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US officials call on Apple, Google, others to help stop smartphone theft

post #1 of 68
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Smartphone thefts are on the rise, and now a number of government officials from both New York and San Francisco are calling for a meeting with Apple, Google, and other mobile leaders to try to get them to do something about it.

NYC
NYPD sign up customers at Apple's Fifth Ave store in September. Photo via Gothamist.


On Wednesday, San Francisco District Attorney George Gasc?n and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced that they will convene a Smartphone Summit next week wherein they will attempt to convince the largest players in the smartphone industry that they need to do something to head off violent crimes involving mobile devices. The meeting will take place on June 13 at Schneiderman's office in New York City.

"With 1.6 million Americans falling victim to smartphone theft in 2012, this has become a national epidemic," said Gascon. "Unlike other types of crimes, smartphone theft can be eradicated with a simple technological solution.

The two state attorneys will ask Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Samsung to begin designing their phones and operating systems so that they contain a "kill switch," the ability to remotely render a phone inoperable. Such an addition, the attorneys hold, would make smartphone theft a moot point, since any device would become useless once reported stolen.

Gasc?n has previously met with representatives from Apple in order to convince the iPhone maker to add more anti-theft measures to its bestselling smartphone. Apple devices can be tracked using the Find My iPhone feature, and similar features exist for Windows and Android handsets. Still, thefts of iPhone products alone caused an overall increase in the crime rate in New York City in 2012.

Between January 1 and September 23 of last year, thefts of Apple products in New York City were up 40 percent. Apple product theft accounted for 14 percent of major crime in New York City.

In San Francisco last year, roughly half of all robberies involved a mobile communication device.

Currently, carriers like AT&T block stolen iPhones from accessing their networks, but critics say this is an incomplete solution. Thieves, they say, can simply hack the International Mobile Station Equipment Identity of a phone in order to erase it and render it unidentifiable to any stolen phone tracking databases.

All four companies have agreed to attend the summit next week. Schneiderman hopes the meeting will lead to real advances in protecting smartphone owners.

"The theft of handheld devices is the fastest-growing street crime, and increasingly, incidents are turning violent," said Schneiderman. "It?s time for manufacturers to be as innovative in solving this problem as they have been in designing devices that have reshaped how we live."
post #2 of 68

 

"Whoa, déjà vu…"

post #3 of 68
One measure I'd still like to see is a need to require a passcode to turn off the device and make holding down the Home and Sleep buttons only result in a hard reboot. As well as a passcode to access Settings or to alter certain settings, like Find My iPhone, AirPlane Mode, or WiFi. This way a thief can't easily disable the device's ability to be located. They could simply stick it in a lead lined bag or faraday cage but it would help stop some of the less though out crimes of opportunity.

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post #4 of 68

Government is too altruistic to concern itself with the (un)intended consequences...
 

It is useless for sheep to pass laws outlawing carnivorism when the wolf is of a different mind.
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post #5 of 68
Quote:
"Unlike other types of crimes, smartphone theft can be eradicated with a simple technological solution.

If it were so simple I think it would have already been done.
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"Just because something is deemed the law doesn't make it just" - SolipsismX
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post #6 of 68
Government can't do their job so they ask Apple to do it. At the same time they're suing them. Make up your mind. Is Apple a villain or a savior.
post #7 of 68

Maybe Mr. Gascan can provide us a simple technological solution to cancer and war next.

 

If it were easy, Apple would have already done it (and Android would have copied it).

post #8 of 68
Wasnt this posted already? Same story, just different city. Old one was NYC
post #9 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

One measure I'd still like to see is a need to require a passcode to turn off the device and make holding down the Home and Sleep buttons only result in a hard reboot. As well as a passcode to access Settings or to alter certain settings, like Find My iPhone, AirPlane Mode, or WiFi. This way a thief can't easily disable the device's ability to be located. They could simply stick it in a lead lined bag or faraday cage but it would help stop some of the less though out crimes of opportunity.

Or a potato chip bag.
"Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example" Mark Twain
"Just because something is deemed the law doesn't make it just" - SolipsismX
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post #10 of 68

Biometric authentication? Make the carriers do device authentication via serial number or IMEI numbers. This way you can't steal it and just put a new sim card in it....You could wipe the phone but it will still retain the IMEI number. If the carriers make it part of the activation process then it will not let the stolen phone get activated once it gets reported stolen.

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post #11 of 68

How about fancy shoe thefts? How about pickpocketing? How about identity theft? How about dollar devaluation, which essentially robs the American people of their savings and income? (couldn't resist that last one)

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post #12 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

One measure I'd still like to see is a need to require a passcode to turn off the device and make holding down the Home and Sleep buttons only result in a hard reboot. As well as a passcode to access Settings or to alter certain settings, like Find My iPhone, AirPlane Mode, or WiFi. This way a thief can't easily disable the device's ability to be located. They could simply stick it in a lead lined bag or faraday cage but it would help stop some of the less though out crimes of opportunity.

Wouldn't yanking the SIM while powered on followed by a hard reset and put into DFU mode bypass the above? All that is needed is a paperclip.
post #13 of 68
Originally Posted by geekdad View Post
You could wipe the phone but it will still retain the IMEI number.

 

So jailbreak it and change the IMEI.

post #14 of 68

Exactly, I have been saying to this to friends and family for a while. This was in response to SolipsismX, comment apparently i do not operate the comment buttons very well 

post #15 of 68
I've been saying this for like a year now... Make restoring an iPhone require authentication with location tracking and also that the computer running iTunes is authorized with the person's Apple ID to be able to restore.

It makes sense to not be able to restore a phone without asking the phone user listed on the about section in the settings.

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post #16 of 68

Unless Apple or Google are the ones stealing the phones, I'm not comfortable with placing any obligations on them to stop theft.

 

There may be an opportunity here for either or both to create compelling new features, but they should be only that, not obligations.
 

post #17 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

So jailbreak it and change the IMEI.

I can't imagine the telcos being to jazzed with keeping track of a blacklist when activating or a customer moves a SIM from one phone into a freshly commandeered device. The secondhand market for phones is so big, anyone could sell a phone and then claim it stolen shortly after. Would be a dick move but they are everywhere.
post #18 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChristophB View Post

Wouldn't yanking the SIM while powered on followed by a hard reset and put into DFU mode bypass the above? All that is needed is a paperclip.

Good point, which is why we also need my Virtual SIM concept put into action.

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post #19 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

 

So jailbreak it and change the IMEI.

and activate it how? The carrier has a list of IMEI numbers and what device it belongs to....

1. Phone reported stolen...by phone or online in carriers website account settings

2. The IMEI number is then listed as stolen and not allowed to be authenticated on to the carriers network.

3. All carries have to be onboard with not activating stolen IMEI numbers. Can't just flash it to another carrier.

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post #20 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

 

So jailbreak it and change the IMEI.

 

Jailbreaking doesn't allow you to change the IMEI of a phone. The IMEI isn't stored in a location that's writable from iOS.

post #21 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

One measure I'd still like to see is a need to require a passcode to turn off the device and make holding down the Home and Sleep buttons only result in a hard reboot. As well as a passcode to access Settings or to alter certain settings, like Find My iPhone, AirPlane Mode, or WiFi. This way a thief can't easily disable the device's ability to be located. They could simply stick it in a lead lined bag or faraday cage but it would help stop some of the less though out crimes of opportunity.

Actually such measures would do nothing in the states mentioned. Why? because the cops in many jurisdictions don't even bother pursuing criminals. The problem is simply one that the state and local governments have created theme selves by turing a blind eye to criminal organizations and the freelance criminal. In the case of NYC it very well appears to be intentional as a way to instill fear into the local population. Let the criminal element run free and you create a climate that allows for authoritarian control of the local population.

In the end all the state is doing here is make a media play so it looks like they are doing something. The people promoting this know damn well it will have zero impact on crime.
post #22 of 68
I suspect there are legal ramifications and protocols for this process, but I wonder how advantageous setting up a system to do this would be for Apple. I suspect it is more trouble than its worth.
post #23 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChristophB View Post


I can't imagine the telcos being to jazzed with keeping track of a blacklist when activating or a customer moves a SIM from one phone into a freshly commandeered device. The secondhand market for phones is so big, anyone could sell a phone and then claim it stolen shortly after. Would be a dick move but they are everywhere.

The stolen IMEI database would be so easy to do and almost instantaneous. So many things happen during activation that this would almost be invisible and take milliseconds to accomplish. The carriers already have this information so it should be easier to put into place.

 

http://imei-number.com/why-is-imei-number-important/

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post #24 of 68

Half the time the cops won't respond to a "find my phone" anyway... What more do they want?

post #25 of 68
Originally Posted by geekdad View Post
and activate it how? The carrier has a list of IMEI numbers and what device it belongs to....

1. Phone reported stolen...by phone or online in carriers website account settings

2. The IMEI number is then listed as stolen and not allowed to be authenticated on to the carriers network.

3. All carries have to be onboard with not activating stolen IMEI numbers. Can't just flash it to another carrier.

 

Isn't that the idea? First, they're not onboard with that, second, it's activated because the IMEI no longer reports as the one that was stolen.


Originally Posted by RichL View Post
Jailbreaking doesn't allow you to change the IMEI of a phone. The IMEI isn't stored in a location that's writable from iOS.

 

Funny. Apple did it themselves in 1.1.1.

post #26 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by wizard69 View Post


Actually such measures would do nothing in the states mentioned. Why? because the cops in many jurisdictions don't even bother pursuing criminals. The problem is simply one that the state and local governments have created theme selves by turing a blind eye to criminal organizations and the freelance criminal. In the case of NYC it very well appears to be intentional as a way to instill fear into the local population. Let the criminal element run free and you create a climate that allows for authoritarian control of the local population.

In the end all the state is doing here is make a media play so it looks like they are doing something. The people promoting this know damn well it will have zero impact on crime.

 

It's lawmakers responding to their constituents in a way that shifts the blame away from them. Naturally, the blame really belongs with both the criminals and the "victims" who are often unaware of their surroundings. Now let's talk about open carry and an armed citizenry.

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post #27 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by wizard69 View Post


Did you notice how these are the most liberal and crime riddled states in the union. They have policies in both states that directly promote or lead to crime so it is no surprise that they are blaming somebody else for a problem they created.

One of the most effective and proven methods of crime control is to simply kill the criminals. Try and hang em. Why this is so difficult for liberals to accept is beyond me. Certainly in a state like NY that could lead to hanging half the population of a city like New York City but it would in fact solve a lot of problems.

Even is hanging isn't good enough for them turning a blind eye to criminal activity has never resulted in a situation getting better. What the states are proposing here does nothing to get the criminal element off the street and as such doesn't help the honest population one bit. Allowing such intimidation to go forward while the state turns a blind eye to the problems they have caused is pretty disgusting actually.

It is not nearly as simple as you would suggest, nor is the colloration of liberalism and crime. If anything it is poverty and crime. So you may as well say, if you give people enough money, they will not commit crime. While that is true, it isn't feasable. Just like it is not feasble to simply kill criminals. I would attempt to explain it to you, but having been on the internet for a minute, I know that anyone who would take such an olympic sized long jump to the wrong conclusion is not someone who can be convinced by facts, reality or the many nuances they involve. 

post #28 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by geekdad View Post

The stolen IMEI database would be so easy to do and almost instantaneous. So many things happen during activation that this would almost be invisible and take milliseconds to accomplish.

http://imei-number.com/why-is-imei-number-important/

Lists would have to be maintained across carriers, no? How would a carrier know the difference between someone who loses a phone and someone who just says they lost the phone? I wouldn't want to get in the middle of that.

I'm not opposed to the idea but first I'd like to see what the cost per device and plan and municipality would be. Bricking a stolen or lost/stolen phone won't get it returned to me. I suppose those doing the finding would be more apt to return it to the owner IF they knew it would be bricked or not able to be activated.

How bouts carriers make it a paid for protection service and see how the market and law enforcement responds before wholesale implementation.

Edit: Sheesh, this thread is about to jump its rails.
post #29 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

 

Isn't that the idea? First, they're not onboard with that, second, it's activated because the IMEI no longer reports as the one that was stolen.

 

Funny. Apple did it themselves in 1.1.1.

No you are missing the point. Do you think the phone makers agree?

If the phone is reported stolen then the IMEI number becomes inactive on all carriers. You cannot activate the phone. You cannot change the IMEI number so it is perfect for this purpose. The carriers already have this capability now. If you suspend service on one of your lines on your account....

So they are going about this the wrong way. Instead of making this a phone manufacturers issue it should be a carrier issue....they have all the info needed to get the job done.

More info on IMEI

http://www.knowyourmobile.com/glossary/imei-number

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post #30 of 68

How about for this, and other minor crimes for that matter, have some serious consequences for the actions to the offenders to deter future behavior. The burden shouldn't be on the manufacturers or the victims, it should be on the rears of the criminals. Unlike feel-good rehabilitation programs or public service or various BS programs, public bamboo lashings work & would save tax payers tons of money.

post #31 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChristophB View Post


Lists would have to be maintained across carriers, no? How would a carrier know the difference between someone who loses a phone and someone who just says they lost the phone? I wouldn't want to get in the middle of that.

I'm not opposed to the idea but first I'd like to see what the cost per device and plan and municipality would be. Bricking a stolen or lost/stolen phone won't get it returned to me. I suppose those doing the finding would be more apt to return it to the owner IF they knew it would be bricked or not able to be activated.

How bouts carriers make it a paid for protection service and see how the market and law enforcement responds before wholesale implementation.

Edit: Sheesh, this thread is about to jump its rails.

there are some kinks to work out as you point out. People report their phones stolen all the time to get insurance replacements. Don't know how to stop that.....

But if you knew you could not activate a stolen phone then it might deter it from being stolen......

I don't know how to get it recovered once it is stolen....

But if the legislators really want to legislate something for stolen phones then why not make carriers do this for free?

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post #32 of 68
Originally Posted by geekdad View Post
If the phone is reported stolen then the IMEI number becomes inactive on all carriers. You cannot activate the phone. 

 

If the carrier in question agrees to ban IMEIs put onto some list somewhere. Yes. Otherwise it would obviously be possible.


You cannot change the IMEI number

 

So… liars, then?

post #33 of 68
You know what else would prevent thefts. Cops. In many cities there are few to know street cops anymore.

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post #34 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by wizard69 View Post


Did you notice how these are the most liberal and crime riddled states in the union.
...One of the most effective and proven methods of crime control is to simply kill the criminals.

While you were preoccupied with advocating death for stealing a phone, perhaps you failed to notice that both states are among the few who pay more into the federal coffers than they take, in stark contrast to a majority of Red states who frequently complain about them.  So in essence, NY and CA pay for Red states who can't pull their own weight, effectively welfare cases living off the successes of these two.

 

Did you have a point in there somewhere, or do you just enjoy thoughts of seeing people die?

post #35 of 68
I think the whole effort is a lost cause. If the government manages to pull something off with Apple, Google, etc. people will then whine and complain about their privacy.

Besides, what happens if a person steals a phone and gives it to a friend or relative? Do the friends and relatives get in trouble?
If not, what happens if I myself steal a phone and say it was given to me by someone else?

Waste of time, in my opinion.
post #36 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

 

If the carrier in question agrees to ban IMEIs put onto some list somewhere. Yes. Otherwise it would obviously be possible.

 

So… liars, then?

not sure...have you tried it? Does it work? IMEI numbers are tied to your phones serial model and description. Great point though...the IMEI numbers need to be more closely regulated or controlled. So this can be taken care of during the activation process. If your iphone (IMEI) is activated on a carrier. It cannot be activated on any other carrier unless it is released by the original carrier through your authorization. If you go to activate a stolen phone how does the IMEI number get created? How does it get the exact match to your serial number and phone number make model and so forth? Then when you try to activate it on a carrier that should be a red flag that this serial number model make and description does not match the IMEI. You should have some explaining to do.....

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post #37 of 68
I can't see why it's so difficult, just maintain a central DB of IMEI and block any to any operator that are reported as stolen..

Can't be that difficult...

Kevin
post #38 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by ziadjk View Post

I think the whole effort is a lost cause. If the government manages to pull something off with Apple, Google, etc. people will then whine and complain about their privacy.

Besides, what happens if a person steals a phone and gives it to a friend or relative? Do the friends and relatives get in trouble?
If not, what happens if I myself steal a phone and say it was given to me by someone else?

Waste of time, in my opinion.

 

Exactly. Let people demand it of product makers or competitiors if there are changes that can be made that may help. We are talking about theft, after all. People need to protect themselves before a theft is committed.

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post #39 of 68
Originally Posted by fz750 View Post
I can't see why it's so difficult, just maintain a central DB of IMEI and block any to any operator that are reported as stolen..

Can't be that difficult...

 

You're talking about getting the telecoms to agree to something that isn't price collusion.

 

Difficult doesn't even begin to describe it. lol.gif

post #40 of 68

Doesn't the kill switch technology already exist?  If someone steals my android phone I have an app that can remotely turn on GPS to locate the phone, can take pictures with the cameras, and can wipe my phone to protect my data.  I'd assume iOS and Windows Phone also has these same basic features.

 

What more do they want from Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Samsung?


Edited by DroidFTW - 6/5/13 at 1:50pm
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