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Carriers, FCC Join In Bid To Curb Cellphone Thefts

Tue, April 10, 2012 12:55pm

Story by Mark Memmott


On the phone in Manhattan.

Wireless providers have agreed to create a national database of stolen cellphones that it is hoped will make the devices somewhat less tempting to thieves.

Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, and a group of lawmakers and law enforcement officials are set to announce outlines of the plan at 10 a.m. ET.

According to The Wall Street Journal, "the database, which the wireless companies will build and maintain, will be designed to track phones that are reported as lost or stolen and deny them voice and data service. The idea is to reduce crime by making it difficult or impossible to actually use a stolen device, reducing resale value."

But, the Journal adds:

"The databases aren't perfect, said David Rogers, a mobile security expert at consulting firm Copper Horse Solutions in London. Phones that are blocked from receiving voice service 'still have lots of functions.' They can still connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi, for instance, as well as play music or games."

ZDNet also notes that "in some cases, unique [cellphone ID] numbers can be changed and the devices can be shipped abroad where they still work on foreign networks."

But, it also says:

"A similar system has existed in the UK and Australia for years, with a good success rate and strong consumer confidence. The National Mobile Phone Register has been running for nearly two years, and located and identified more than 50,000 phones in the first nine months of operation."

Earlier this year, The Hill wrote that "a recent study by Norton indicated that one in three individuals experience cellphone loss or theft, and a Symantec study of 50 Android phones in major cities found that more than 95 percent of people who found missing phones tried to access sensitive personal information."

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