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

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
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."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 68
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member



     


    "Whoa, déjà vu…"

  • Reply 2 of 68
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    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.
  • Reply 3 of 68
    cyberzombiecyberzombie Posts: 256member


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

     

  • Reply 4 of 68
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 13,001member
    [QUOTE]"Unlike other types of crimes, smartphone theft can be eradicated with a simple technological solution.[/QUOTE]

    If it were so simple I think it would have already been done.
  • Reply 5 of 68
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,491member
    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.
  • Reply 6 of 68
    malaxmalax Posts: 1,598member


    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).

  • Reply 7 of 68
    bleh1234bleh1234 Posts: 146member
    Wasnt this posted already? Same story, just different city. Old one was NYC
  • Reply 8 of 68
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 13,001member
    solipsismx wrote: »
    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.
  • Reply 9 of 68
    geekdadgeekdad Posts: 1,131member


    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.

  • Reply 10 of 68
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,408member


    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)

  • Reply 11 of 68
    christophbchristophb Posts: 1,476member
    solipsismx wrote: »
    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.
  • Reply 12 of 68
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member


    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.

  • Reply 13 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 

  • Reply 14 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.
  • Reply 15 of 68
    macrulezmacrulez Posts: 2,455member


    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.

     

  • Reply 16 of 68
    christophbchristophb Posts: 1,476member
    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.
  • Reply 17 of 68
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 13,369member
    rob53 wrote: »
    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.

    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.
  • Reply 18 of 68
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    christophb wrote: »
    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.
  • Reply 19 of 68
    geekdadgeekdad Posts: 1,131member

    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.

  • Reply 20 of 68
    richlrichl Posts: 2,213member

    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.

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