
do they implement a system to deal with this?
if they do, cost support and money for a relatively small occurrence (in comparison)
if they don't, doesn't affect them at all as most likely customer is still in contract so they get paid no matter what
Guess their choice...

Re:Do carrier make money off phone sales? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38254620)

Aren't the carriers subsidising the phones they sell? I thought they make money mostly from the contracts. So it seems to me they would have an incentive to reduce phone thefts since this would mean would have to spend less on the subsidies.

This is true only if u got mugged at the very end of your contract and is elligible for upgrade. Otherwise, u will have to pay full (unsubsidised) price for replacement.

Re:Do carrier make money off phone sales? (1)

deniable (76198) | more than 2 years ago | (#38255184)

Not in Australia. They'll do deals. You won't get a free phone, but you won't pay full price. I've seen it and Telstra, of all people, made a decent deal for a replacement unit.

Re:Do carrier make money off phone sales? (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254858)

The price of the phone is rather insignificant in comparison to the money made from a contract (and I refuse to believe that the listed retail price isn't total bullshit. It makes no fucking sense for a dumpphone and an iPod touch to cost less than an iPhone), and even if the new phone is subsidized, it generally involves extending your contract.

Phone isn't bricked, its just blocked (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38254602)

It will continue to work outside Australia. Phone theft still occurs here.

Re:Phone isn't bricked, its just blocked (3, Funny)

JimboFBX (1097277) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254622)

yeah but nobody wants to buy a phone with Australian auto-correct.

#TODO: insert funny English -> Australian translation

Re:Phone isn't bricked, its just blocked (1)

swalve (1980968) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254826)

Make sure it includes references to 220v being superior, American health care and how not to eat the cracker. That'll account for a good 25% of the dialect.

Re:Phone isn't bricked, its just blocked (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38254932)

It's 240V, not 220V.
America doesn't actually have healthcare, just a shambolic parody of same.
It's not a "cracker" , it's a biscuit.

Fail on all three counts, please come again.

Re:Phone isn't bricked, its just blocked (0)

Whiteox (919863) | more than 2 years ago | (#38255096)

Damnit. It's more than 240V - More like 255V and beyond. It's a scam by the power providers to increase voltage past 255V so Solar feed into the grid systems won't work.
Why? Because then they don't have to pay as much subsidy to the home producer. The Gov backs this because they too have to pay a subsidy to the owner.
All in all, I've lost over $500 per quarter because of a high grid voltage.

Re:Phone isn't bricked, its just blocked (3, Interesting)

clockt (882520) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254748)

I occasionally browse through the pawn brokers shops, looking for old hand tools. A few years ago it was common to see 3 or 4 display cases filled with second-hand mobile phones stacked 3 deep. The Motorola Razr was popular then, and well represented. Over the course of about one week they all went away; I wandered in to one shop not far from the centre of town to be greeted with a desert of black, dusty velvet. Not a single phone left in the place.

Two things occurred to me then: The government had done something good (!) and pawn brokers are a thinly disguised mechanism for returning stolen goods to the economy.

I'd known about the ability to block a digital phone since the change from analogue, and it always struck me as ridiculous that the telco wouldn't do that as a matter of course: they are service companies, they lock the asset into their system, and they make the contract a personal thing. Isn't it good customer service to say "Sorry your phone got stolen, but rest assured the thief will get no benefit from it. Come to the show room and lets talk about a replacement..." Yes, you may end up paying for two phones and might feel personally disempowered, but the knowledge that the long arm of the telco can reach out to the thief and stop his gloating in a heartbeat has some real value.

Credit Card companies do it with stolen cards don't they? What's the difference? The stolen item has a unique identifier, the database has a flag on said number and when it appears in the system the alarm bell rings and it refuses to service it. The stolen asset is suddenly less valuable, or possibly even a liability if we take it to it's logical conclusion.

Re:Phone isn't bricked, its just blocked (3, Insightful)

green1 (322787) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254822)

> I'd known about the ability to block a digital phone since the change from analogue

Question. What difference does it make if it's analog or digital? The fact is that the carrier has a way of identifying that phone on the network with a fair degree of reliability (otherwise they wouldn't be able to bill you for your calls) so regardless of if it's analog or digital they still have a way of blocking it.

The ability to block cell phones didn't start with phones going digital. It started when phones no longer required you to tell the operator who you were before you made a call. Unfortunately the willingness to use such a feature is a completely different problem...

Re:Phone isn't bricked, its just blocked (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#38255058)

+1 Insightful. I completely agree.

Re:Phone isn't bricked, its just blocked (1)

swalve (1980968) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254834)

It's probably too hard to get all the cell phone companies to cooperate.

Re:Phone isn't bricked, its just blocked (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38254852)

Two things occurred to me then: The government had done something good (!) and pawn brokers are a thinly disguised mechanism for returning stolen goods to the economy.

There's a reason the two main chains of pawn brokers around here were known as 'Crime Converters' and 'Theft-O-Rama'. (Cash-Converters and Trade-O-Rama.)

Re:Phone isn't bricked, its just blocked (3, Informative)

cyrano.mac (916276) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254754)

No it won't. When a cell phone is bricked, it becomes useless. You confuse operator block with anti-theft block. The first can be undone, the second one can't. In Europe, the system of bricking a stolen phone has been abandoned many years ago. The reason is not commercial, it's purely technical. To trace a stolen phone, the IMEI number is used. But since the IMEI can be easily changed, you risk bricking someone else's phone. That happened years ago to some 6.000 phones which had the same IMEI, cloned from a Danish phone. When the Danish phone got stolen, the Danish operator bricked it, resulting in 6.000 Spanish phones no longer operating. And since you can't undo it, they had to be replaced. The one responsible for cloning 6.000 phones with identical IMEI numbers was a Dutch phone trader. Anyways, there is no problem with cell phone theft over here, except people declaring their lost or broken phone stolen, just to get insurance to pay for it...

Re:Phone isn't bricked, its just blocked (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38254924)

>>> That happened years ago to some 6.000 phones[...]

Three-digit fractional precision seems a little bit excessive for an integer quantity.

Re:Phone isn't bricked, its just blocked (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38255142)

Spanish numbering, for example is backwards. for six thousand with 2 decimals, they would say 6.000,00. of course, they would say that we're backwards, so w/e. i'm guessing cyrano isnt a native english speaker, instead one that numbers like that.

Re:Phone isn't bricked, its just blocked (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#38255070)

You can't undo programming a bunch of bytes in an EEPROM? I doubt that the phones used OTP memory for that. It'd probably take a minute with download cable and factory service software to undo the anti-theft block...

Re:Phone isn't bricked, its just blocked (1)

deniable (76198) | more than 2 years ago | (#38255190)

Yeah, because tourists / foreign travellers are the most likely people to buy a hot phone in a pub.

Safest Place for Smart Phones (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38254628)

Someone should patent "The Bung Hole Bag", the perfect anti-theft way of hiding your smart phone - up your hiney! After all - that's where most smart phone owner's heads MUST be, otherwise they would smartly choose a DUMB phone, consisting of pay-as-you-go joy, where the battery jumps out into your hands after you make a call and never re-insert it unless you're making a call.

Re:Safest Place for Smart Phones (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38255072)

how do u receive calls?

imei changer.. (5, Informative)

ltcdata (626981) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254648)

In argentina, there are a lot of "grey stores" that change the imei number of any cellphone in a few hours. If it can be done here...

Odd... I thought Sprint did this? (1)

rabtech (223758) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254658)

Maybe I'm not up to date but last I checked Sprint does in fact blacklist the ESNs of stolen phones.

I know that the only safe way to buy a used Sprint phone is to have the seller meet you at the Sprint store and lookup the ESN to make sure it isn't blacklisted.

Verizon uses CDMA so they have the same situation (no sim card, just built-in ESN) so I don't know why they wouldn't offer the same service.

IIRC, the CDMA carriers get batches of valid ESNs from their vendors... they won't allow any unknown ESN onto their network so hacking the phone to show a different ESN is less than straightforward... you can't just make up any random number.

Re:Odd... I thought Sprint did this? (1)

cyrano.mac (916276) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254774)

It just takes a little while on any CDMA network to sniff a valid ESN and clone that. Of course, you 'd want to sniff in one part of the country and use the ESN in another part. As long as the ESN's don't show up on the same cell, there's no problem. If they show on the same cell, one of them gets kicked off...

Re:Odd... I thought Sprint did this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38255138)

If two showed up at the same time in different parts of the country that will get caught too... If it isnt no one is bothering to look...

Blacklisting != Bricking Re:Odd... I thought... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38254788)

Maybe I'm not up to date but last I checked Sprint does in fact blacklist the ESNs of stolen phones.

Yeah, blacklisting [wikipedia.org] and bricking [wikipedia.org] are two very different effects.

That's funny, I thought everyone does it (5, Informative)

slimjim8094 (941042) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254750)

I read this and went "this is news?" Then I read the supposition that nobody outside of Australia does this and I lost it. I vote this the stupidest article in many months.

I thankfully have never had a phone stolen, but my mother and several of my friends have. The carriers range from AT&T to Verizon to T-mobile to Sprint to Boost mobile, to Orange and O2 in the UK. Universally, they called up the carrier and the IMEI number has been blacklisted, or the equivalent for Sprint/Verizon/CDMA phones. Banning the IMSI, which is tied to the phone, makes it useless since it is no longer more than an iPod Touch (or equivalent Android device). Those bans are effective within a country, since they share lists with each other. One of my friends has actually gotten her phone back when the guy went to the local T-Mobile store and tried to buy a prepaid SIM and it didn't work. The store called the police from the back room and kept the guy busy, and they came and picked him up. Apparently it's policy for them since it happens pretty frequently.

This is all in the backwards US, with our relatively small GSM contingent. In other countries it's clearly much easier, since there's just a list.

Finally, Wikipedia talks about this like it's old news. It's literally in the third sentence of the article. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IMEI#Blacklist_of_stolen_devices [wikipedia.org]

'Cell Carrier' Network (2)

philmarcracken (1412453) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254854)

Considering the dominant carrier in Aus has been Telstra for the last 10 years in which time it has enjoyed a monopoly under - wait for it - former US CEO leadership then losing potential revenue from bricking stolen phones was simply an oversight.

Anyone who lives here knows that Telstra would never knowingly pass up an opportunity to do business unethically.

There's an incentive you just have to find it. (1)

outsider007 (115534) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254856)

I have a hard time believing they do this out of the goodness of their hearts.

well (2)

strack (1051390) | more than 2 years ago | (#38255074)

its because here in australia, we have politicians and regulatory agencies that arent balless little bitches on the take for the company. well, less so.

The devices are not bricked, just IMEI-blacklisted (5, Informative)

Craig Ringer (302899) | more than 2 years ago | (#38255084)

All this is is a list of blacklisted IMEIs that's shared between most (not all) carriers. The phones are still perfectly functional when used in other countries with compatible UMTS/GSM frequencies, and on carriers that don't use the IMEI blacklist.

Some carriers do subscribe to the IMEI blacklist but take so long to update it that they might as well not. I'm looking at you, Vodafone.

Not only can stolen phones be sold overseas, but it's pretty trivial to rewrite the IMEI on many phones. This is a disincentive to casual theft, but not much more.

Phone Tracking (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 2 years ago | (#38255234)

A number of years ago, we were all told that the phone companies needed to track our phone for the 911 service. That way they could find us if we called, but didn't know where we were. We were assured that it wasn't so the government could track our location. As of today, I have not heard about a single case where the tracking was used for the phone owners benefit, and every time I have called 911 from my cell phone, the person on the other end needed me to give them my location.

It's simple. We already know that the phone companies know exactly where the phones are when they are used. Phone theft should not be a crime that can successfully be committed. If your phone is stolen, you should be able to call the police, and your cell carrier, and the next time that the phone comes on the grid, a police officer should be showing up to make an arrest. I realize that this would put a short term work increase on the police, but it would subside pretty quickly when it became clear that most every cell phone theft lead to an arrest.

does not stop the theft completely (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38255238)

afaik this doesnt completely stop the stealing of phones - lots of teens by iphones cheap in sydney that have been dubiously acquired. what you dont have as the buyer is a guarantee that your new phone will keep working.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...