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India Hanging Up On 25 Million Cell Phones 103

jvillain writes "India is about to pull the plug on 25 million cell phones in the name of fighting terrorism and fraud. 'The ban by India's Department of Telecommunications has been unfolding gradually since Oct. 6, 2008, six weeks before the attacks in Mumbai killed 173 people and wounded 308. A memo then directed service providers to cut off cellphone users whose devices didn't have a real IMEI — or unique identity number — in the interests of 'national security.' Since then, the move has picked up steam as a way to circumvent terrorists using black market, unregistered cellphones. The Mumbai attackers kept in touch with each other via cellphones and used GPS to pinpoint their attacks, which started Nov. 26, 2008, and went on for three days. The telecommunications department has issued warnings and deadlines through 2009 but has announced this one is for real, telling operators to block cellphones without valid IMEI numbers. Previously, it warned companies to stop importing them and customers to stop buying them.'"
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India Hanging Up On 25 Million Cell Phones

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  • Yeah, great idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Michael Hunt ( 585391 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @07:24PM (#30276880) Homepage

    IMEIs are not used at all in the call routing process, and are, ultimately, pretty easy to forge convincingly. Granted, this will stop everybody whose handsets have totally bogus IMEIs, but as long as the first 8 digits (type allocation code) and check digit are correct, then there's very little India can do without impacting legitimate customers.

    GREAT idea.

  • Next (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @07:35PM (#30277024) Homepage Journal

    MAC addresses for wifi radios on laptops and phones.

  • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @07:36PM (#30277034)
    So, what you're saying is that this will stop the cheap phone manufactures from using an obviously bogus IMEI, and instead they will just put the same copy of a known good IMEI in every phone? Seriously, does this do anything at all to ensure that the IMEI is unique? 'Cause you know, having 100,000 customers with the same "non-bogus" IMEI isn't exactly traceable either.
  • Rejected (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tepples ( 727027 ) <> on Monday November 30, 2009 @07:49PM (#30277194) Homepage Journal

    There's an App for that.

    Rejected from the App Store.

  • by EvanED ( 569694 ) <[evaned] [at] []> on Monday November 30, 2009 @07:53PM (#30277250)

    Yeah, because that wouldn't suck for the 24,999,995 non-terrorists using these phones.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 30, 2009 @07:53PM (#30277256)

    Depends on why. I am led to believe that this has more to do with cell phone sales and import duties than anything else.

  • Yet another excuse (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @07:55PM (#30277276) Homepage Journal

    To clamp down on private citizens' right to privacy. ( and i don't care if its not written in stone for them, its a basic human right as far as i'm concerned )

    The 'criminals' will just get around this road block too, they always do, and the legislators know this.

  • Re:Sat Phones (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zill ( 1690130 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @07:58PM (#30277308)
    But in order to do that, they first need to buy a fake ID and steal a CC. This forces them to commit two extra acts of crime to meet their objective. These two extra crimes will result in more eye witnesses, more tracable cash flows, and higher chance of them getting caught by a security camera. The longer the trail they leave behind, the easier they are to trace.
  • by maxume ( 22995 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @07:58PM (#30277312)

    The fact that they haven't done it yet sort of implies that they are making money providing them service.

  • Re: Sat Phones (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @08:02PM (#30277358) Journal

    Basically they are just forcing all their cellular networks to refuse connection to phones lacking IMEI numbers. ... It just means that people are going to have to pay for their phone calls or pay to call in their bomb threats. No more free rides.

    It's not a free ride now. It just means that the subscriber (or his phone company) bought a cheap phone that didn't have a registered IMEI. (Think "phone universal serial number, sniffable from the phone network.)

    Now maybe it was a stolen phone with the IMEI overwritten by a dummy. Or maybe it was a legit recycled phone with reflashed firmware that killed the IMEI ditto. Or maybe it was a new phone from a cheapscate company that didn't register/buy a block of IMEIs and install them in its products. But the customer is still buying the service and still identified by his "smart chip".

    The IMEI is mainly about tracking the phone and has nothing to do with billing. (For instance: During Iraq War II the NSA mapped out the "terrorist networks" - pun intended - easily, from satellite surveillance, by traffic analysis - when somebody serving as a communications hub switched smartcards for each of his links but didn't realize that the IMEI, which stays with the phone, was also being recorded. Call goes in one smartcard ID and immediately a series to other phone numbers go out on other smartcards from the same phone: it's a gotcha. This hit the media after the opposition figured out that cellphones were a trap and switched to non-cellphone communication.)

    Given that killing service to IMEI-less phones is part of a reaction to "terrorist attacks" it looks like India is willing to kill phone service to 25 million legit cellphone users in order to force its own opposition to chose between lower-tech communication and getting caught.

  • Re:Ban speech (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nefarious Wheel ( 628136 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @08:07PM (#30277404) Journal

    Good sarcasm, Ohnoitsavram. But you've pegged it - the big ugly monster rearing its head here is the fact that governments do not, as a rule, treat truly free speech as necessarily being in their own best interests. Governments have been fighting with their governed populace over this bone for many, many years. Anytime some new way to communicate pops up, the battle starts up again.

    Mind you, it can be a very real threat to an established government, and governments have fallen from it. Think "Samizdat".

    It's also harder to govern when your message to the public is diluted by discussion before it's embedded in the public consciousness, and I'm sure this concept is not lost on those who walk the halls of power.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 30, 2009 @08:11PM (#30277466)

    To clamp down on private citizens' right to privacy. ( and i don't care if its not written in stone for them, its a basic human right as far as i'm concerned )

    The 'criminals' will just get around this road block too, they always do, and the legislators know this.

    huh ? a cellphone is a basic human right now ????

    is there any law that cannot be gotten around ? Based on that logic , every single law is pointless and ineffective . Yup, strike down every single law in all lands .

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 30, 2009 @08:29PM (#30277638)

    "huh ? a cellphone is a basic human right now ????"

    If only you were replying to what he actually said...

    He said that privacy (e.g., the ability to communicate with other people without snoops watching your interactions and movements) is a basic human right.

    You can rephrase it in a silly way to attempt to discredit it, but it only shows your intellectual dishonesty.

  • Landfill (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SirAdelaide ( 1432553 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @08:54PM (#30277864)
    How much landfill will 25 million phones take up?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 30, 2009 @10:57PM (#30278694)

    This kind of news coverage and slant pisses me off. It is written as if this somehow infringes on your rights. The mobiles being banned are ones with FAKE IMIEs developed by unknown chinese companies that steel an IMIE and use it on thousands of phones. In US too you cannot get phones with fake IMIEs. In fact the telecom sector is a lot more restrictive than in India. In India, the handset is not tied to a particular carrier (there are exceptions, but they are not widespread like in the US). Even the IPhone here can be used with any carrier.
    The comments on slashdot seemed to suggest that the govt is doing something sinister and wrong and blah blah blah. All they are doing is enforcing a law that is the law in almost all countries including the US.
    This place is becoming more and more like fox news with its biased coverage and the way the news is peppered with lot of "seems" and "looks like" and "quotes" and "in the name of" generally giving the reader that is is something wrong that is done.
    And the cowboy commentator love to shoot off and let the world know their opinions without even knowing the facts or anything about the issue or even before RTFA

  • by Vegeta99 ( 219501 ) <rjlynn AT gmail DOT com> on Monday November 30, 2009 @11:32PM (#30278956)

    Using a fake IMEI isn't privacy, dood. It's using the network incorrectly, and could cause problems for other users if there was an IMEI collision.

    To use the oft-famous car analogy, it's like stealing a plate from the junkyard and using it on your car. Not a right. At all.

  • Re:Cloned phones (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fearlezz ( 594718 ) on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @11:24AM (#30283564) Homepage

    It will probably mean that before setting off bombs, 'terrorists' will first smash the head of an old, helpless person to get a phone.

"I'm not afraid of dying, I just don't want to be there when it happens." -- Woody Allen