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Cell Carriers Finally Agree to Anti-Theft Phone 'Kill Switch'
by Karl Bode 03:57PM Monday Apr 21 2014
Two years ago wireless carriers and the government announced that they'd be collaborating on building a new nationwide database to track stolen phones (specifically the IMEI number, not just the SIM card ID). The goal was to reduce the time that stolen phones remain useful, thereby drying up the market for stolen phones and reducing the ability of criminals to use the devices to dodge surveillance.

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The move came after AT&T was sued for doing little to track or stop theft, the lawsuit alleging it was more profitable to do nothing and cash in on stolen phone re-activations. The lawsuit (and government prodding) spurred AT&T to develop new anti-theft tools, and carriers in general have been working hard to try and prove they care about cell phone theft.

Still, law enforcement has complained the database has proven ineffective because many phones wind up overseas, and cell phone thefts in 2013 doubled. As a result, New York and San Francisco lawmakers recently started pushing laws that mandate a "kill switch" -- or a phone function that would automatically render a phone useless once its owner has reported it stolen. Carriers however have fought the idea for years because, again, they tend to make money on the re-purposing of stolen devices.

After several years of such resistance, the cellular industry's top trade organization (the CTIA) now says that carriers will begin implementing kill switch technology sometime in 2015. The full voluntary anti-theft systems they'll implement are outlined here, with a focus on opt in services that can wipe personal data, render the device inoperable (reversible if recovered), and prevent re-activation.

Some of the states and politicians behind kill switch laws complain the plan doesn't go far enough because the systems will be opt in. Though profit may be their primary motivation, carriers are joined by a number of people who correctly argue that if a user can remotely cripple a device using these tools -- so could a hacker.

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KrK
Heavy Artillery For The Little Guy
Premium
join:2000-01-17
Tulsa, OK

It's about time. They also need to go after the resellers who buy stolen...

Phones. You see them all over, those phone stores who will buy "used" phones no questions asked and then flash them to restore service and the like.

Regulate them like pawn shops.
--
"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." -- Benito Mussolini

battleop

join:2005-09-28
00000

Re: It's about time. They also need to go after the resellers who buy stolen...

The kill switch will take care of the resellers. No need for more regulation.

ArrayList
DevOps
Premium
join:2005-03-19
Brighton, MA

Re: It's about time. They also need to go after the resellers who buy stolen...

unfortunately a kill switch isn't regulation.. and I don't think any carrier should have the right to control my hardware.
--
A sane approach to our federal budget: Ignore the tea party

KrK
Heavy Artillery For The Little Guy
Premium
join:2000-01-17
Tulsa, OK
I doubt it. I think they will just re-flash the phones.
BosstonesOwn

join:2002-12-15
Wakefield, MA
Reviews:
·Verizon FiOS
Good luck with that... I see this all the time in other countries that have the "kill switch" service.

They take the stolen phone and clone a broken phones imei number too it then sell it off as a used phone. Even the OTP area IMEI number can be hacked... They just flip the bits to raise the IMEI number since the OTP area can only be raised, never lowered. But go head and believe this will help.
--
"It's always funny until someone gets hurt......and then it's absolutely friggin' hysterical!"
Expand your moderator at work

formerphoned

@comcastbusiness.net

Re: It's about time. They also need to go after the resellers who buy stolen...

lots of stores actually have display cases full of phones marked 'export only' those are the blacklisted(reported stolen) phones. customers also come in specifically requesting 'blacklisted' phones since the price is cheaper and they are just as usable overseas. apple and other really should put the same 'activation lock' on when phones are on the blacklist as they do when 'find my iphone' is set up.
BosstonesOwn

join:2002-12-15
Wakefield, MA

Re: It's about time. They also need to go after the resellers who buy stolen...

and both are easy to bypass. Locked iphones can be gotten around and restored easily. you just lose the data.
--
"It's always funny until someone gets hurt......and then it's absolutely friggin' hysterical!"

EliteData
EliteData
Premium
join:2003-07-06
Long Island,
kudos:7

?

would this "kill switch" still work if a stolen device from the US is powered off immediately after being stolen, taken overseas someplace like china and then powered on ?
--
Suffolk County NY Police Feed - »www.scpdny.com
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KrK
Heavy Artillery For The Little Guy
Premium
join:2000-01-17
Tulsa, OK

Re: ?

No, not likely.... but neither is that scenario. Most phones are stolen and then sold cheap to someone else or taken to one of those phone reseller shops who will buy them no questions asked and then wipe them, reflash them and resell them.

Example, while typing this I pull up craigslist and type in "iPhone 5" and one of the very first hits:

I will buy any iphone 5/5S/5C, ipad air and samsung galaxy s4 or note 3
I will buy clean esn/bad esn/icloud locked/blacklisted.
The samsung s4 must be tmobile or AT&T.
iPhones any carrier.
Txt or call me anytime 24/7!!

--
"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." -- Benito Mussolini
Kearnstd
Space Elf
Premium
join:2002-01-22
Mullica Hill, NJ
kudos:1

Re: ?

no that is not more shady than a tree farm.

Sounds about as trustworthy as a guy selling DVDs off a blanket in a subway station.
--
[65 Arcanist]Filan(High Elf) Zone: Broadband Reports

fiostv

@tmodns.net

give people what they want

So like everything else it is a tool that could be used for good or evil
zod5000

join:2003-10-21
Victoria, BC

Re: give people what they want

Yah. Could you imagine if the system in charge of nuking phones got hacked....

WiFiguru
To infinity... and beyond
Premium
join:2005-06-21
Irvine, CA

Reversed if recovered.

Yeah... people will just develop tools that can bypass all of this.

Cloning IMEIs, etc. Cheap donor phones will become the market, rising prices for them as demand goes up.
jjeffeory

join:2002-12-04
USA

Re: Reversed if recovered.

It's already available. For example, if an S4 is IMEI blocked, simply have the IMEI on the phone changed. No problem.

ArrayList
DevOps
Premium
join:2005-03-19
Brighton, MA

Re: Reversed if recovered.

simply have it changed? I'm pretty sure there is nothing simple about it.
--
A sane approach to our federal budget: Ignore the tea party
BosstonesOwn

join:2002-12-15
Wakefield, MA

Re: Reversed if recovered.

Ahmm yeah it's pretty easy for someone with a little know-how and a hot air soldering station.

DataRiker
Premium
join:2002-05-19
00000

Re: Reversed if recovered.

The fact that you need to solder means 99% of people won't even attempt it, and it would make it costly for shops to do this on a large scale.
jjeffeory

join:2002-12-04
USA

Re: Reversed if recovered.

It's a $40 buck service you can find on eBay. No soldiering required as far as I know, just the right tools to do the job.

Corehhi

join:2002-01-28
Bluffton, SC
Were you around for the heyday of DirecTV hacking???? LOL.

cableties
Premium
join:2005-01-27

Re: Reversed if recovered.

I still have a valid DSS card :P too bad its about as worthless as the dust on it...
--
Splat

robbyglack

@comcastbusiness.net

why not check against the blacklist

it seems a fair trade off between making the feature on by default would be that any phone listed in the IMEI blacklist would trigger the same lock. if this works anything like apple's current 'find my iphone' it means the phone will connect to an online server to determine whether or not to pass activation. i am sure it would not be difficult for apple to check the IMEI database and deny activation of reported stolen phones regardless of the 'find my iphone' setting.
MrRuckus

join:2004-01-30
Portland, OR

Never buy second hand.

I will never buy second hand because of what a friend of mine went through. He bought a brand new boxed Galaxy S 3 for something like $400 at launch. He didnt question the buyer because it was brand new in the factory sealed box. The guy said his wife decided on an iphone instead so he was selling the S 3 at a little bit of a loss.

The phone worked for a month and then wouldn't connect. Called TMO, they said the phone was purchased on an account that was never paid on. Most likely some kind of identity theft. They bought 2 phones but that was all the info TMO would give him. Even though he was a customer for over 12 years at the time, there was nothing they could do for him. They ended up letting him buy a phone on contract and pay monthly for it, but he bought the phone because he wasn't up for an upgrade yet.

He ended up selling it for something like $300 and advised it was useless on TMO, but could be used on ATT fine. Someone on ATT picked it up at a steal of a price.

Even with the kill switch, it doesn't stop things like the above from happening.

IowaCowboy
Iowa native
Premium
join:2010-10-16
Springfield, MA
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Verizon Broadban..
·Comcast

I buy my phones new and anti-theft ideas

I buy my phones new and only from corporate Verizon Wireless stores or Best Buy mobile stores.

I would never buy a used phone.

I personally think a good way to combat smartphone theft would be the existing carrier locks and if the user wants to travel overseas they should have to call the carrier, authenticate themselves and have the carrier lock released to insert a foreign sim.

It's the export black market that drives smartphone theft. I think if there was a way to make the phone worthless overseas then that would curb smartphone theft. Or make it so the user has to enter a PIN to insert a different SIM card to unlock the phone. In other words, if you insert a different sim, then you have to enter your pin to unlock the phone. If you don't remember the pin then you should have to get an unlock code from the carrier which the phone was purchased. That should require the user to go to one of their stores with the phone and prove ownership. Then there could be a system to release the pin if the phone is deactivated, which would have to come as a signal to the phone from the home carrier of the phone. This would allow foreign sims, a user would have to enter their pin to (set by user) to activate the foreign SIM and unlock the phone once the sim other than one issued by the home carrier. The same system could be used if you insert a sim from a carrier in the country in which the phone was purchased, no pin required and if you insert an overseas sim then you should have to enter your pin.
--
I've experienced ImOn (when they were McLeod USA), Mediacom, Comcast, and Time Warner and I currently have DirecTV. They are much better than broadcast TV.

I have not and will not cut the cord.

KrK
Heavy Artillery For The Little Guy
Premium
join:2000-01-17
Tulsa, OK

Re: I buy my phones new and anti-theft ideas

The local black market drives far more Smartphone theft then overseas export.

The fact that these guys will buy these stolen phones makes grabbing someone's nice phone free cash. Kill switches can't stop everything but it sure would help. Making it a crime to buy and resell phones that are blacklisted and or kill-switched would also help, but you can't cover every circumstance.

Still I feel they should do what they can. The current situation is ridiculous.
--
"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." -- Benito Mussolini
Kearnstd
Space Elf
Premium
join:2002-01-22
Mullica Hill, NJ
kudos:1

Re: I buy my phones new and anti-theft ideas

I get a feeling lots of the buyers of reflashed phones are drug dealers and the like. People who need a phone they can ditch if the feds get too close.
--
[65 Arcanist]Filan(High Elf) Zone: Broadband Reports

NOCMan
MadMacHatter
Premium
join:2004-09-30
Colorado Springs, CO

Double Edged Sword?

Could this be used by governments to disable our phones?

KrK
Heavy Artillery For The Little Guy
Premium
join:2000-01-17
Tulsa, OK

Re: Double Edged Sword?

The Government could already disable your phone. This lets YOU disable your phone.

Corehhi

join:2002-01-28
Bluffton, SC
Reviews:
·Hargray Cable
said by NOCMan:

Could this be used by governments to disable our phones?

Yes. Useful thing if you ever have an anti-government demonstration.

pag plus dlr

@charter.com

> > "to keep you safe "

I am totaly sure that carriers would never use this nuke your phone after you port your number and phone to another carrier - no - Local police would never use mesh networking tech mounted in white boxes to steal phone data over wi-fi - nuke all phones in a give "free speech ' area during a protest - nope

Whats wrong with legit phone resellers who improve and re purpose phones that are bound for the landfill?
SunnyD

join:2009-03-20
Madison, AL

Tin Foil Hat time...

Just what we need, a mass-market way for the powers that be to selectively turn off means of communication for legitimate individuals. This will NEVER be abused.

acadiel
Press fire to begin
Premium
join:2002-06-22
Lakeland, FL
kudos:2

Re: Tin Foil Hat time...

said by SunnyD:

Just what we need, a mass-market way for the powers that be to selectively turn off means of communication for legitimate individuals. This will NEVER be abused.

Yep, I'm waiting for the people holding phones hostage for ransom.... You're going to see hackers threatening to erase phones, etc, just like computers. It'll eventually happen; Android and Apple already have kill switches via their vendors, but the bad guys haven't started doing this yet. They will, give them time.

silentlooker
Premium
join:2009-11-01

Not big deal

It will do nothing, and can easily be wiped and the lock can be disabled. This is just talk and nothing but talk.