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New FCC, carrier database of stolen cellphones aims to reduce iPhone theft

post #1 of 30
Thread Starter 
Wireless carriers in the U.S. are cooperating with the Federal Communications Commission to assemble a joint database of stolen mobile phones in hopes of curbing theft of smartphones such as Apple's iPhone.

The four largest carriers in the U.S. have all agreed to participate in the new database, The Wall Street Journal reported . Verizon and Sprint already block stolen phones from being reactivated, while AT&T and T-Mobile do not.

Wireless operators will maintain the database and prevent phones listed as stolen from activating voice or data service. The efforts are intended to serve as a deterrent to potential criminals by reducing the resale value of stolen devices. iPads and other tablets with cellular networking technology will also be added to the database.

"We wanted to find a way to reduce the value of stolen smartphones," said FCC chairman Julius Genachowski.

The specifics of the database are still under discussion, but a "broad outline" has been agreed upon, the Journal noted. The unique serial numbers of devices would be used to keep track of stolen phones. Wireless operators have also agreed to promote the use of device passcodes to reduce theft.

Carriers plan to create their own databases in the next six months and integrate them over the course of 12 months. A person familiar with the initiative told the publication that regional carriers will likely join the database within the next two years.

With high-value smartphones becoming commonplace among conusmers, law-enforcement officials have become increasingly vocal about cellphone theft in recent years. Cellphone-related robberies in Washington D.C. have increased 54 percent since 2007, the year the original iPhone was released. An internal New York Police Department document reportedly indicated that 81 percent of the 26,000 electronics theft incidents that took place during the first 10 months of 2011 involved mobile phones.

According to the report, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, which represents 70 police chiefs from large U.S. and Canadian cities, called on the FCC to put pressure on carriers to disable stolen phones.

Police have even resorted to sting operations to crack down on vendors purchasing stolen devices. An NYPD sting last December that offered "stolen" Apple devices to local merchants netted 141 arrests.

Database strategies in the U.K. and Australia appear to have reduced theft in those countries. The number of cellphone-related crimes in London stood at 8,000 per month last fiscal year, down from 10,000 per month in 2004, even as the number of handsets almost doubled over the period.

For its part, Apple has also worked to build theft deterrents into its devices. In 2009, the company launched a Find My iPhone service that helps users track, lock and wipe devices that have been lost or stolen. Also in 2009, a patent application surfaced for an "acceleration-based theft detection system" that would sound an alarm if an accelerometer picked up fast movement of the device that was likely to be a theft.




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post #2 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Wireless carriers in the U.S. are cooperating with the Federal Communications Commission to assemble a joint database of stolen mobile phones in hopes of curbing theft of smartphones such as Apple's iPhone.

it's only taken what 20 years for this, I am constantly dumbfounded by how an IMEI or other serial has not previously been able to "lock" a stolen device.
post #3 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by JBFromOZ View Post

it's only taken what 20 years for this, I am constantly dumbfounded by how an IMEI or other serial has not previously been able to "lock" a stolen device.

Actually they has. It's been in the GSM specification and 3G specifications from day 1.

When the phone registers to the network, the network can query the IMEI and check against a "Blacklist" of denied terminals and block any terminal found on the blacklist.
There's even a possibility for a greylist of phones, which get "special" treatment.

Some countries have had this implemented before (during GSM-era) and even marketed it as a feature, but it is not very effective since the phones can be used on other networks not participating in the scheme or shipped abroad to be sold there.

It really needs co-operation on a global scale to be effective. I don't believe it will be very global since many countries decouple the handset from the subscription. In these locations, the operator has very little incentive to block a stolen phone as they would also block a legitimate subscriber.

Regs, Jarkko
post #4 of 30
It's going to take them two more years to implement this?! Sheesh.

Question: If your iDevice gets lost or stolen and you remotely wipe and lock it, can you still track it?
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post #5 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by jahonen View Post

It really needs co-operation on a global scale to be effective. I don't believe it will be very global since many countries decouple the handset from the subscription. In these locations, the operator has very little incentive to block a stolen phone as they would also block a legitimate subscriber.

Steal an AT&T phone, put it on craigslist for the town on the other side of the border. Steal a Verizon phone, you are hosed. More international cooperation is required so one doesn't just steal a phone and then sell it to ROC or Africa.

What really needs to happen is that there needs to be a hidden security APN that is always enabled, like the e911 requirement. If the device has no internet connectivity but there is a wireless signal, it should try to report it's location by open WiFi or this hidden APN if the the data has been disabled. This would then require people targeting iPhones/iPads to have bags to block wireless. Your average opportunistic thief isn't going to be this person.

Apple could allow the owner to be a little more dickish to potential thieves and make it unable to be turned off without entering the PIN, to play sounds via the system speaker (not headphones) at maximum volume or even have SIRI yell out "HELP HELP HELP!", but I think this may eventually turn into the Car alarm problem where everyone ignores it.

But at any rate, this could be made easier. Each carrier can maintain blacklists of devices for their own networks, but when devices are activated on a new network, the IMEI needs to be checked against all carriers blacklists. This can be done... it's been done with Local Number Portability (otherwise people would be stealing phone numbers that are highly desirable.)
post #6 of 30
What about a little C4 in each phone!

Do you understand the person who "bought" the phone perhaps wasn't the criminal, imagine a store selling stollen phones? Before saying to blow up the person ears, please investigate in each case!

For example, some old phones that you give to the store for a discount are sold by the telephone company to other markets in the world, so things are not that simple, I guess you can't prohibit a foreigner to get into your country with his/her phone.

And so it goes, and what about privacy, each company can't watch where you are,...!?
post #7 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by andyapple View Post

It's going to take them two more years to implement this?! Sheesh.

Question: If your iDevice gets lost or stolen and you remotely wipe and lock it, can you still track it?

No, you cannot.

And I could never understand how apple has refused so far to brick or disallow itunes use to stolen devices when the owners declare them stolen to them via itunes.

I've had my iphones stolen a couple of times, and both times I contacted itunes support and I required that my iphone serial that had been used with my account be disallowed to use itunes upon reconnection with their server.

I can't see why they wouldn't do this, but I guess they 'd rather have another store id and purchases even if they are meant to be installed on a phone that has been declared stolen....
post #8 of 30
It is pretty sad that the FCC had to get involved in this. For many years there has been a cross carrier database called the IMEI Database or [C]EIR Registry. Carriers all over the world are member (it is run by the GSM Association AFAIK) and it allows any of them to submit IMEIs of stolen phones and any member carriers are obligated to block those IMEIs from their network. My carrier in Canada is a member but they are dicks about it and will only add IMEIs of phones that are stolen from them directly, from stores and warehouses but not phones stolen from customers. The intent is to make stealing from them undesirable but they offer no such protection for customers. In Europe (especially in the UK) the carriers belong to the same group and will add customer phones to the database upon request (might need a police report).

Carriers should have been willing to do this on their own. It is pretty pathetic that they need to be forced to do it. I wonder if this regulation requires a new DB or if they will simply be forced to use the IMEI Database that already exists.

They glaring loop hole is that unless manufacturers get on board, the IMEI Databases are effectively useless. If someone steals my phone and I get my carrier to add it to the DB, great, that phone is blacklisted. But if they walk into an Apple store and get an exchange, even for $150, then the replacement phone has a new IMEI and they are free to use it again. If Apple (and other vendors) were also required to check this database then it would close this hole.

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post #9 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by jahonen View Post

Actually they has. It's been in the GSM specification and 3G specifications from day 1.

to clarify, whilst the technical capability has existed from day 1, non implementation is the bit i am annoyed at.

Cheers

JB
post #10 of 30
Blocking the IMEI is all well and good, but what I don't understand is why they aren't baking a little cure in along with this prevention, i.e. actually report when a stolen phone tries to activate on a network to local law enforcement, and pass on the location. In fact, instead of blocking the IMEI, allow it and then track it and then notify the police of the precise movements so they can pick up the person using it for theft, or handling stolen goods.

I think Apple should do this on their own if need be; iTunes and iCloud activation should make it highly possible. Imagine the value add of the iPhone being practically unstealable.

Certainly would have helped me out a few weeks ago when mine was snatched.

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post #11 of 30
Time to be more diligent on Craigslist and eBay.
post #12 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tulkas View Post

I wonder if this regulation requires a new DB or if they will simply be forced to use the IMEI Database that already exists.

The article says "specifics of the database are still under discussion, but a "broad outline" has been agreed upon, the Journal noted" so it has yet to be determined. I suspect there will be infighting based on not only what data the DB will hold all the way down to what actual product will be used and where it will be hosted. I would expect that they are planning working group meetings a couple months or more apart with one or more heading up a prototype and submitting for review to the entire group.

Anytime something is done "by committee" like this you end up with something less capable since it is a one size fits all solution and you can bet that there are few that want to devote much in the way of resources to this. Shame isn't it -- sounds like the US govt. in action (or any large multi-layered corporation).

IMHO if someone had the gonads to stand up and say 'listen this isn't rocket science -- go to lunch and we can have the schema put together when you get back'. It could have been done on a whiteboard (or maybe the back of an envelope) use a std SQL DB get bids on hosting and then decide on the security measures to put into place to make sure data entered is only done by those authorized and that read-only is widely available.
post #13 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Crowley View Post

Blocking the IMEI is all well and good, but what I don't understand is why they aren't baking a little cure in along with this prevention, i.e. actually report when a stolen phone tries to activate on a network to local law enforcement, and pass on the location. In fact, instead of blocking the IMEI, allow it and then track it and then notify the police of the precise movements so they can pick up the person using it for theft, or handling stolen goods.

I suspect that the privacy policy would scream bloody murder saying that someone would subvert it and use it like big brother. (Not that this can't be done already you just have to get the app approved and good luck with that.)

Slightly different subject:
How did the public respond in London when it went online with CCTV for the police etc? I have heard that it has proven useful in both deterring crime and solving same, but in general I wonder how people feel about giving up this privacy for the security it affords?
post #14 of 30
Eventually the thieves will know how to wipe them clean and sell them abroad to non-participating countries.
post #15 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by myapplelove View Post

No, you cannot.

And I could never understand how apple has refused so far to brick or disallow itunes use to stolen devices when the owners declare them stolen to them via itunes.

Its too easy for you to say it was stolen when you are just pissed at the person you gave your old phone or whatever to. That's one reason. So they would have to require you to file a police report etc to back up the claim and then you'd have to go through some proper set up channel to send them the info.

And too easy for the guy that stole your phone to say that he bought it from you, second hand, for cash and you didn't give him any kind of receipt so he can't prove it but he's going to sue Apple blah blah.

How many other phone makers block a stolen phone from use? Probably none. So why does Apple get called out as having this duty to do so while everyone else gets a pass. ATT etc will freeze service off that phone as they should, Apple will block it from using your Apple ID in case they guess your password but really how much more than that should they be doing. Should they just give you a free replacement because poor baby someone took your phone. That would cause all kinds of fraud so of course they won't do it.

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post #16 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Crowley View Post

Blocking the IMEI is all well and good, but what I don't understand is why they aren't baking a little cure in along with this prevention, i.e. actually report when a stolen phone tries to activate on a network to local law enforcement, and pass on the location. In fact, instead of blocking the IMEI, allow it and then track it and then notify the police of the precise movements so they can pick up the person using it for theft, or handling stolen goods.

violate someone's privacy by tracking them possibly illegally and send a sting to someone that bought a phone they didn't know was stolen etc.

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post #17 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by charlituna View Post

violate someone's privacy by tracking them possibly illegally and send a sting to someone that bought a phone they didn't know was stolen etc.

Whether they knew it was stolen is sort of irrelevant. Buying stolen goods is illegal whether you knew it was stolen or not.

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post #18 of 30
I have requested this feature be added to the iOS software numerous times and don't understand why it's not there and hasn't been added.

Almost everyone knows of the find my iPhone feature.

If a thief steals your phone, all they have to do is power it off until they have time to wipe it or whatever, which renders the "find my iPhone" feature useless.

It would be an emmense help if Apple added a "enter security code to power off" feature. This way we could track and send messages to the device as long as there is battery power.

Also if you wipe your phone it Nulifies your option to track the device.

A security code needed to power off the i-device will buy you time to wipe it or choose what option you like as it will still be on and connected to the Internet.

Think about how long the thief has it in their possession until they get to a CPU to do the real damage. Thats a lot of time to track and actually use the find My IPhone feature.

Most likely if the thief can't break the code or turn it off, then they will wipe it anyways for you when and if they get the chance which will add another level of protection for you.

I encourage all who read this to also request this feature to be added to IOS through Apple.
post #19 of 30
Apparently there is already such a DB out there:
http://imeidb.gsm.org/imei/login.jsp

Wikipedia has this to say:

Central Equipment Identity Register
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from CEIR)
The Central Equipment Identity Register is a database of the IMEI numbers of blacklisted handsets. If a device's IMEI number is listed on CEIR, it is not supposed to work on any service provider.
A common usage of the CEIR is with stolen cellphones. Once a user reports to the operator about the theft, the cell phone's IMEI number goes to CEIR, supposedly making the device unusable in any network (although this does not always work).
Currently, the Central Equipment Identity Register is more frequently called an IMEI DB(database) system which means that it is the central system for network operators (those that have an EIR) to share their individual black lists with one another so that service is denied for the particular devices that appear on that blacklist. Thus, network operators have compiled one global black list through the IMEI DB.
[edit]EIR

An equipment identity register reduces the threats of theft of handsets by enabling individual operators to prevent the use of stolen handsets in their own networks. This improves users' security by switching off stolen phones, making them useless for mobile phone thieves and thus less likely to be stolen in the first place. As the number of mobile devices and messaging users continue to grow, they become a target for fraudulent and criminal activities. Mobile Messaging application and infrastructure companies such as Airwide Solutions and Tekelec are examples of providers for Equipment Identity for worldwide mobile operators like Vodafone (Airwide) and Cegetel (Tekelec) that deploy the lists for the CEIRs.
Android seems to be an illiterate product, as they only have numbers to show for.
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post #20 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by SaltWater View Post

What about a little C4 in each phone!

What an obscene comment, considering who uses C4 and for what.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SaltWater View Post

Do you understand the person who "bought" the phone perhaps wasn't the criminal...!?

The fact that you had to put the word "bought" in quotes shows that you know they know it's stolen.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SaltWater View Post

...and what about privacy...!?

Thieves deserve no privacy.
post #21 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by StephanJobs View Post

I have requested this feature be added to the iOS software numerous times and don't understand why it's not there and hasn't been added.

Almost everyone knows of the find my iPhone feature.

If a thief steals your phone, all they have to do is power it off until they have time to wipe it or whatever, which renders the "find my iPhone" feature useless.

It would be an emmense help if Apple added a "enter security code to power off" feature. This way we could track and send messages to the device as long as there is battery power.

Also if you wipe your phone it Nulifies your option to track the device.

A security code needed to power off the i-device will buy you time to wipe it or choose what option you like as it will still be on and connected to the Internet.

Think about how long the thief has it in their possession until they get to a CPU to do the real damage. Thats a lot of time to track and actually use the find My IPhone feature.

Most likely if the thief can't break the code or turn it off, then they will wipe it anyways for you when and if they get the chance which will add another level of protection for you.

I encourage all who read this to also request this feature to be added to IOS through Apple.

Great points.
post #22 of 30
So people are saying "It's about time!" but I have a strong feeling if not for the iPhone's existence this would still not exist.


Quote:
Originally Posted by StephanJobs View Post

It would be an emmense help if Apple added a "enter security code to power off" feature. This way we could track and send messages to the device as long as there is battery power.

I like this idea but I wonder if there is a technical issue since turning your phone on and off is one way to resolve any issues. To wit, if you are having issues then perhaps being able to input your passcode or the system getting secure access to it for the verification could be a hurdle.

I'd suggest having a dual option, one to turn off that requires a PIN and one that will power cycle (i.e., restart) that doesn't require a PIN but just seems convoluted and kludgy.

I'd also like to see an option to passcode protect your Settings, or at least the part of Settings that allows you disable the Find My iDevice feature.

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post #23 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by charlituna View Post

Its too easy for you to say it was stolen when you are just pissed at the person you gave your old phone or whatever to. That's one reason. So they would have to require you to file a police report etc to back up the claim and then you'd have to go through some proper set up channel to send them the info.

And too easy for the guy that stole your phone to say that he bought it from you, second hand, for cash and you didn't give him any kind of receipt so he can't prove it but he's going to sue Apple blah blah.

How many other phone makers block a stolen phone from use? Probably none. So why does Apple get called out as having this duty to do so while everyone else gets a pass. ATT etc will freeze service off that phone as they should, Apple will block it from using your Apple ID in case they guess your password but really how much more than that should they be doing. Should they just give you a free replacement because poor baby someone took your phone. That would cause all kinds of fraud so of course they won't do it.

yeah that's right, I was asking for a replacement phone... If I've used my find my iphone feature within hours of my block request, remote wiped my phone, filed a police report, and send it to them, as well as my purchase receipt, they should damn well block the serial from accessing itunes. I can't think of any possible resale scenario that this sequence of events precedes it, unless the iphone is stolen property.

Timely reminder for ignore list time btw, been meaning to do this for a while.
post #24 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

Great points.

Indeed. I 've sent them feedback myself on this, the very same. Since find my iphone is by now so well established and known, it's even more important that they implement it.
post #25 of 30
This isn't meant to protect the consumer, it's meant to protect the carriers from people who DON'T buy expensive new phones.

If you stole my phone and tried to activate itt and they told you sorry no can do. What good is that going to do me?. It's not like they are going to raise a red flag and send the information to authorities which could result in me possibly gaining back my property.

They are just gonna say sorry bud, it's flagged as stolen but hey you're in luck cause we got the new iPhone here on sale for 199$ with a two year contract!

If you report it as stolen and it's flagged by all means great. The GSM spec should now include the requirement that the headset banner states "Unauthorized! Do not buy!" on the headset as well.

Every shmoe out there wants to power up the device to make sure it works before purchasing but not everyone is smart enough to phone home to the carriers to check the status of the device prior to buying.

Also what's not to stop someone from just stealing something and making a quick sale before the device hit's the database?
post #26 of 30
If this database records IEMIs then thieves can just use one of the several tools to change the IEMI being presented when it boots up. This is hardcoded into the HW like the burned-in address is usually the same as the MAC address but it can be changed. What the US government might have to do is make it a federal crime to alter the IEMI like it is in a few other countries. There is no solution, but it could deter all but the most desperate or organized criminals.

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"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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post #27 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

If this database records IEMIs then thieves can just use one of the several tools to change the IEMI being presented when it boots up. This is hardcoded into the HW like the burned-in address is usually the same as the MAC address but it can be changed. What the US government might have to do is make it a federal crime to alter the IEMI like it is in a few other countries. There is no solution, but it could deter all but the most desperate or organized criminals.

This would certainly be required if carrier are obligated to use a IMEI Database. I think this is why moding IMEIs is illegal in the UK and other countries where EIR registries are mandated.

Of course without manufacturers like Apple on board, then all one would have to do is walk in and exchange your phone to get a new IMEI.

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...sometimes it's both
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...sometimes it's both
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post #28 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by SaltWater View Post

What about a little C4 in each phone!

Do you understand the person who "bought" the phone perhaps wasn't the criminal, imagine a store selling stollen phones? Before saying to blow up the person ears, please investigate in each case!

For example, some old phones that you give to the store for a discount are sold by the telephone company to other markets in the world, so things are not that simple, I guess you can't prohibit a foreigner to get into your country with his/her phone.

That's a little to violent, I would however be up for a die pack exploding. Even that though could be potential nightmare. Can you imagine your in a meeting and your phone goes off spraying blue die all over your coworkers and potential customers.
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post #29 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

I'd also like to see an option to passcode protect your Settings, or at least the part of Settings that allows you disable the Find My iDevice feature.

You effectively CAN through Settings, General, Restriction. If you set Location Services to "Don't Allow Change", then anyone wishing to make ANY changes to Location Services has to know and enter the Restrictions Passcode (separate from general iPhone passcode) before changes to any location services can be made.

I would really like a bit more granularity so that certain app's location services could be made available for change while protecting the location service settings for other apps (i.e. some might be set to off while others set to on).

Having had an iPhone stolen a couple of years ago and finding that the police, AT&T and APPLE had no system or apparent desire to track or disable stolen iPhones left me really disgusted and disappointed. Apple was more than happy to take my IMEI number and enter it into their database as reported stolen, but when I asked if they would activated it under a different account ,if such was attempted, they answered yes. The police (Dallas) actually accused us of just reporting it stolen to cover loosing it (the fact that several credit cards and driver license were also stolen and actually used fraudulently didn't seem to matter to them (the old, don't confuse us with facts). This was before APPLE added the Find my Phone feature.

davidt
post #30 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by dtidmore View Post

You effectively CAN through Settings, General, Restriction. If you set Location Services to "Don't Allow Change", then anyone wishing to make ANY changes to Location Services has to know and enter the Restrictions Passcode (separate from general iPhone passcode) before changes to any location services can be made.

I think you also need to restrict changes to Mail options. I know that when Find My iPhone was first implemented you had to have a MobileMe account enabled and it couldn't be set to Push disabled with Manual selected.

"The real haunted empire?  It's the New York Times." ~SockRolid

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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