Mobile phone blacklisting

December 10th, 2013 at 7:27 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

From today there should be little point in thieves pilfering , as they will be next to useless within 24 hours.

A new “blacklisting” system put in place by Vodafone, Telecom and 2degrees means that once a mobile has been reported stolen, it won’t work on any of the three networks.

Cyber-safety organisation NetSafe estimated several years ago that about 10,000 mobile phones were stolen in New Zealand each year.

Police Superintendent Steve Christian said the blacklisting system would mean stolen devices would have “no value on the streets”.

This is an excellent initiative.

Mind you I always thought you’d be dumb to steal a phone with GPS capability as it is fairly easy to trace its location if you can get a telco to do it for you.

The phone companies have independently operated their own blacklisting systems for stolen mobiles, however, until now it had been possible for thieves to get around each of the operators’ blocks by substituting the Sim card in a stolen mobile with one from a different network.

Blacklisting relies on every mobile phone having a unique 15-digit international mobile equipment identity (IMEI) number, which is silently transmitted to the carrier each time it is used to make a call.

Today, the three mobile operators began sharing their lists of stolen devices with one another and with overseas telcos through an international database.

The phone companies have been working for a year, through the Telecommunications Forum, an industry body, to get the shared system in place.

Not sure if it takes a year to set up a shared Google spreadsheet :-)

In June, United States prosecutors, concerned about violent thefts of smartphones in the US, suggested phone companies there went one step further and built a “kill switch” into their handsets which would render them completely useless if stolen.

I have a much better idea. Have the kill switch kill the user if they don’t get the password right after three attempts :-)

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10 Responses to “Mobile phone blacklisting”

  1. Yoza (1,348 comments) says:

    Yeah, let’s kill cell phone thieves. I mean its only been one thread since Kiwibloggers were beating their chests with indignation over an ex-greenie suggested St. Jude should off herself.

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  2. nostrils (53 comments) says:

    My final visit to Kiwiblog. Comments from people like Yoza just make me feel dirty for the rest of the day.
    Bye ‘yall.

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  3. redqueen (342 comments) says:

    David, you’re proposing death on a genocidal scale: think of all the poor pissed buggers who’d end up pushing the poppies under a ‘Three Strikes and You’re Dead’ policy! :-P Wait a second, isn’t this something out of the Green Party’s population control target?

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  4. gump (1,228 comments) says:

    @dpf

    The carriers can’t read GPS coordinates off a stolen phone. The GPS data isn’t exposed to the network.

    At best they can roughly triangulate your phone’s position based on transmission delays to nearby cell towers.

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  5. Chris2 (704 comments) says:

    When I managed a company’s large cellphone account with Vodafone 10 years ago they already offered to block stolen ‘phones back then. Why has it taken a decade for the phone companies to “offer” this to all its customers?

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  6. MT_Tinman (2,790 comments) says:

    I have a much better idea. Have the kill switch kill the user if they don’t get the password right after three attempts

    Christ no. I’d go through ‘phones like most people go through Smarties.

    On the GPS thing I note the Police are far too busy lying, stealing and shafting innocent motorists to go get stolen iPhones – I’ve twice now taken people to do exactly that because of that police inaction.

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  7. slijmbal (1,133 comments) says:

    The telcos have wanted to stay out of this for years as it is expensive for them to manage and prone to subtle forms of abuse.

    A phone can be identified independently of the SIM used for 10 years or so.

    And as gump says the GPS details are not accessible to the carrier – thank god for that as we have enough privacy issues already. I think they roughly triangulate by signal strength rather than timing btw.

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  8. Lance (2,309 comments) says:

    You have always been able to quote the phones unique number (not the serial number) to your service provider if it was stolen (can’t recall the term off the top of my head) and it can never be used again, anywhere and on any network. It’s just that people didn’t know this or lost the unique number. On an IPhone it’s on the outside of the box.
    I know this because my wife’s iPhone was stolen and disabled within the hour, forever.

    Didn’t have ‘find my phone’ then, we do now.

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  9. wrightingright (132 comments) says:

    3 strikes and you’re out!!

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  10. slijmbal (1,133 comments) says:

    @Lance – the telco already knew this number (IMEI pronounced immy from memory) as it is included in every call and text and logged by the telcos. You don’t have to tell them what it is. They just did not want to get involved in locking out phones.

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