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Stolen Cellphone Databases Switched On In US

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the now-criminals-will-just-have-tiny-tablets dept.

Cellphones 165

alphadogg writes "U.S. cellphone carriers took a major step on Wednesday toward curbing the rising number of smartphone thefts with the introduction of databases that will block stolen phones from being used on domestic networks. The initiative got its start earlier this year when the FCC and police chiefs from major cities asked the cellular carriers for assistance in battling the surging number of smartphone thefts. In New York, more than 40 percent of all robberies involve cellphones and in Washington, D.C., cellphone thefts accounted for 38 percent of all robberies in 2011."

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Welcome (5, Informative)

ledow (319597) | about 2 years ago | (#41834239)

Welcome to the 21st Century.

The EU has had this for over a decade.

Re:Welcome (2)

CuriousGeorge113 (47122) | about 2 years ago | (#41834303)

So has Verizon Wireless.

Doesn't prevent someone from flashing new software and using it on another carrier, but VZW uses CDMA. That limits your options to Sprint, Cricket, and a handful of regional carriers.

Re:Welcome (2)

Psyborgue (699890) | about 2 years ago | (#41834593)

You could always flash it with a good ESN you got from some other phone -- perhaps an irreparably broken one or an old phone of a different model. There is software that'll do it. That'll get you back on VZW / Sprint, or wherever the phone came from and is likely a lot easier than the full flashing process you're talking about. Look on craigslist. There are plenty of "Bad ESN" phones being sold out there, especially with cracked screens (or badly repaired ones). I'm willing to bet most thieves don't ask you which carrier you're on before they knock your phone out of your hand. They have to offload the CDMA phones somehow and there is a market.

Re:Welcome (1)

jhoegl (638955) | about 2 years ago | (#41836073)

Regardless, what if someone typos your ESN over another. How does one prove they should not be on the list?

Re:Welcome (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 2 years ago | (#41834799)

I thought Verizon only used that list for people who did not pay their bill?

I don't think they use it for stolen phones.

Re:Welcome (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41834885)

Can't reflash the imei you idiot.

if they aren't stupid (they are American, so I guess they could be) then this will be a register of imei numbers. Solving your reflash issue nicely.

Re:Welcome (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41835511)

You can and I used to have a phone reprogrammed to give me a random IMEI each time I started it. It's just harder to change IMEI and there are also laws against it.

Re:Welcome (1)

jonbryce (703250) | about 2 years ago | (#41835505)

Certainly in the UK, it is a common database used by all 4/5[*] carriers, and I believe the database is shared with other countries around the world.

[*] Orange and T-Mobile are now the same company. I'm not sure if they have fully merged their networks yet, if not, they plan to very shortly.

Re:Welcome (1)

itsme1234 (199680) | about 2 years ago | (#41834455)

Not EU, UK maybe.

Re:Welcome (0)

houghi (78078) | about 2 years ago | (#41834695)

They now only need to implement the chip reader for credit cards like the rest of the world and they will be a step closer. (I know it will not solve all problems, but it will solve many.)

Re:Welcome (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41834801)

The US will leapfrog over the chip and go directly to NFC, which not coincidentally is the same as "smart card" technology, just with a wireless interface instead of the gold plated electrical contacts.

Re:Welcome (1)

ThatsMyNick (2004126) | about 2 years ago | (#41835199)

How do plan to power the NFC chips? Batteries? Or are you expecting cell phones to become the new credit cards? I would rather steal power from the chip reader, in which case it is easier to use an EU chip card. A few feet difference doesnt make much of a difference to me.

Re:Welcome (3, Informative)

jonbryce (703250) | about 2 years ago | (#41835469)

The NFC chip is powered by an induction coil in the reader. In London, the Oyster card is a pre-paid NFC card that can be used to access public transport. There are similar systems elsewhere in the world, including some US cities. We also have some NFC credit cards in circulation, and some places that take them, such as McDonalds, though they are not yet in widespread use.

Re:Welcome (1)

ThatsMyNick (2004126) | about 2 years ago | (#41835621)

I know it is good enough to power the radio circuits (like an RFID chip), but it is good enough to perform encryption on chip? The EU chip card, is pretty much a chip that uses the chip reader to communicated with the bank.

Re:Welcome (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41836035)

Yes, induction is sufficient for powering the encryption and everything else that a contact smart card would do. It literally is the same, just with a different interface.

Re:Welcome (1)

ThatsMyNick (2004126) | about 2 years ago | (#41835669)

The NFC credit cards in the US do nothing more than the magnetic strip can do, as far as I understand (I have a couple, that I microwaved as soon as I received them). There is not advantage to it, than say swiping your card.

Re:Welcome (1)

demonlapin (527802) | about 2 years ago | (#41835959)

We pay a pretty significant early adopter price for infrastructure tech here. We installed magstripe readers everywhere over 20 years ago.

Re:Welcome (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 2 years ago | (#41836089)

Backwater New Zealand has NFC, Blacklists and chip cards. Why is the rest of the world so slow to adopt new technology?

Re:Welcome (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41835223)

Seriously, its not like I have goats for people to steal from me.

Re:Welcome (1, Offtopic)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about 2 years ago | (#41835409)

Welcome to the United States. If it inconveniences Corporate America, it's bad for America.

Re:Welcome (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41835629)

There is a reason U.S. doesn't have it yet. Among them is false reports and IMEIs being blocked wrongfully. U.S. have a system where identity theft is rampant and it's quite easy to get a fake identity and do whatever mischief you want. Expect a lot of "denial of service" attacks against phones and much more unnecessary bureaucracy.

Re:Welcome (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41835729)

Do you have any information you can share?

My understanding is that identity theft is actually fairly rare. What is common is credit theft, which is largely empowered by the credit reporting agencies themselves.

Why (1)

Shamanin (561998) | about 2 years ago | (#41834243)

The cellphone is less of the cost than the service.

Re:Why (5, Interesting)

ArcherB (796902) | about 2 years ago | (#41834295)

The cellphone is less of the cost than the service.

Because they can sell the phone at just below "off contract" prices. Remember, the cost of cell phones if you purchase them outright is about 2-3x what it is if you buy them on contract. If you are on contract and lose your phone, the replacement is full price. Or, people can buy these phones and use them on non-contract networks that tend to be cheaper since they usually don't offer phone discounts.

Re:Why (1)

Microlith (54737) | about 2 years ago | (#41834897)

the cost of cell phones if you purchase them outright is about 2-3x what it is if you buy them on contract

Nonsense. The cost of a cell phone you buy on contract is usually more, as you repay the subsidy discount and then some in the service fees over the duration of the contract. Losing your phone only means they get to bone you harder.

Re:Why (2)

demonlapin (527802) | about 2 years ago | (#41835969)

You are obviously unfamiliar with the American mobile market. Other than T-Mobile, none of the majors offer a discount on monthly service if you bring your own phone. Taking the subsidized handset is the logical choice.

Re:Why (4, Insightful)

Skynyrd (25155) | about 2 years ago | (#41834729)

I sold an iPhone 3s for $175 on eBay, just after the 4s came out. I was due for an upgrade, so I sold my old phone.

I would get the same $$ if I stole yours and sold it. The cost of the service is irrelevant the the thief, as long as he can get good money for a stolen phone.

Re:Why (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41836047)

And those headaches will go on until the general public cares that equipment to Craig(fencing)slist and e(pirate)Bay might easily be stolen and therefore useless.

It's no surprise that it's taken the FCC nearly 30 years to require carriers to use the (nearly) unique identifier in an effort to police the traffic in stolen phones. Yes, that's right, IMEI has been a part of the GSM standard since 1984 (ironically).

My guess is that with the rise of assaults comes the threat of real and financially 'meaningful' lawsuits against carriers who fail to use the security tools in the manner they were intended. And there have been so many stories in the press about expensive tech items and tracking technologies rendered nearly useless by police departments still operating the pulse-tone age, but I'd be willing to bet it took something far closer to home before the FCC decided to require the implementation of a design feature like the Central Equipment Identity Register [wikipedia.org] . 9/11? No, that was over 10 years ago. I'm betting somebodies mistress lost her bran new iPhone 5 and raised hell with some big-wig about the expense, causing him to 'investigate' and determine he was impotent... there too.

However it's come to pass, it's a good thing the carriers will be FORCED to implement such a rational system that WILL deter theft, assault and organized black market activity involving 'Smart' phones.

Re:Why (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41834907)

In my case the cellphone is the cost of service for 16 months. $650 iPhone, $45 / month service. In any case even if service were $2,000 / month it's still a $650 phone they're stealing.

Is "Stolen" really only for stolen? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41834261)

No problem with this list at all, as long as "stolen" REALLY means stolen, as opposed to also including the phones of people who just didn't pay their phone bill (and are being charged/collected against the ETF fees)

Re:Is "Stolen" really only for stolen? (2)

TWX (665546) | about 2 years ago | (#41834331)

Even more to the point, are the phones stolen in robberies and other human-confrontations taken because they want the phone, or are they taken so that the victim can't call the authorities instantly?

I'd expect that cell phones stolen face-to-face would fall into the latter more than the former.

Re:Is "Stolen" really only for stolen? (2)

QuantumRiff (120817) | about 2 years ago | (#41834425)

I think the point is more to prevent the phone from being resold on craigslist and the like. I don't think they care how it got stolen. Last time an article came up on slashdot about it, only the account owner could list the phone as stolen, and only the account owner could unlist it.

Re:Is "Stolen" really only for stolen? (2)

TWX (665546) | about 2 years ago | (#41834597)

Oh, I know about the resale angle. I was just curious as to how often stolen phones ended up being put into use. I agree with the system blocking the use of reported stolen phones.

Re:Is "Stolen" really only for stolen? (1)

Psyborgue (699890) | about 2 years ago | (#41834725)

But as it is "Bad ESN" cdma phones are being sold on CL. I can see this making it less lucrative, but not stopping it entirely -- especially since the big phone theft rings like they had in the DC area last year repair the phones and send them overseas to be sold in the middle east.

Re:Is "Stolen" really only for stolen? (1)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#41834585)

Don't forget the opposite purpose. What if any authentication is required to put a serial number or whatever in the DB as either a prank (ha ha cube mate) or the stereotypical insane spouse going after the other spouse during divorce or whatever?

If its just a web form somewhere, T minus x minutes until some goofball DDOSes the web form to add all serial numbers from 00000000 to 9999999 psuedorandomly to the stolen DB.

Re:Is "Stolen" really only for stolen? (2)

Hotawa Hawk-eye (976755) | about 2 years ago | (#41835303)

And how do you get your phone OFF the list if someone adds it maliciously or accidentally (types a 2 instead of a 3 when entering the identifier for a phone that's been stolen, for example?) Who do you need to contact (from a different phone or in person, naturally) and what proof do you need to give that you are the owner of the phone?

Re:Is "Stolen" really only for stolen? (1)

retchdog (1319261) | about 2 years ago | (#41835547)

probably (hopefully) they will require a police report to be filed, as is required, say, for claims against bank card fraud. you'd have to be a total moron to file a false police report.

Re:Is "Stolen" really only for stolen? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41834591)

The popular term 'apple picking' would seem to counter this point.

another anecdotal counter point. Last year I got robbed at gunpoint, the robber told me to 'give him everything', I started by handing him my (non smart) cellphone to which he replied 'I don't want that'.

Re:Is "Stolen" really only for stolen? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41834855)

But you don't own the phone if you still have the original contract...in a sense refusing to pay it IS theft, from the carrier.

it all falls down in the USA though because some kind of frreeeedom mentality kicks in from the carriers when people start talking about legislating that a carrier must unlock a phone after a contract is over, but you guys might grow up one day and realise that not all government regulation is against your frreeeedom.

Re:Is "Stolen" really only for stolen? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41834965)

Actually you own the phone as you bought it outright. Part of the contract is the early termination fee. If you don't pay the termination fee, the phone company can go after you to collect that, but it's not tied to the phone via a lease, they would have no more ownership of your phone than your car. A house mortgage or car loan is different.

Great! Until.... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41834301)

Carriers decide to start using the exact same technology to block users from re-selling used phones.

Re:Great! Until.... (5, Insightful)

localman57 (1340533) | about 2 years ago | (#41834755)

What do they care? They'd rather you bring in your old phone than buy a new one, because they subsidize the cost of the new phone. A carrier's favorite customer is the one who's still using his original iPhone 1. Still paying for a data plan, using relatively small amounts of data, and they paid off the subsidy a long time ago.

Re:Great! Until.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41835123)

Someone who brings their own phone is likely to be a cost-conscious consumer who will switch to another company in a heartbeat for a better deal. They'd much rather have customers who upgrade every two years like clockwork because those customers will be locked in forever.

They do care (3, Interesting)

Powercntrl (458442) | about 2 years ago | (#41835525)

Carriers want you to sign a new two-year contract. They also aren't entirely thrilled that you can get an inexpensive second-hand phone and activate it on a prepaid plan. T-Mobile already does block a phone's IMEI if the the original owner abandoned their account with an unpaid balance (a matter that should be left to collection agencies, not handled by blacklisting a phone). Worse, T-Mobile is known to block a phone after it's already been sold and is in use by a new owner who had no way of knowing the previous owner didn't make good on their final bill. There's a whole thread about this on HowardForums.

Re:Great! Until.... (0)

lederhosen (612610) | about 2 years ago | (#41834853)

It is no new technology, so it does not give the carriers any more opportunities than they already have.

It is working in Europe, you are just late to the game.

Hello? (1)

mfh (56) | about 2 years ago | (#41834307)

Yes, hi this is Jonny Law. You can pull over with your hands-free up!

ebay should join in (1)

yurivict (2232802) | about 2 years ago | (#41834341)

ebay should join in, since most such phones are probably sold through ebay. They should ask sellers to type in the phone number and block the sale in phone is in the database.

Re:ebay should join in (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41834433)

almost, but not quite. They need the block the MEID or ESN

Re:ebay should join in (1)

Cramer (69040) | about 2 years ago | (#41835183)

And how the hell are they supposed to validate and enforce this? eBay never has the phone in their possession to check the numbers. One can enter any BS data they want.

Why block them? (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 years ago | (#41834363)

And not, say, keep them working and use the traces to eventually find the folks who have them? That would seem much more sensible.

Re:Why block them? (4, Insightful)

QuantumRiff (120817) | about 2 years ago | (#41834449)

That is a ton of "man hours" for the police to track someone down for stealing a $100 device. In most states, they can't prove the current holder of the phone stole it, so the best they can do is confiscate the stolen goods. By making them not work at all, it should make the market for stolen phones dry up..

Re:Why block them? (3, Interesting)

Firehed (942385) | about 2 years ago | (#41834527)

Unsubsidized smartphones easily cost $600+, which constitutes grand larceny (often a felony) in most states.

I agree that the current holder of the device is probably not the person who stole it, but over a few data points it probably wouldn't be terribly difficult (yet) to track it back to the original thief, what with everything being location-aware these days. That said, you're right - if we just shut the devices off immediately, the desire to steal phones should drop to nearly zero overnight.

Re:Why block them? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41834899)

Used phones (in excellent condition) usually sell for half the rate. So it does not constitute grand larceny in any way.

Re:Why block them? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41835057)

I am not a lawyer, but I had someone break into my car and steal a phone. Months later cops arrested someone they suspected, but couldn't prove, was guilty of a ton of break ins. They found my phone on him and traced it back to me even though I never even reported it stolen. I was asked to come in and fill out paperwork and to provide the retail replacement cost of the phone. The in subsidized new retail price was used and he was charged with a felony. All because he wanted to "look like money" walking around with a non-functioning Star Tac with a Mercedes logo on it.

Re:Why block them? (1)

MNNorske (2651341) | about 2 years ago | (#41835241)

Grand larceny is not necessarily based on the resale value of the item. It can also be based on the original purchase price of the item. If I purchased a brand new $600 non-contract cellphone I'm still out $600. I'm not out the $300 that someone else was able to sell the phone for. If on the other hand someone stole a painting from my house that I paid $5 for a garage sale and I later discovered it was an original Monet then that too could be considered grand larceny because the known current value of the item is higher. A good attorney could argue it both ways quite effectively.

Re:Why block them? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41835841)

Same AC. Insurance companies pay you based on the current selling price of the phone only. You might have paid twice or thrice the money, the dont care. I dont see how the valuation by the police dept (who usually get their prices from the insurance companies), would be any different.

Re:Why block them? (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 2 years ago | (#41835145)

1. The IMEI can be changed
2. Blocked phones can be exported.

Europe has a brisk trade in phones that are country-blocked, but will work anywhere else in the world.

leave no broke windows!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41835027)

Biggest cut on crimes in NY was whey they pursued small crimes which lead to people who committed larger crimes as well.

Get the guy that has one phone ($100) and most likely you took out a guy who robs more than one person a day (5 days times 3 phones) plus has other crimes on his account!

Re:Why block them? (1)

afidel (530433) | about 2 years ago | (#41834501)

Because the person who has the phone while it's on may not be the party that took it? Yeah you can try to pop them for receiving stolen property, but that requires proving intent which can be difficult and doesn't stop the theft from happening. Now if you take away the profit motive the theft is much less likely to occur.

Re:Why block them? (3, Interesting)

mrquagmire (2326560) | about 2 years ago | (#41834555)

Do you really think cops give two sh*ts about a stolen cell phone? Or stolen anything for that matter? Have you ever had anything stolen? Unless the thief literally falls into their laps, I guarantee they're not going to do anything about it.

Re:Why block them? (2)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#41834821)

Do you really think cops give two sh*ts about a stolen cell phone? Or stolen anything for that matter? Have you ever had anything stolen? Unless the thief literally falls into their laps, I guarantee they're not going to do anything about it.

It depends how wealthy the location is. Think of minor fender bender parking lot-style car accidents. I or my family members have had the following experiences in the last decade:

Very well off "law and order republicans" suburban area: Cop dispatched, takes pics and makes report onsite before we're allowed to leave. Pulls up with lights on but at least left the siren off. Take statement from both parties, breathalyzer both parties (even though both obviously 0.0%) etc.

So so literally borderline area: Cops demand both parties drive to station immediately. Like right now, or go directly to jail. Desk sgt took report. No on site investigation but they did put down the donut and walk into the station parking lot to take pix. Breathalyzer both parties, the other guy unsurprisingly was drunk.

Urban area: I called 911 they said bye bye, come down to the station and make a report if your insurance requires it within the next week. No injury and no accusation of drunkeness means the police are uninterested (This was Milwaukee WI I believe 3rd district?). Showed up 3 days later at the station in rental car, she took my story, I signed, they gave me a "case number" which I sent to insurance, absolutely nothing else was done.

I suspect a stolen cell phone report given bored suburban cops would result in SWAT dispatch, I know for a fact that in the "urban core" if no one is currently shooting or bleeding all they do is write speeding and parking tickets.

Re:Why block them? (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about 2 years ago | (#41835485)

Suburban law enforcement is a whole different creature from urban law enforcement. A friend threw a party in the Burbs years ago and a neighbor complained about the noise. Three cop cars showed up.

My GF managed a downtown chain store and cops could hardly be bothered to come pick up the shoplifters they caught. And, even if they did show up for them, they'd often be right back on the street and sometimes come BACK to the store within days to shoplift AGAIN!

38% of crime (3, Interesting)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 2 years ago | (#41834365)

What I don't understand is why that much crime is going uninvestigated. Why aren't there dedicated law enforcement units working in major metropolitan areas to recover these phones? In most jurisdictions, they are valuable enough to qualify the theft as grand larceny. What's more, each cell phone has a built-in tracking device accurate to within a few meters, and have microphones and cameras built in! These aren't exactly difficult crimes to solve.

Re:38% of crime (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41834415)

they dont say 38% of unsolved crimes. Just cause a crap load of them are stolen doesnt meen the theifs arnt caught.

Re:38% of crime (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41834521)

There is generally a lack of funds allocated to law enforcement. So, in order to create this dedicated task force, law enforcement would need to take money from another division (such as murder investigations & street patrols).

Re:38% of crime (2)

Lumpy (12016) | about 2 years ago | (#41834983)

Thy already took the resources from those for Copyright infringement enforcement.

Re:38% of crime (1)

tiberus (258517) | about 2 years ago | (#41834605)

What I don't understand is why that much crime is going uninvestigated.

It would depend on your definition of investigated for one, if the cops know about it, there is at least a record/report and the cop asked you some questions...

The other issue, it that most cell phone thefts are likely considered petty theft (which is why the theft of my iPods will never be investigated) and they are not likely to dust for fingerprints or do other than take a report and update their stats for a petty theft.

Re:38% of crime (4, Informative)

Psyborgue (699890) | about 2 years ago | (#41834657)

They are. It takes time to catch the small fish and work your way all the way to the top. A huge cell phone theft ring was broken up in the DC area last year. YMMV but some police jurisdictions are actually trying to combat this.

Should have done so a while ago. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41834369)

They already blacklist imei but it's only on a per carrier basis which is obviously easy to get around simply by using a different carrier with the blacklisted phone. Having a global blacklist database is definitely a great improvement. The only two question is, will phone re-sellers also use the blacklist (like many prepaid companies that rely on the major companies network) and when can we have a global database to prevent sales to out of the country as well.

Re:Should have done so a while ago. (0)

Amouth (879122) | about 2 years ago | (#41834739)

The blacklist/database is at the infrastructural level, it uses the MEID or ESN which is cell radio equivalent to a mac address except that it is truly global (zero collisions). The rest of the world already is using this, its good to see the US come into play on it.

But the basics of it is that if a phone is added to the list it can not register it's self on a carrier network to receive service, meaning that the phone no longer functions as a phone which should drop the usefulness of a stolen phone to near nothing and curb the crime rate for it.

So it begins.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41834381)

While this will cut down on phone theft, I suspect it'll also lead to a lot of 'errors' such as 'oh you changed the subscriber information attached to this phone, so we went ahead and marked it stolen...no we won't take it off the stolen list but i'll transfer you to sales so you can purchase a new one.' or 'someone called and reported your phone stolen so we bricked it, you're welcome to come in and buy a new one though.' or even 'we no longer sell your phone so we bricked it, you're welcome to come in and buy a new one though.'

Re:So it begins.. (3, Interesting)

lederhosen (612610) | about 2 years ago | (#41834505)

In Sweden you need to report the phone stolen to the police before blacklisting it. Works like a charm. No problems what so ever.

Re:So it begins.. (0)

raind (174356) | about 2 years ago | (#41835007)

Sweden Rocks.

Re:So it begins.. (1)

GuldKalle (1065310) | about 2 years ago | (#41834973)

Except carriers typically subsidize a phone, so selling you a phone costs them money. They'd be much happier if you just keep using your old phone or buy second-hand phones.

Now all a robber has to do is? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41834385)

steal the phone and kill the person with the phone, to have a good chance that the phone will not be reported as stolen.

Also it impacts the used phone market, since you can't be sure that the phone is stolen or not. Unless there is a easy way to match phone with owner, you can never be sure that the used phone you bought today wasn't stolen yesterday and is on the row to be blocked.

Re:Now all a robber has to do is? (1)

s0nicfreak (615390) | about 2 years ago | (#41834621)

I'm pretty the family of the deceased will report it as stolen. Also just because a phone is blocked doesn't mean it can't be tracked; you'd be giving the police a good track to follow from your murder, even if you sold the phone quickly.

Re:Now all a robber has to do is? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41834661)

If you're buying a used phone you didn't know that it wasn't stolen before, nothing has changed, except that you might not be able to use your stolen phone.

Re:Now all a robber has to do is? (2)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#41834673)

you can never be sure that the used phone you bought today wasn't stolen yesterday and is on the row to be blocked.

Well this has a simple enough protocol. Ask for the IMEI, meet ya second thing tomorrow to make the trade, first thing tomorrow type in the IMEI and see if its stolen, if it is, don't meet.

Re:Now all a robber has to do is? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41834963)

It means that people getting stupid high $$$ for used phones will drop to legitimate prices. you paid $99.00 for that iphone 4, you dont get to sell it for $250. $45.00 is a reasonable price for my risk.

IMEI blacklist (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41834395)

Wait, isn't this the database for blacklisted IMEI's which supposedly is international?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Mobile_Equipment_Identity

Re:IMEI blacklist (4, Informative)

Andy Dodd (701) | about 2 years ago | (#41834859)

The US didn't start using this blacklist until a few months ago.

I'm not sure why TFA says "Wednesday" - over on XDA, people with corrupt IMEIs started complaining 2-3 months ago.

(On Samsung devices, if the EFS partition gets corrupted, it'll be regenerated with a "test IMEI", which all European carriers block but US carriers allowed until recently. The test IMEI is blacklisted. Some shady characters were intentionally corrupting TO the test IMEI to prevent AT&T from detecting their device as a smartphone and all started whining when their hack caused their device to be 100% blocked as stolen.)

Re:IMEI blacklist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41834875)

Sure. And so far no telecom operator implemented that for real, simply because it is contrary to their own interests. They don't care who is using any stolen phone, as long is it is being used and that usage bill is being paid.

What's new is that nowadays many a phone costs several hundred $$, as opposed to a few tens of $. This caused authorities to start pressurizing the operators.

How are mistakes handled? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41834403)

What happens if someone's phone gets improperly added because someone mistakenly (or maliciously) enters the wrong number?

Wrong: IMEIs are no longer unique (4, Informative)

stephanruby (542433) | about 2 years ago | (#41834547)

The new database blocks the IMEI number, a unique identification number in the cellphone akin to a VIN (vehicle identification number) in a car. The ID number remains with the cellphone no matter what SIM card is used.

10% of IMEI numbers are not unique [bbc.co.uk] according to British Telecom. That being said in the UK at least, if your phone gets blocked by accident, there is a procedure to get it unblocked - so all is not lost for you.

Linked article is 10 years old. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41834879)

Not a good source if you're talking about modern cell phone systems.

Re:Linked article is 10 years old. (1)

stephanruby (542433) | about 2 years ago | (#41835813)

You're right. Here is a document [gsma.com] dating back from July 2011 (the emphasis in bold is mine).

GSMA has launched an initiative to fight mobile theft, and has worked on IMEI security best
practice. GSMA and DIGITAL EUROPE members drafted and approved 2 common
documents:

Technical Principles: intended to strengthen the security of the International Mobile
Equipment Identity (IMEI)
* GSMA Doc Reference: Security Principles Related to Handset Theft 3.0.0
* DIGITAL EUROPE CCIG Doc Reference: DIGITAL EUROPE Doc: 04cc100

Process in place: GSMA and DIGITAL EUROPE have agreed on a process to report alleged
breaches of IMEI integrity and on the introduction of counter-measures to correct and
improve IMEI security.

* GSMA Doc Reference: IMEI Weakness and Correction Process 3.0.0
* DIGITAL EUROPE CCIG Doc Reference: DIGITAL EUROPE Doc: 04cc101

Apparently to the drafters of that document, IMEI integrity and security (whatever that means to them) is something that must be constantly monitored and maintained. And while this does not prove my original point.

As a mobile software developer, until I know what those "counter-measures" are supposed to be in the first place, I'm just going to assume that what was true 10 years ago can still be true today, and I can not completely rely on an IMEI being completely unique. So whatever software I build that takes this assumption to heart, I'll have to leave a process in place to manually override my system if that that particular edge case ever comes up.

My Name is Rob Malda... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41834563)

... and I'd like to report my cell phone stolen.

iPods Next (1)

tiberus (258517) | about 2 years ago | (#41834633)

This is great and has been too long in coming, I'd guess most of the challenges were administrative vs. technical.

What's next? How about iPods?

Wonder how long till the Carriers abuse this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41834647)

Wonder how long till the Carriers use this when someone cancels their contract. Block that phone from being used with the competition and making the user buy another device..

Re:Wonder how long till the Carriers abuse this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41834743)

Why on earth would the carriers do this? They subsidize the cost of phones, and profit the most when users sign onto contracts with existing used phones.

Phone manufactures stand to profit from selling more phones, but sure as heck not carriers.

Good god why is this even a problem? (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 2 years ago | (#41834721)

Wtf, this wasn't done already? Phones have unique IDs, stolen ones should be tracked down and owners jailed.

If IDs are changed there will be collisions or IDs that don't exist or haven't been released from some pool yet. Somebody pays by CC, track that way. If by generic CC or time card, shut the damned phone off, tough.

God help the man... (1)

MetalliQaZ (539913) | about 2 years ago | (#41834895)

... whose phone gets on this list by accident. Suddenly a good customer becomes a dirty criminal. I'm sure there will be no way to rectify the mistake.

Still not enough. (2)

Lumpy (12016) | about 2 years ago | (#41834931)

Both android and iphone have the ability to be "rendered useless" by the OS maker. let me be able to set a "stolen flag" that locks the phone in a states that says "STOLEN PROPERTY CALL 1-800-XXX-XXXX to report and return" that cant be easily bypassed. I.E. restoring the iphone will not disable it, etc... this will make the street value of any stolen smartphone $0.00 instantly. THAT will fix the problem and apple could put that in place with a trivial amount of coding as they already have "find my iphone" as a part of the OS. Android on the other hand will take some work as it lacks that feature.

The phone OS makers refuse to put a simple system like this in place because stolen phones make them money.

Codeweavers Crossover Direct Downloads 10/31/2012 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41834975)

Codeweavers Crossover Direct Downloads 10/31/2012

64 bit Debian / Ubuntu
http://media.codeweavers.com/pub/crossover/cxlinux/demo/ia32-crossover_11.3.1-1_amd64.deb [codeweavers.com]

32 bit Debian / Ubuntu
http://media.codeweavers.com/pub/crossover/cxlinux/demo/crossover_11.3.1-1_i386.deb [codeweavers.com]

32 or 64 bit Red Hat (Fedora, SUSE, Mandriva)
http://media.codeweavers.com/pub/crossover/cxlinux/demo/crossover-11.3.1-1.i386.rpm [codeweavers.com]

Installer for all other Linux distributions
http://media.codeweavers.com/pub/crossover/cxlinux/demo/install-crossover-11.3.1.bin [codeweavers.com]

Used Phones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41835031)

So when does the public get access to this database so that we can buy used phones without fear that they're stolen? There's no reason not to unless you want to kill the re-use of cell phones.

a start but (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41835077)

those phones will be sold in bulk to dealers on another continent

Another government mandate? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41835137)

It'll never work, it'll just be picking winners and losers, as well as encouraging a culture of dependency.

Why not let the free market come up with a solution??

Misread the title (1)

neminem (561346) | about 2 years ago | (#41835481)

Thought someone had stolen some "cellphone databases", whatever those were, and had just gotten around to switching on the databases they'd stolen. Clicked because I was curious what a "cellphone database" was.

If you buy a phone on eBay (or elsewhere) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41835699)

Get a copy of the original bill-of-sale and a receipt for your transaction.

More Stupidity from Stupid Lawmakers (1)

Powercntrl (458442) | about 2 years ago | (#41835871)

A stolen phone database sounds great, doesn't it? Just like how Trusted Computing saved us from malware and viruses and the big content providers would never dream of using such a system against end-users. Oh, right.

Here's what's wrong with this system, in a nutshell...

It does nothing to prevent theft. Fun fact: two carriers in the US already blacklisted stolen phones prior to this database, Sprint and Verizon. Hear much about thieves asking first if you're a Sprint or Verizon customer before they mug you for your phone? Neither have I. eBay is full of phones that are listed as carrier blocked or bad ESN and people still buy them. Let's not forget Craigslist, where it's pretty easy to scam people into buying useless phones (Oh, you wanted to test your SIM? Sorry, I forgot to charge the battery. Better buy this phone quick, I've had three other people interested in it!) Finally, regardless of whether or not a phone can be easily re-sold, it still has value as parts (especially with today's easily breakable huge screens). This database doesn't make stolen phones worthless, it only makes them slightly less valuable - which may actually lead to increased levels of theft.

Wireless companies will use this system to blacklist phones with unpaid balances. Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile already do this. Now, keep in mind the wireless companies still send you to collections and ruin your credit report, but that's apparently not enough. Naturally, none of the wireless companies in the US make it clear that they have these policies, so plenty of these phones still end up on the used market. You don't have to ask around much to find someone who has a horror story about purchasing an unusable second-hand cell phone, because the previous owner never paid their final bill.

So, now you've got a situation where it's a gamble to buy a used phone. Thankfully, the carriers are your knights in shining armor - they're coming to your rescue with two-year-contract subsidized handsets and full price prepaid handsets. Why would you ever want a used phone anyway, citizen? Don't you know someone had their dirty, disgusting fingers all over it?

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