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CTIA, US carriers complete work on stolen smartphone database
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Nov 28, 2013, 08:15 AM
Work on a national stolen phone database covering AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless handsets has been completed, according to an announcement from CTIA. The wireless association revealed that the multi-carrier database has been implemented before its November 30th deadline, one which it hopes to connect to overseas carriers to protect against thefts worldwide.

The database relies on IMEI numbers associated with the mobile device itself rather than the carrier-controlled SIM card, something which is already employed by other international databases, with stolen LTE smartphones able to be blocked as well as 3G devices, reports Phone Scoop. CTIA president and CEO Steve Largent said "As more countries and more carriers around the world participate in the 3G and 4G/LTE databases, criminals will have fewer outlets since these stolen phones would be blacklisted and could not be reactivated."

Critics have complained that the database only affects thieves reselling stolen phones in the United States, forcing them to ship the devices abroad for sale. By hooking the US database up to others, this will in theory close down the loophole, though this will still require significant international cooperation.

Device tracking, wiping in Android
Device tracking, wiping in Android

Despite the attempts by carriers to help secure devices by managing a cross-carrier database, as well as trying to work with other similar databases around the world, the carriers have still received complaints. San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón claimed that carriers were against adding anti-theft technology, such as a remote "kill switch" that deactivates a smartphone, as it would make customers less likely to take out insurance for their device. E-mails between Samsung executives and developers suggest to Gascón that the carriers were against such a system "so they can continue to make money hand over fist on insurance premiums."

Apple's Find My iPhone offers an "Activation Lock" to shut down stolen devices, and Android offers similar tools, effectively employing the tactic Gascón was asking for. CTIA believes that these could be abused by hackers, but still suggests that users can use these apps to remotely erase or track devices.
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