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US Mobile Carriers Won't Brick Stolen Phones

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the unfriendly-balancing-acts dept.

Cellphones 269

WheezyJoe writes "NBC News has some disturbing security video of people getting assaulted for their smartphones. Such offenses are on the rise. Police chiefs like D.C.'s Cathy Lanier are asking U.S. mobile carriers to brick phones that are reported stolen, in order to dry up what must be a big underground market for your favorite Android device or iPhone — but right now the carriers won't do it. Such an approach has had success in Australia and the U.K."

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sue the carrier as an accompilce in the theft (4, Insightful)

RichMan (8097) | more than 2 years ago | (#39455819)

Accomplice in theft. The phone would be useless if the carrier was not cooperating. So the carrier is adding value to and encouraging the theft.

Should be a nice massive group action lawsuit in there somewhere.

Re:sue the carrier as an accompilce in the theft (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39455851)

DVD Players would be useless if when stolen they wouldn't play DVDs.

Should we sue all DVD player manufacturers, or just the people making the DVDs?

Re:sue the carrier as an accompilce in the theft (4, Insightful)

RichMan (8097) | more than 2 years ago | (#39455921)

Would you be happy if someone was issuing a new registration to your stolen car?
Such that it was fully legal and usable by someone else one stolen.
That is effectively what the phone carriers are doing.

The phones have the equivalent of MACaddress/VIN number and are fully traceable to individual sales by the carriers. And they should not be allowed to reconnect to any network.

People are getting assaulted for this. Anyone been killed in a cell phone theft? Charge the carrier with accomplice in the murder.

What the carriers are doing is worse than the "guy who did not know but got conned by friends into driving the getaway car".

Re:sue the carrier as an accompilce in the theft (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39455977)

Anyone been killed in a cell phone theft? Charge the carrier with accomplice in the murder.

Really? That's..... I don't even.......*siiighh* <facepalm>

Re:sue the carrier as an accompilce in the theft (4, Informative)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456473)

Any accomplice to a felony is automatically responsible for anyone harmed in the commission of the crime, even if they didn't do it personally.

Re:sue the carrier as an accompilce in the theft (1)

Mr. McGibby (41471) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456209)

How is the carrier supposed to know that the device was stolen? What would stop you as the original owner from selling the device and then reporting it stolen? Just to piss off the new owner? Now the carrier has to setup this whole infrastructure to manage all this tracking and arbitration. With a car, there's a title that has to be moved around. You want that for cell phones???

Re:sue the carrier as an accompilce in the theft (0)

BotnetZombie (1174935) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456351)

Except that if you bought the phone in good faith and it then got bricked as supposedly stolen, wouldn't you take some action? If you have some trail of rightfully buying the phone (paper/electronic/witnesses), then it should get unbricked and the original owner should get the mud right back in his face.

RTFS - police reports is how. (4, Informative)

zooblethorpe (686757) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456427)

How is the carrier supposed to know that the device was stolen?

It says how right there in the fine summary -- "Police chiefs like D.C.'s Cathy Lanier are asking U.S. mobile carriers to brick phones that are reported stolen..." Presumably a police report has some legal backing.

Cheers,

Re:sue the carrier as an accompilce in the theft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39456451)

I remember hearing about that scam... someone selling an old phone, then turning right around and claiming it as stolen just so they can put a claim in on their $9/month insurance to buy another device for $100 or so.

Re:sue the carrier as an accompilce in the theft (4, Insightful)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456505)

The carrier would require a police report. Would you risk filing a false police report and being convicted of the associated crimes to screw with someone?

It would be awesome (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39456401)

Whenever I get mad at someone, I can just report THEIR phone stolen, and it gets bricked!

I can't wait!

This used to happen (3, Interesting)

davidwr (791652) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456459)

It still can happen if the stolen-car report isn't visible to the car-title-issuing companies due to a snafu.

However, most states require that someone post a bond if they want to get a title to a car and can't show proof of ownership. It's called a "bonded title."

Re:sue the carrier as an accompilce in the theft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39455929)

Flawed analogy is flawed.

Re:sue the carrier as an accompilce in the theft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39455955)

Wow, that must be some good crack.

Re:sue the carrier as an accompilce in the theft (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39455957)

I didn't know DVD players had to authenticate and connect to government regulated organizations to provide their basic functionality.

Dumbass.

Re:sue the carrier as an accompilce in the theft (1, Insightful)

Mabhatter (126906) | more than 2 years ago | (#39455937)

One could argue that the phone company technically "owns" more of the phone than you do because of subsidies. So in that case, "somebody" has to pay for a new SIM card so the phone company gets a customer.

Although in the USA every boyfriend would be reporting their girlfriends phone "stolen" when she left them and it would be a support nightmare trying to keep it all straight.

Re:sue the carrier as an accompilce in the theft (1)

Albanach (527650) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456019)

One could argue that the phone company technically "owns" more of the phone than you do because of subsidies. So in that case, "somebody" has to pay for a new SIM card so the phone company gets a customer.

Wouldn't that suggest you should be released from your contract of your phone is stolen?

Re:sue the carrier as an accompilce in the theft (4, Insightful)

TENTH SHOW JAM (599239) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456345)

If the phone is reported stolen, make the carriers responsible for any calls made by the handset. The victim has done the right thing by reporting the theft.

Make it an economic penalty if the company refuses to take action. It's the language they understand. Get the courts to back up the victim and the problem will go away in weeks if not days.

Re:sue the carrier as an accompilce in the theft (1)

chrb (1083577) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456071)

One could argue that the phone company technically "owns" more of the phone than you do because of subsidies.

One could try to argue that, but if you tried it in a court of law you would fail. The contract states that the physical phone belongs to you, and that you are still liable for the monthly rental fees on your contract even if your phone is lost or stolen. The "subsidy" is tied to the contract.

Re:sue the carrier as an accompilce in the theft (2)

kyrio (1091003) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456243)

If every boyfriend has the name on the phone's contract, every boyfriend has full rights to have the stolen phone bricked.

Re:sue the carrier as an accompilce in the theft (2)

cjb658 (1235986) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456387)

Why not just file a police report when you report the phone stolen?

Re:sue the carrier as an accompilce in the theft (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39456031)

If a lawyer needs a lead plaintiff for a class action suit, post contact info here.

I am perplexed about how lost or stolen Verizon phones don't find their way back to Verizon. They are supposedly not capable of being reactivated with their hard-coded EIN numbers. So why does anyone steal them? If only Verizon and/or Assurion marketed the fact that they don't reactivate phones reported stolen and that they'd give a $50 reward for returned phones (paid by subscriber), we'd see a drop in Verizon phones growing legs.

Re:sue the carrier as an accompilce in the theft (0)

ninjackn (1424235) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456041)

The carrier are not adding value, they are not removing value.

Re:sue the carrier as an accompilce in the theft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39456301)

Honestly, are you so stupid you think out justice system works like that?

Re:sue the carrier as an accompilce in the theft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39456421)

Why spend money on a suit? Shouldn't the police just arrest all of the employees as accomplices?

Equipment identity register (EIR) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39455831)

The equipment is in place. There is no collaboration between carriers and no reason for carriers to go through the hassle to enforce it.

Just (2)

M0j0_j0j0 (1250800) | more than 2 years ago | (#39455857)

Make a law!!! get some use for the that congress.

Re:Just (2)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456219)

Agreed - there are a lot of needless and stupid laws out there, but this would not be one of them.

Another poster already made the analogy of cars and VINs - when a car is stolen it goes into the system and no DMV will renew registration and issue new plates for it. Pretty sure that was mandated by law. Imagine how much better it would work if it were instantly enforceable to the point of disabling the engine as soon as it was reported stolen (which is effectively what the carriers could do with technology they already have...)

I'd love to see an actual valid argument from a legislator NOT to do this, because I'm going to bet any objection they might have would really revolve around telecommunications lobbying...

We can't have carriers bricking stolen phones. (1)

idbeholda (2405958) | more than 2 years ago | (#39455859)

That would be way too efficient, and would make way too much sense. And we can't be having that here, especially on this side of The Second Great Cosmic divide. Such efficiency will only lead to trouble.

Brick it yourself (0)

Guspaz (556486) | more than 2 years ago | (#39455861)

They specifically mention the iPhone, which already allows customers to remotely brick their own phones whenever they'd like via Find My Phone.

Re:Brick it yourself (2, Insightful)

DaHat (247651) | more than 2 years ago | (#39455899)

Brick != Wipe

Many smartphones phones have the ability to be remotely locked or wiped... but not in a permanent way that can prevent the phone from every being used again on any cell network.

Re:Brick it yourself (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39455933)

Find my Phone does not prevent reactivation of the phone through a different number, it allows you to deactivate it so someone can't just log in and get your pictures and stuff. Remote Wipe != Brick. The article says they want to physically deactivate the phone so it can't be reactivated under a new account.

Re:Brick it yourself (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39455939)

Are you really that stupid?

Re:Brick it yourself (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39455989)

At least, until the their has a chance to put the iOS device into DFU mode or just take it to the nearest Apple store claiming that it stopped working wherein Apple will issue said thief a shiny new iPhone. And my captcha is "absconds"... what are the odds?

Why would they want to decrease revenue? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39455865)

If your phone gets stolen, you have to buy a new phone; most often this is done by people signing up for 2 more years to get the subsidized handset since few are willing to shell out $300+ for a smartphone. And whoever ends up with the stolen phone also signs up for service. So every stolen phone results in a new customer, an extended customer, and a (subsidized) phone sale.

But if they BRICK your stolen phone, then theft of stolen phones decreases, which hurts them because they'll have fewer new customers, fewer retained customers, and fewer phone sales.

That hurts profits, which is un-American. I'm shocked and appalled that someone in the public / government sector would suggest this! It might be time to privatize the police forces... that way the telecoms can stop relying on 3rd parties to enhance their sales and have the cops start stealing your phones directly.

Captcha was endemic. It's like slashdot KNOWS.

Re:Why would they want to decrease revenue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39456359)

Would paying $300 for the phone and getting a low-cost $25 contract be cheaper overall then paying $60 month-after-month? (Yes.)

Avoid bad areas and don't display valuable objects (0, Flamebait)

couchslug (175151) | more than 2 years ago | (#39455867)

Part of not getting mugged is not looking like a target and avoiding bad areas. If you actually NEED a smartphone ("it makes you money") then conceal it and don't answer it in Chud zones.

The ROE for avoiding scumbags hasn't changed since Ogg coveted Zorgs shiny rock.

Don't display shiny rocks, and if it's an option be able, willing, and ready to use lethal force in self-defence.

Re:Avoid bad areas and don't display valuable obje (0)

D'Sphitz (699604) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456061)

In other words, don't dress like a whore if you don't want to get raped.

Re:Avoid bad areas and don't display valuable obje (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39456107)

That damn iPhone had it coming... all tarted up like that, it was just asking to be stolen.

Re:Avoid bad areas and don't display valuable obje (2)

M0j0_j0j0 (1250800) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456497)

Love the car analogy, wait...

Re:Avoid bad areas and don't display valuable obje (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39456075)

In the Montreal subway, there has been hit and run. The mugger will grab the phone, hit you right away and run. I think what's worse is that most people just look at the runner and do nothing while the victim yells. An other tactic is they wait in the train for the door to be on the point of closing, then grab your phone and run.

While I agree with you, I also think that phone carriers should brick the phones if they can. It's not like the user will ever get it back anyway.

So... what about security apps? (-1)

AtomicSymphonic (2570041) | more than 2 years ago | (#39455875)

If your *smartphone* (not feature phone) is stolen, in particular if it's Android or iOS, there are a number of solutions one could use without having to resort to calling police to "brick" your phone, other than retrieving it.

Apple has the "Find My iPhone" service and you are able to locate your phone (if it's still on), able to lock it, send a message, and wipe your device.

Android has, I don't know, 10+ different apps that can do that available on the Android Market. This is not including some manufacturers' own services natively installed onto their devices, like Motorola's MotoBlur service, that does all of the above.

Re:So... what about security apps? (1)

DaHat (247651) | more than 2 years ago | (#39455925)

Last I checked Brick != Wipe.

Clearing off your personal data is one thing... preventing the phone from being used again (bricking) is another.

Re:So... what about security apps? (0)

AtomicSymphonic (2570041) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456119)

Ah, I see...

Although, isn't "locking" the phone about as good as bricking? Or can that be disabled by connecting it to any computer with iTunes? Yes, the data would be erased, as far as I know, but would this still work?

Re:So... what about security apps? (4, Informative)

chrb (1083577) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456017)

If your *smartphone* (not feature phone) is stolen, in particular if it's Android or iOS, there are a number of solutions , other than retrieving it.

And most of those solutions can be easily worked around by a knowledgeable person, at the simplest level by just reflashing the firmware. This is not just theoretical - IMEI reprogramming used to be common place for stolen mobile phones, and there was a whole cottage industry based around cracking IMEIs so that stolen phones could be reenabled (to be fair, there were a few legitimate uses, but the illegal usage far outnumbered that). Now that the manufacturers made it harder to reprogram the IMEI, stolen phones that are blocked by the networks are only useful for export to countries that have the same network technology. So there is still a route to profit, but it requires more organisation than just being able to list the phone on ebay or sell it down the pub, which is what used to happen in the old days.

one could use without having to resort to calling police to "brick" your phone

The police have nothing to do with IMEI blocking, the network operator does the blocking, and will do so when you report the stolen phone to them, which you obviously need anyway to do as you are liable for all phone calls until the theft is reported.

It's all about the profit (1)

chrb (1083577) | more than 2 years ago | (#39455877)

More stolen phones means more phones being replaced, also if you are on contract you can be liable for a huge bill. [telegraph.co.uk] The UK government had to actually bring in a law requiring carriers to block stolen phones (or threaten to legislate, I can't remember whether the carriers caved before the law was due to introduced).

Verizon will not activate a phone stollen phone. (2)

Kenja (541830) | more than 2 years ago | (#39455881)

I cant speak for the other carriers, but Verizon will not activate a phone that has been reported as stollen. Sure, its not "bricked", but its near useless.

Re:Verizon will not activate a phone stollen phone (1)

zarthrag (650912) | more than 2 years ago | (#39455949)

Verizon is CDMA, You could simply obtain the master lock codes and port the phone to sprint or some other carrier.

Re:Verizon will not activate a phone stollen phone (3, Informative)

UnifiedTechs (100743) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456029)

Actually neither Sprint or Verizon will activate a phone not originally purchased from them. And neither will activate a phone reported stolen by an owner. Honestly this seems like a problem strictly for phones with SIM cards.

Re:Verizon will not activate a phone stollen phone (2)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456291)

So, while Verizon doesn't like people bringing in phones, resellers of Verizon service (Cricket, Virgin, etc.) are more than happy to do so. Verizon isn't in complete control of their own mobile service since a lot (25%? 30%? more?) of it is due to resellers selling access to the same towers.

Oh, an what do you need to use Cricket? A Verizon-compatible phone.

Re:Verizon will not activate a phone stollen phone (1)

Miamicanes (730264) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456441)

Sprint absolutely won't activate any phone not sold by them (or at least wholesaled to someone by them). Verizon won't go out of its way to HELP you, but if you can figure out how to make some arbitrary CDMA phone work on Verizon, they won't stand in your way and prohibit you from using it, either.

I'm not 100% sure, but I think Verizon's grudging willingness to let you use any compatible phone is an artifact of the original Bell breakup & consent decree that prohibited Bell from requiring that customers use only equipment sold/leased by them. From what I remember, the general belief was that it was somewhat up in the air and never formally tested in court whether Verizon Wireless was to be treated like a successor entity to Bell subject to the full original consent decree, but the FCC settled it once and for all by making Verizon Wireless formally acknowledge and accept it as a condition of being allowed to buy Alltel.

Re:Verizon will not activate a phone stollen phone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39456487)

>Honestly this seems like a problem strictly for phones with SIM cards.

What country is backward enough to still be using phones without SIM cards?

Re:Verizon will not activate a phone stollen phone (0)

El Royo (907295) | more than 2 years ago | (#39455973)

Well, I don't see why they would try to activate a phone made out of bread! http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/stollen [reference.com]

Re:Verizon will not activate a phone stollen phone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39456091)

This is true... Unfortunately, the BUDGET carriers (e.g. metropcs and cricket) WILL activate the stolen verizon/sprint phones!

Make your own determinations about the cross section of demographics between stolen phone users and budget cell carriers.

Thank God (0, Offtopic)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39455883)

I live in a state with strong castle laws.

Most would-be muggers are quickly deterred by the sight of the 1911 strapped to my hip. You want my celly? Come and get it.

Re:Thank God (1, Funny)

toadlife (301863) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456005)

Mr. Zimmerman?

Re:Thank God (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456205)

HA, no, it's assholes like that who make responsible gun owners such as myself look bad.

Re:Thank God (2)

Albanach (527650) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456065)

Most would-be muggers

And for the ones that aren't deterred, you think a firefight in the street is preferable to carriers simply blocking the phones and making the mugging less attractive in the first place?

Re:Thank God (3, Interesting)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456271)

Most would-be muggers

And for the ones that aren't deterred, you think a firefight in the street is preferable to carriers simply blocking the phones and making the mugging less attractive in the first place?

No, but as an adult with full cognitive faculties, I don't believe it's anyone's duty but my own to protect myself and my property... especially considering recent SCOTUS decisions, such as the one that determined that police have no duty to protect citizens. [nytimes.com]

Expecting others to do what you should be doing yourself belongs in the realm of childhood, IMO.

Re:Thank God (1)

kyrio (1091003) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456323)

I think having both is the better option.

Re:Thank God (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39456073)

Castle laws, by definition require you to be in your home, vehicle, or place of business. Anywhere else and you have a legal duty to attempt deescalation and/or retreat. The name "castle law" is derived from the phrase "a man's home is his castle".

Re:Thank God (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456313)

Castle laws, by definition require you to be in your home, vehicle, or place of business. Anywhere else and you have a legal duty to attempt deescalation and/or retreat. The name "castle law" is derived from the phrase "a man's home is his castle".

In this state, the castle laws also apply to "any property that you have permission to be on." That includes public areas where firearms are not prohibited by law (such as courthouses).

Contrary to what anti-2nd Amendment advocates want you to think, not all gun owners are psycho cowboys looking to get into a shootout; most of us are just law abiding citizens who know better than to expect the government to protect us.

Re:Thank God (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39456489)

Yeah, until that 1911 Jams up then you are shit out of luck, try a revolver.

Not All U.S. carriers apply (2)

bone_king (2602021) | more than 2 years ago | (#39455895)

Sprint and Verizon don't need to brick the phones since they are CDMA networks and once those phones are reported stolen they are essentially black-balled from the network any way. T-Mobile, AT&T, and all other sim-card services would have to figure out some type of alternative in safe-guarding stolen phones.

Re:Not All U.S. carriers apply (1)

toadlife (301863) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456131)

I've read that piggyback carriers like Boost Mobile (Sprint) will activate CDMA phones that have had their ESNs blacklisted.

Re:Not All U.S. carriers apply (1)

toadlife (301863) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456187)

And on further inspection it appears I read wrong. People get their blacklisted Sprint phones onto Boost by getting a cheapo boost phone and then cloning the ESN from that phone onto their blacklisted phone.

Re:Not All U.S. carriers apply (1)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456509)

On the same carrier, maybe. But, for example, the iPhone 4s is a world phone (with CDMA and GSM), and if unlocked, etc. could be used on another company's network (in the US or another country). That's why any effective solution would need a database shared among all carriers, ideally globally so the stolen phones aren't just sent to Mexico, etc.

Why Not Just Track Them? (1)

deweyhewson (1323623) | more than 2 years ago | (#39455901)

Here's what I don't get: if the carriers are capable of, even if unwilling to, bricking phones remotely, that must mean they know where those phones are at any given time, at least to the level of the nearest cell tower. If the phone is on the internet, they can be even more accurate than that. So, it seems to me, the phones themselves are built-in tracking devices that would work in law enforcement's favor; something that bricking would destroy.

Why not just work with law enforcement, through proper warrants of course, in tracking down the stolen phones and, hopefully, the thieves with them?

Is this just not a realistic possibility from a technical standpoint?

Re:Why Not Just Track Them? (1)

RichMan (8097) | more than 2 years ago | (#39455983)

Whoa There. You mean have the police work. That is crazy talk.

And finding a cell phone theif would likely lead to larger crimes being solved.
Think of the paper work involed there.

Re:Why Not Just Track Them? (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456125)

Yeah, it's not like cops have more important cases to deal with than a petty theft, right? I'm pretty sure that solving a murder, for example, is a better way to spend their time than finding a $500 cell phone.

Re:Why Not Just Track Them? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39456303)

You'd think there's enough cops out there to work on murders and other things, too, hmm?

Re:Why Not Just Track Them? (1)

kyrio (1091003) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456379)

The huge majority of cops are not working anything even close to a murder case, and will likely never work a murder case in their entire careers.

Re:Why Not Just Track Them? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39456009)

Because while you are tracking down stolen phone/ipads you end up tripping over (and stubbing your toe to boot) on that $35M/750lbs of meth just lying around.

Stupid piles of drugs are everywhere and are always getting in the way of real police work, like finding some poor bastard's stolen ipad.

Re:Why Not Just Track Them? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39456087)

You just realized that you can be tracked whole connected to a cell network? Really?

Also in most cases the police are more concerned with more important things like rapes, murders, etc. so someone getting an iShiny stolen is pretty low in priority. This is why bring able to brick it is good.

Re:Why Not Just Track Them? (2)

deweyhewson (1323623) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456335)

"You just realized that you can be tracked whole connected to a cell network? Really?"

Uh, no, and I don't know how you inferred that. I was saying that, given these set of circumstances allowing tracking, why can't those circumstances be used to support actual law enforcement.

I agree that the device's worth itself is low on the list of priority, but tackling systematic crime and criminals shouldn't be. Chances are that if someone is willing to steal a phone like this, they are likely involved in other thefts or criminal activity which would be worth stopping.

Re:Why Not Just Track Them? (2)

kyrio (1091003) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456393)

The huge majority of police officers in the USA have never worked any cases of that type and never will.

Re:Why Not Just Track Them? (1)

jpstanle (1604059) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456115)

The use of the term "Bricking" is misleading in this context. What they're actually talking about is IMSI blacklisting. Every cell phone has a unique hardware ID much like a MAC address that can be blacklisted by the carriers.

Re:Why Not Just Track Them? (1)

sunderland56 (621843) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456143)

If the phone is on the internet, they can be even more accurate than that.

Uh, say what? How does DHCP provide better resolution than knowing what cell tower you are communicating with??

Knowing a location to within a square mile - i.e. which cell tower - isn't very useful. However, most smartphones have a built-in GPS - if the carrier can remotely access the phone and provide the police with a GPS location, THAT would be useful.

Why brick a perfectly good phone? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39455907)

Just because it gets stolen? I doubt that will increase the owner's chances of getting it back. In theory, it could reduce theft in the long run but I doubt it. We had a scheme here in Sweden 15 years ago or so where you could register your phone's IMEI somewhere and if it was reported stolen all carriers would ban that phone from their network. It didn't seem to have much effect and I don't think it still exists.

If I lose my phone my concern is for my data. I want to make sure I don't lose data and that no one else can get at my private data. The solutions are backups and encryption. I couldn't care less about what happens to the phone itself. That's what insurance is for.

Re:Why brick a perfectly good phone? (1)

tomhath (637240) | more than 2 years ago | (#39455979)

Just because it gets stolen?

RTFA.

Re:Why brick a perfectly good phone? (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456343)

I think the idea is that if criminals know a phone will become a useless hunk of metal and plastic the moment it's reported stolen, it's no longer worth stealing.

Not true. (1)

JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) | more than 2 years ago | (#39455923)

When my cousin stole my uncle's phone, he called up his carrier and it was bricked.
He had gone through the process before apparently as well. (My cousin isn't the best of people)

Sprint blocks the ESN of stolen phones (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39455927)

Sprint blocks the ESN of phones that are reported stolen, so they can't ever be used on their network again. Very few of their phones can ever be used on any other networks.

Re:Sprint blocks the ESN of stolen phones (1)

DarkVader (121278) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456047)

Many Sprint phones are useable on Cricket.

This is a no-brainer (4, Informative)

moderators_are_w*nke (571920) | more than 2 years ago | (#39455985)

As per TFA, we've had this in the UK for years. As the US networks say, it's not perfect as the IMEI can be changed on some phones and they can be exported abroad but its a hell of a lot better than nothing. Most mobile phone robberies are not organised exporters, they're people after a quick profit, often to feed a drug habit.

It's common sense, it works, do it.

Asking thieves to help stop thieves? (2)

Joe Snipe (224958) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456001)

It's quite clear that the Mobile carriers are robbing us blind as citizens and as consumers, not to mention the abuses of our civil liberties. It's no surprise they aren't willing to help curtail similar actions.

Rest of the world have done this for decades (5, Interesting)

hpj (26910) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456013)

I've worked developing cell phone operator software for almost a decade on 3 different continents (Not in the US though) and many different countries and as far as I know every single cell phone operator that I have worked for use the GSM standard practice of blocking the EMEI number which will cause the phone to be bricked on any GSM network in the world (AT&T & T-Mobile base their network on the GSM standard in the USA) and I was flabbergasted when a few months ago my 2 week old iPhone 4S was stolen AT&T would not do the same here.

Normally the procedure in other countries is that you just bring your cell phone operator the police report and they will immediately block the phone, basically turning it into a big media player (Assuming it is a smart phone). I can't understand how the operators here claim that they need to investigate technical solutions. This was designed and built into the original GSM standard that has been around since the late 1980:s and as far as I know the feature has also been in use since that time.

I totally agree with the article that it is unconscionable that operators here refuse to do this I am assuming to save a few bucks on cell phone subsidies.

to put it bluntly. (2)

Truekaiser (724672) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456027)

they don't want to because it earns them money. they don't care if the phone is stolen as long as it brings in revenue. a few pissed off people getting odd bills after the phone is stolen doesn't concern them, they can wait out any customer dispute till they just give up and pay.

Wrong term! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39456085)

when you "Brick" a phone, you make it completely useless, i.e. destroy the firmware in such a way were it cannot be restored.(anyone who did motorola p2k hacking back last decade remembers this)

What the article mentions is "Blacklisting" a process where phones with IMEI numbers reported stolen are not allowed to be used on the network. the feature is part of the GSM spec and they do this in England.

Again with all blacklists its subject to abuse. I'd say their needs to be an appeals process for getting a phone off a black list.(i.e. prove its NOT stolen, recovered by rightful owner, etc...). This DOES have potential for abuse Otherwise what happens when carriers start blacklisting older phones to make you buy new ones, or to keep certian phones off their network.

It would be abused (1)

amiller2571 (2571883) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456089)

If they started to brick stolen phones, what would stop them from bricking jail broken/rooted phones? Personal I'm just stick and tired of smart phone and the stress that comes with them, high bills, being track every where I go,worrying if its going to get stolen, third parties stealing my personal information like contacts and emails. I'm just going back to prepaid shit phones!

Re:It would be abused (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39456383)

If they started to brick stolen phones, what would stop them from bricking jail broken/rooted phones?

In America? The US Copyright Office. [wikipedia.org]
Not to mention the fact that jailbroken phones still earn them revenue.

Hey, that's me! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39456145)

I finally made it on TV! Wooooooooo! Woooooo!!!!!

measured response (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39456153)

Bricking should be reserved for serious crimes, like unlocking and running an unapproved applications on the hardware you payed for. Who cares about theft!

Don't brick: Lock, track, and seize (5, Interesting)

davidwr (791652) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456285)

Instead of bricking, lock the user interface, put them in a periodic beaconing mode, and send the posse after the phone.

DO put the phone in a mode where if the battery dies or is removed it can't be restarted without opening the case and doing vendor magic.

DO store all non-removable-media data in encrypted form and zap the key as soon as the phone is told that it is stolen.

DO give the customer the option of storing data that is on removable media in encrypted form as well.

Partially true (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39456333)

Sprint and Verizon (CDMA) both brick stolen phones, which is easy to do since you can't just change out a SIM and be done with it...

another easy fix (2)

sdnoob (917382) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456403)

don't buy five hundred friggin dollar phone.

Concealed Carry? (0)

Qubit (100461) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456417)

Any statistics on how much concealed carry correlates with drops in assaults such as thefts of phones?

Also: Situational Awareness -- I'd be interested to hear if people who are engrossed in coversation and/or text messaging on their mobile device are more likely to get mugged.

It doesn't work... (2)

Manip (656104) | more than 2 years ago | (#39456445)

First off I think carriers should do this; but that being as it may I will say that this doesn't really work in either the UK or Australia - phone theft has not disappeared or become less common as a result.

It is easy to understand why when you consider how trivial it is to unlock phones and then sell them on to international customers, particularly in Europe where a blocked phone in the UK might still be worth upwards of 300 euro on eBay Germany or France.

Another interesting question is - what, if anything, has Apple done? They could very easily block phones interacting with its iTunes stores if the phone was reported stolen in any part of the world but they haven't. Why is that?

The land of self-interest (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39456455)

From each party's POV:
-Phone company makes money selling service (to users of stolen phones) and phones (to people who got their phones stolen)
-Police department creates work and presumably could track these phones and thus have an in to underground phone-stealing-type-person circles, so the phone is worth more to them on in the hands of the thief than off the market or back in the rightful owner's hands
-Phone thief get paid selling potential surveillance devices out to his customer(s)
-Buyers of stolen phones get good phones for cheap, increasing the technical economic efficiency of the phone market (people can inferior [stolen] goods who otherwise couldn't enter the market)
-Phone theft victims pay taxes and get told not to leave their stuff unmonitored

Sounds about right. You foreigners really don't get what it's like here, huh? This mentality is how we won the cold war.

Thieves themselves..... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39456513)

After telling Verizon to cancel the service on a stolen phone (I had two and only one was stolen), they reactivated it when I had the other phone reactivated after a hiatus. The next bill was over $1000 as the person in possession of the stolen phone apparently called everyone in China. It took three months to finally get the charges removed from my account and I never received a refund for the taxes and fees that were also billed.

I no longer own a cell phone because I have the distinct feeling that many will simply pay the bill and that Verizon takes advantage of this much like credit card companies profiting from stolen credit cards/numbers (the merchant actually eats the costs).

Fucking crooks.

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