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Handhelds Crime

It's Time To Start Taking Stolen Phones Seriously 282

Posted by samzenpus
from the something-worth-stealing dept.
itwbennett writes "'Find My iPhone' is neat, but it's time for smartphone makers and carriers to stop pretending their anti-theft measures are anything more than minimum viable products, says blogger Kevin Purdy. He's not the first to point this out: As reported in Slashdot, 'NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg said overall crime in New York City was up 3.3% in 2012 due to iPhone, iPad and other Apple device thefts.' And now San Francisco and New York attorneys general are calling a 'Smartphone Summit' where representatives from Apple, Google, Samsung, and Microsoft are due to meet and discuss the implementation of a industry-wide 'kill switch' system."
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It's Time To Start Taking Stolen Phones Seriously

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  • But, But... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 06, 2013 @10:09PM (#43932135)

    When a phone is stolen, another phone gets purchased. Reducing phone thefts will cut into new phone sales!

    • by MightyYar (622222)

      When a phone is stolen, another phone gets purchased.

      No, the same phone gets pawned off for a much lower price.

    • Re:But, But... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by calzones (890942) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @10:42PM (#43932365)

      I keep seeing this line of reasoning on the matter here on /.

      Honestly, it's pretty fucking vapid. The marginal revenue companies get from people buying replacements for stolen products is simply not a viable business model. They may prefer not to spend money dealing with a problem they see as the consumer's and not theirs, but to ascribe some insidious plot on their part to make extra money off of people who get their stuff stolen... it's inane.

      • Re:But, But... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by justthinkit (954982) <floyd@just-think-it.com> on Thursday June 06, 2013 @11:06PM (#43932515) Homepage Journal
        $Phonemaker does nothing, tons of phones get stolen, $Phonemaker makes tons of replacement phones (i.e. tons of money).
        .

        Or

        $Phonemaker makes a used phone useless, no phones get stolen and $Phonemaker loses tons of money in lost replacement phone revenue.

        Can you explain how each phone stolen is "marginal", as opposed to 100%, gain? Basically, if they do nothing they find money for zero work. This model dictates exactly what they should do -- absolutely nothing. No wonder they are having a big pow-wow about it. Might need to have annual meetings even.

        • Re: But, But... (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Instead of buying a stolen phone someone then has to buy a new phone.

        • by xmark (177899) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @11:34PM (#43932655)

          Yes, the phonemaker gets more revenue. However, the money used to fund those replacements comes from an increased levy on all phone purchasers who have coverage. So everyone with coverage pays more for phones. The extra money that everyone pays for phones means less money spent on all other possible purchases. So Apple's revenue increase is Krogers' or Target's or Shell's decrease.

          We usually disregard widely-distributed costs and look at local effects. This is especially true of politicians. But those effects are real and directly affect the aggregate economy numbers.

          • by sjames (1099)

            Sure, globally that is true, except that Apple will gladly accept an additional $1m even if it costs Kroger $2m, because they don't really care if Kroger makes money or not.

        • Re:But, But... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by rogueippacket (1977626) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @11:34PM (#43932657)
          Just think it through. Ha ha ha...
          No but seriously, there is no guarantee that a user who has their phone stolen will buy that same phone again. So it's already not 100% gain, they may go to a competitor or buy a refurbished phone from their carrier. Next, assuming they do buy a replacement from you, there is also no guarantee they will buy the same model. They may buy a cheaper one which has lower margins, as many people do when they feel they were targeted as a result of owning the hottest model or simply cannot pay off their subsidy right away.
          Okay, so as a result of this theft, you may wind up selling another phone and make a few bucks - but there are no guarantees whatsoever, and this means you cannot plan around illegal activity when building your financial models. This was the point made above, the returns are simply too small and too unreliable to factor into the models when compared to something like adding new features or running a series of marketing campaigns.
          To coin a car analogy, it would be like Audi saying "Our cars are stolen the most, so we can expect greater revenues as a result" - would you buy an Audi knowing that? Or would you buy a phone from the first manufacturer who allows your car to be killed when it is stolen?
          • You can plan around them getting another phone from you, because they are on a three year contract. And they will probably buy the same phone (they know it) or upgrade. So it really is free money. It would be easy to stop, every phone has a serial number. Just have a list of stolen phones and don't let them be used.
        • Basically, if they do nothing they find money for zero work

          You seem to forget there's one more phone available, likely at a reduced price. That's not to say every stolen phone ends up being sold, but many are. So $Phonemaker doesn't end up with the money in that case.

          • by sjames (1099)

            It's the perfect way for them to get another sale even from a 'customer' who can't or won't pay for it.

            A buys 1 phone. B can't afford a phone so he buys 0 phones. B steals A's phone. A buys another phone. They have now sold 2 phones where in a theft free world they would have sold 1.

        • by tsotha (720379)

          $Phonemaker does nothing, tons of phones get stolen, $Phonemaker makes tons of replacement phones (i.e. tons of money).

          Only if you assume the stolen phone never makes it back onto the market. Otherwise when a customer buys a stolen phone the phone maker loses a sale. It's a wash.

      • Re:But, But... (Score:5, Informative)

        by bferrell (253291) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @11:17PM (#43932571) Homepage Journal

        It's not buying a new phone that is the business model.

        1.) The device is stolen
        2.) New device obtained. (some $$)
        3.) Old device is activated by someone new (recurring new $$. Here is the money for the carrier)

        Now, many many years ago, I was a cellular switching site manager (before we had the giant carrier we have now). When I learn how cellular worked, it was explicitly state the the devices had a thing called an ESN (electronic Serial Number). This was for activating the device AND stolen devices were SUPPOSED to go into a shared database that would be checked to assure stolen devices were not activated. The marketing manager was livid that such a thing could exist. Needless to say it's pretty obvious today how that worked out. There is no shared database of stolen devices in the US (North America?). There is in Europe.

        'nuff said

        • by irving47 (73147)

          You're dead-on close... I used to work for a couple of resellers and it made me mad we didn't have databases at all when I knew as well as you what the ESN's and IMEI's could be used for in this regard.
          We do have stolen device databases now... I believe they're still carrier specific at the moment, but they were to be combined this year or next, I think. Yeah, a marketing manager like that doesn't surprise me at all. Too bad the carriers wouldn't come up with that on their own, but hey, money is money.

          • by irving47 (73147)

            Forgot to mention the reason we suddenly got the databases... They were "voluntarily" created by the companies a few weeks (or was it days) they got called in front of congress wondering about what could be done...

      • look, stealing is nothing different than a form of planned obsolescence.
        every business school teaches planned obsolescence and how to use it to maximize profit.

        now, lets imagine that you have a product where there is lower planned obsolescence. is that good or bad for your profit? thats right, its bad.

        now lets imagine a product that gets stolen a lot vs one that doesnt. which one is more like planned obsolescence? Thats right. the stolen product. its good for profits.

        a corporation that is interested in maki

        • by Cenan (1892902)

          a corporation that is interested in making a profit is actually practicing mismanagement when it implements a high quality anti-theft system.

          Interested in maximizing their profit. There is such a thing as corporate social responsibility [wikipedia.org], and anti-theft measures do no exclude thinking of the bottom line.

      • The marginal revenue companies get from people buying replacements for stolen products is simply not a viable business model.

        But the revenue from the insurance plans is huge! You pay $7 a month or something for the "privilege" of paying a $150 deductible for a refurb model that cost them $75 in case you lose your phone.

        If people didn't fear phone theft, then many fewer people would buy the insurance.

  • Are you serious? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by OhANameWhatName (2688401) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @10:10PM (#43932143)

    industry-wide 'kill switch' system

    It's really for stolen phones .. just like the kill switch for the internet was for emergency purposes. This has nothing whatsoever to do with cutting off people's means of communicating effectively with each other.

    • Re:Are you serious? (Score:5, Informative)

      by sjwt (161428) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @10:49PM (#43932399)

      LOL your so funny, cause if the Government wanted to or the phone provider wanted to they couldn't cut of your phone access any other way?

      People don't get mugged for phones much out here in Australia, all you have to do is report the phone stolen and its blacklisted.. Not even doggy pawn shops take a phone without checking that. You would be left selling on ebay, even then the buyer would just file through Paypal to get their cash back.

      • LOL your so funny, cause if the Government wanted to or the phone provider wanted to they couldn't cut of your phone access any other way?

        Yeah, lol, so funny... the government doesn't want or need a bunch of different ways to cut off or monitor your access to communications networks. They just need to cut the telegraph wire and they'll be all set. Oh, did I mention it's not the government that is pushing for a kill switch, but the citizens who are sick of watching several hundred dollar devices get stolen and law enforcement's lack of action even when the owner can point to a spot on the map and say the device is within a few feet of the glow

        • by BitZtream (692029)

          And you fail at reading comprehension where he says ...

          THAT THE AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT DOES EXACTLY WHAT THE PEOPLE WANT THE KILL SWITCH FOR.

          Really, rather than 'mentioning' something, you should read what you're replying to.

      • by mark-t (151149)

        People don't get mugged for phones much out here in Australia, all you have to do is report the phone stolen and its blacklisted.

        What's to stop somebody from reporting *YOUR* phone as stolen to inconvenience you?

        Yes, there are people in the world that are demented enough that doing something like that would be enjoyable.... all they'd need to know is your phone number.

        • by rat7307 (218353)

          ...and account details.... and password.... and a few other items of identification....

          Not quite as simple as knowing the phone number.

          But don't let that get in the way of your hyperbole.

        • by Dahamma (304068)

          That's already completely possible and is no different from how the carrier ALREADY disables the phone on your account when you report it stolen. The only difference is the phone will remain blacklisted until you report that it wasn't in fact stolen.

          And of course as someone else already stated they don't just need to know your phone number, since as I stated the phone company already has to deal with this issue and of course requires at least some form of account authentication.

    • by MrDoh! (71235)
      Why cut off a phone? Why not let the police use these amazing features the phones have to basically ring the cops and direct them to the thief? Boom, you get the phone back, and catch a thief (or someone receiving stolen goods, that lets you then investigate them/find the person who sold them the phone). Rather than fix the symptom of the stolen phone, why not go just that bit further to stop crime and catch the bad guys? Would anyone A) steal a phone knowing they'll be caught B) buy a cheap stolen phone k
      • by Dahamma (304068) on Friday June 07, 2013 @02:09AM (#43933211)

        Because there are so many phones stolen and so many more serious crimes to investigate that the police don't give a crap about your stolen cell phone. You must not have ever had one stolen, because almost anyone who has (myself included) can confirm this complete lack of interest ;)

        If the police cared, the technology is already there to catch many phone thieves. But everyone knows they won't bother. It's much easier (and nearly free) just to make the phone a brick to discourage it in the first place than spend MANY thousands of dollars of taxpayer money on investigation, arrest, booking, court hearing/trial, and imprisonment for a $500 piece of electronics.

        • by MrDoh! (71235)
          Yeah, kinda knew the answer before I asked it. So the cops don't care, but rather than make them care, we're getting legislation so more phones are sold. I'd be curious on the procedure too, IF the phone's ever recovered, if the phone can easily be reactivated again.
        • Why would they "spend MANY thousands of dollars of taxpayer money on investigation, arrest, booking, court hearing/trial, and imprisonment for a $500 piece of electronics" when they could spend MANY thousands of dollars of taxpayer money on investigation, arrest, booking, court hearing/trial, and imprisonment for a $10 bag of weed?

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        Why cut off a phone? Why not let the police use these amazing features the phones have to basically ring the cops and direct them to the thief?
        Boom, you get the phone back, and catch a thief (or someone receiving stolen goods, that lets you then investigate them/find the person who sold them the phone).

        Rather than fix the symptom of the stolen phone, why not go just that bit further to stop crime and catch the bad guys?
        Would anyone A) steal a phone knowing they'll be caught B) buy a cheap stolen phone knowing they'll be caught?

        because the cops don't give a shit. they're too busy with the war on drugs to deal with criminals who are the criminal portion of the drugs business.

    • industry-wide 'kill switch' system

      It's really for stolen phones .. just like the kill switch for the internet was for emergency purposes. This has nothing whatsoever to do with cutting off people's means of communicating effectively with each other.

      Paranoia is fun, and often highly predictive; but only if you keep things architecturally realistic:

      Does 'the man' want control over your communications, especially if they get caught with their pants down as in the London riots incident a while back? Sure, that's plausible enough.

      Is there any reason why he would want a client-side kill switch to achieve this objective? That's a lot less convincing. A cellphone is worth approximately fuck-all without its network. Voila! control over communications is alread

    • by Tom (822)

      No, it doesn't, because you can already do that. Remember, you are on the carriers network? He can deny service to you at any time, and he will if, for example, you didn't pay the bill.

      If I'm the NSA and want to get you shut down, all I need is your name, address, birth date or whatever the carrier uses to identify you, and a nice letter to the carrier who'll roll over anyways.

    • by Nanoda (591299) on Friday June 07, 2013 @01:16AM (#43933053)

      It's really for stolen phones .. just like the kill switch for the internet was for emergency purposes. This has nothing whatsoever to do with cutting off people's means of communicating effectively with each other.

      Don't be asinine. Your cellphone can already be tracked, tapped, disabled, folded, spindled and mutilated. What this is about is centralising and sharing information about stolen phones so that the utility of stolen phones diminishes to the point that you walking around with an iPhone doesn't look like an easy 200$ target to ne'er-do-wells.

    • by Dahamma (304068)

      Come on, seriously, modded interesting? Obviously the provider can already cut off an individual's service at will if they want to, that was never the issue. This is about disabling a stolen phone so it can't be added to a new service.

    • if the killswitch is built into the os then you can't replace the os(or the killswitch is no good). then you need also a system for transferring rights on who has access to the switch.

      besides.

      now here's an important bit..
      there is ALREADY a banlist for stolen phones! it blocks by phone imei.

      the iphones are valuable as parts, so even that does nothing to curb stealing them. now if there wasn't a market for iphone parts...

    • Yes, San Francisco would love an industry-wide cell phone kill-switch.

      The next time, there is Bart cop shooting a person in the back while that person he's laying face-down [youtube.com] on the floor, witnesses won't be able to upload the video on youtube before their phone gets confiscated.

      Also, think of the ramifications the next time there is a mass protest. It would be great if you could kill cell phones from thousands protesters, all from only one switch. [wired.com] That would be a Mayor's wet dream!

  • by waddgodd (34934) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @10:12PM (#43932163) Homepage Journal

    The NSA is listening in on everything anyways, why aren't they arresting phone thieves when they use the phones?

    • by PPH (736903)

      Because the phone thieves aren't using them. They're selling them.

      • by waddgodd (34934)

        You're not paying attention to all the "how I got my phone back" stories, are you? A substantial portion of phone thieves ARE using them, at least until they run out of minutes, that's how many of the "I got my phone back" stories work, the thief uses the phone to take a pic or something, it dutifully uploads the pic to their tumblr or whatever, then the victim does some rudimentary geolocation of the pic, and calls the po-po

    • by Luckyo (1726890)

      Way below pay grade. You're asking why police isn't kicking doors down with guns every time a a couple gets into a shouting match.

      • by c0lo (1497653)
        Simple: declare the thieves as terrorists and have NSA sorting them out. How expensive (in terms of lobby) can this be for Bloomberg?
        • by Luckyo (1726890)

          Likely extremely. Terrorists need to be "legendary" in concept that they are rare enough so that most people have never known one. They need to remain elusive, scary, and potentially everywhere but not really seen. The big part of fear factor comes from the fact that few if any citizens ever came face to face with one, so fear of the unknown remains a healthy factor.

  • by technomom (444378) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @10:12PM (#43932169)

    The best best for Android is Cerberus. Seriously, it does everything that "Find my iPhone" does plus a few things it will never do. It's free today through AppGratis http://www.droid-life.com/2013/06/06/deal-cerberus-lifetime-license-is-free-today-from-appgratis/ [droid-life.com]

    If you happen to have a rooted phone, there's even a ROM version which will survive a Factory Reset.

    • by pruss (246395) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @10:58PM (#43932465) Homepage

      This may be rather good, but I've felt rather uncomfortable with closed source apps that are track a phone or wipe data, and especially ones that can survive a hard reset, so I spent a few hours and rolled together a super-simple, no-UI app (passwords are hardcoded into the source, so I am distributing this source-only: https://code.google.com/p/roottracker/ [google.com] ) that does basic phone tracking and wiping via SMS. I tried to make the source simple enough that one can easily verify the lack of backdoors.

    • by ikaruga (2725453)
      Cerberus alongside Airdroid should be Android default apps.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      What makes Cerberus better than Prey? Someone else commented concern for a closed-source tool, whereas Prey is completely open source AFAIK. They both seem to do the same thing, just one has better marketing apparently.

  • The solution can only be good if provider are the one who are force to fix the issue. You need to realize provider will allow stolen phone on their network until they are force no do to so. The main reason that explain this is that they already lost the phone, if they don't reactivate it to the person who bought it on the street/pawn shop/craigslist, the profit that could be made on this phone is lost forever...
  • by anthony_greer (2623521) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @10:18PM (#43932195)

    They will know exactly where that bad boy is and who the theif is calling...

  • Blame game (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 06, 2013 @10:19PM (#43932207)

    NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg said overall crime in New York City was up 3.3% in 2012 due to iPhone, iPad and other Apple device thefts

    It's Apple's fault that NYC is a crime ridden shit hole. If these disgusting companies would stop making products that people actually want New Yorkers wouldn't have to resort to robbing each other! Why can't Apple and Google be more like Microsoft!

    • by clarkkent09 (1104833) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @11:46PM (#43932717)

      We are talking about Bloomberg here, the guy who blames large cups for obesity.

      • We are talking about Bloomberg here, the guy who blames large cups for obesity.

        It is standard dieting advice to limit portion sizes. I know there was one study that suggested that maybe that's not always true, but that one study could easily have been poorly designed, it seems like so many are nowadays.

        I think the problem people have with his proposal is he didn't sell it. He should have have said that any place which sells soda by the cup but won't sell them larger than 16oz or whatever his target size was, would have a half-rate tax on all their soda fountain sales.

      • by Tom (822)

        And he would be right that they at least contribute to the problem, as studies have shown. So your point is?

      • by SeaFox (739806)

        We are talking about Bloomberg here, the guy who blames large cups for obesity.

        Large cups don't cause obesity.
        People hoarding large cups for their own personal use is what causes obesity.

        We all know two girls can easily share one cup.

    • by afidel (530433)

      Yes, it's such [cityrating.com] a crime ridden shithole... I'm not really a fan of NYC (I like to visit every once in a while but I could never imagine living there) but really, it hasn't been crime ridden since the 1980's.

  • Blacklist IMEI? (Score:5, Informative)

    by pauljlucas (529435) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @10:21PM (#43932223) Homepage Journal
    Why can't they just blacklist the phone's IMEI [wikipedia.org]?
    • Re:Blacklist IMEI? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MavEtJu (241979) <slashdot@mave[ ].org ['tju' in gap]> on Thursday June 06, 2013 @10:30PM (#43932287) Homepage

      They said that in the article: It gets sold to a carrier which is not querying the US version of the Stolen Phone database.

      We need something like DNS but then for IMEI numbers. .imei :-)

      • Get every carrier to whitelist IMEIs rather than blacklist.
        • by tlhIngan (30335)

          Get every carrier to whitelist IMEIs rather than blacklist.

          Yeah, do you REALLY want to give this to the carriers?

          After all, if they detect a phone you didn't buy from them, or that you're off contract, they could keep removing your IMEI from the list and denying you service. Sure you can call them and they'll probably reinstate it, then it'll mysteriously revert itself a few months later.

          Switch, and that IMEI will be deactivated permanently. Get on a contract and it'll work normally again.

      • by adolf (21054)

        Like DNS?

        It seems to me that this is a wonderful application for DNS as it stands.

        I mean, what do we need in an IMEI blacklist? Something simple, hierarchical, efficiently cached, distributed, low-bandwidth? Oh, yeah: DNS does that already.

        Of course this implies that the database is accessible by the public...but I don't see any harm in that.

    • by fermion (181285)
      As I am sure has been mentioned, there are two steps here. First, many malls have kiosks that are set up specifically to receive stolen phones(called recyclers). You go to the mall, leave you phone unattended for a second, it gets taken and 2 minutes late it is converted to cash. There a countermeasure to minimize stolen phones, but these are easily countermanded. So unless one immediately reports a phone stolen, and the system updates in minutes, the incentive to steal is not reduced.

      Second the phones

  • by GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @10:26PM (#43932267)
    The phone is bait. It should commonly lead you to criminals who have done other illegal things. A super hero who retrieves phones just so he can honeypot get to the criminals would be legit. All he'd need to do is use GPS, then call the phone when he's in range and have a conversation with his prey before closing the distance and kicking tail.

    I understand why real cops wouldn't want to retrieve phones. It would be easy to spot, but they would be encountering possibly violent criminals more often. No one wants to die even if they're doing their job more effectively.
    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      I understand why real cops wouldn't want to retrieve phones. It would be easy to spot,

      GPS can only really get you an address. It just isn't all that precise
      So how do you search a 20 story apartment building for a stolen phone, without any specialized equipment?

      [spoiler alert]You can't and don't[/spoiler]

      • walk down the hallways with a short range directional microcell, and watch for the phone. Basic RDF tech, circa 1935 using a computer (so you can get a patent).
    • Police should try and catch the thief and return the phone to it's owner. GPS won't work, unless the thief has switched it on. Cell tower information would probably be sufficient enough to get near the thief. If word gets out that teams of cops are actually on full-time phone retrieval duty, thieves are going to be a lot more cautious about stealing phones. The reason this happens so much is that the chance the thieves get caught is way too low.

      Blocking the IMEI means the thieves will change the IMEI on th

  • Bad Idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pitchpipe (708843) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @10:54PM (#43932433)

    ... Apple, Google, Samsung, and Microsoft are due to meet and discuss the implementation of a industry-wide 'kill switch' system."

    Soon to be highjacked by the job-creating content industry.

    Oops, sorry, looks like you'd better stop pirating Mickey Mouse from 75 years ago if you want to make that emergency call!

  • by Nichotin (794369) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @10:56PM (#43932447)
    I am from a country where all the operators adhere to the CEIR blacklists. Phones are blocked by IMEI, and it is not necessarily trivial to change the IMEI on modern phones. The problem is that most users who have their phone stolen do not bother (or know how) to blacklist. Just reporting the phone stolen does not automatically blacklist it, one has to fill out a separate form for that. If something was done so that close to all stolen phones are blacklisted, stealing a phone would immediately become a lot less lucrative. At least from my experience in Norway, phones are stolen to resell locally or for the thief to use. Effective blacklisting would make sure that stealing a phone would only be feasible for anyone who would send them to a country where blacklists are not enforced, or someoene with the equipment and knowhow on changing IMEIs. This would pretty much rule out petty thiefs.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      This would pretty much rule out petty thiefs.

      It's more that it would require specialized fences, who would be easy to track due to the nature of cellphones, and the nature of the criminals who bring in the phones...

  • by wisnoskij (1206448) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @11:02PM (#43932501) Homepage

    If you wallet is stolen, you don't expect to get any cash in in back. If your watch in stolen, or your TV, you should not expect to see either again.
    And if your phone is stolen, like every other object on the planet, you most likely will not see it again.

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      Unlike watches, TVs, or wallets, phones contain technology that should make it trivial to either retrieve the device or reduce its resale value to near-zero by rendering it inoperative. The former reduces the victim's burden and the latter reduces the thief's incentive.

  • I hope that their bold plan merely involves IMEI blacklisting(though, if so, why are they inviting handset makers, rather than bitching at the telcos?); but if the demand is being made at the handset vendors, I get a sinking feeling that it might involve some sort of client-side software that is designed to be impossible to remove/circumvent. I'm sure that the vendors would implement that in way totally unproblematic for people who want to root/jailbreak/run custom ROMs...

  • When a phone is reported lost or stolen the MEID and the SIM card # are added to a list and cannot be used on the VZW network. Often though the first thing a

    competent thief will due is turn the phone off preventing any GPS locating software to track the phone. The phone will either be sold to a person who does not

    check the MEID # (and when they try and do an ESN change will be told the phone is on the lost stolen list and to please take the phone into a VZW Corp. store.)

    Or they take the phone someplace like

  • 2 things (Score:4, Funny)

    by Osgeld (1900440) on Friday June 07, 2013 @12:06AM (#43932793)

    I own a microsoft powered phone, no one wants it

    What happens when "hackers" get hold of this kill switch?

  • by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Friday June 07, 2013 @12:37AM (#43932911)
    Absolute Software has been in the business of tracking and recovering stolen computers for years. They've recovered nearly 29,000 stolen computers, and they've just expanded to phones - Samsung has just integrated their technology in the firmware level on the S4, with other devices coming soon. Their tracking agent will survive a phone reset and their forensic tools (deployed post-theft) mean that they can actually catch the guy that knocked you over the head and stole your phone.

    http://www.zdnet.com/new-lojack-solution-for-galaxy-s4-makes-theft-meaningless-7000016433/ [zdnet.com]

    Unlike a software solution only, the Absolute Software LoJack system is both a hardware and software solution. Starting with the Samsung Galaxy S4, Absolute's persistence technology is built into the firmware of the S4 and cannot be removed, even if the device is restored to factory settings.

    The Galaxy S4 has the technology built in now, but the necessary Absolute software solution is not yet available. When it is available, you will be able to remotely lock your device, locate it, erase the data from the device and storage card, or have the Absolute Investigation and Recovery Services Team attempt to recover it.

    The Recovery Team is made up of experts from law enforcement, the FBI, the Marines, the US Army, and other government positions. To date, they have recovered 28,000+ devices (laptops and PCs) in over 95 countries.
  • As if anyone's hard-up enough to steal an Android or Windows phone. "iPhone, iPad and other Apple device thefts"

  • Once a corporation gets large enough, it will inevitably start making profit by illicit means; it will become corrupt. This often means making money from people who actively break the law. The corporation will both implicitly and explicitly support illegal activity because it makes them more money. At the same time they will defend their behavior as being honest, moral, ethical and legal. In actual fact, they are co-conspirators in a large scale criminal enterprise.

    Cell phone manufacturers and service prov

  • Perhaps a decade ago, makers of GSM phones here in Europe advertised intensely for the ability to kill stolen phones using the IMEI number. Basically they stated that if your phone got stolen, all you needed to do (besides filing a police report) was to report it to the carrier. They could block the IMEI number in an international database, so when the phone was turned on it would either be rejected from any GSM network or downright be bricked.

    But it turned out that not only was the support for the database

  • this does not lead to an increase of cases where the thief invokes the "kill-switch" of the victim first. The problem with people who make laws is that they think criminals have the same line of thinking as them.
  • by itsme1234 (199680) on Friday June 07, 2013 @04:13AM (#43933771)

    We all know there is no security without physical security.
    But let's forget about that for a second.
    Even if you make it ueber-secure (not like today when in many Samsung devices the IMEI is actually in some obfuscated file in the efs partition!) and you really manage to bound each device to an IMEI you still have the challange of managing the blacklist/"nuke from the orbit" authorization list.

    It costs 5-10-15EUR to send a box full with phones across Europe, and no customs at all if it's within EU.
    You need to have (at least) EU-wide database. How do you manage that? What recourse you have if you bought your phone in Germany, you leave in Belgium and it gets blacklisted by an operator in Bulgaria based on some typo from a dodgy police station in village? How can you argue that (hint: they don't even use the latin alphabet in Bulgaria)?

    We had enough of this country-coded DVDs and network locked phone and all the crap. Any more of this and will give (another) unfair advantage to your operator: the only safe phones will be the ones bought directly, they know for sure it's legit. Anything else is a risk.

    The real way out here is just to have police go after the thieves. Even the older phones could be tracked well enough and with some social engineering (if you had access to the list of calls) you could find out who has the phone without any GPS or camera and whatnot. However, they just don't bother even if you give them the position of the phone within meters, inside a single-house and a picture of the user.

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