Smartphone blacklist planned for next year
If your cellphone is stolen, it will soon be difficult for the thief to use it on a Canadian network. Canada's cellphone companies are setting up a blacklist for stolen phones that will stop them being reactivated.
The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association said that carriers will start blocking phones on the blacklist on September 30, 2013. It will contain the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) of all stolen devices that have been reported as stolen. It will also include some international networks for overseas phones. In the meantime, it wants cellphone users to visit its public awareness site.
The IMEI is probably the best mechanism we have to uniquely identify a phone because each one is different, and they are hardcoded into the phone. This means that if a lowlife steals your phone and tries to swap out the SIM card, the phone will still show up as blacklisted if they try to activate it on a Canadian network.
However, the system isn't entirely bullet-proof. It is possible to change the IMEI on a phone using one of several readily available utilities. The key is that you have to know what you are doing – and there are severe penalties for people changing these numbers. It's quite easy to see how a determined criminal who makes a living from stealing phones could simply fold this into their 'business' model, though.
US cellphone carriers will also set up a database, designed to be introduced no more than a month later.
Now, features such as Apple's Find My iPhone let you find your phone directly if a thief starts it up and connects it to the Internet. However you'd be advised against paying the thief a visit yourself. If someone is immoral enough to steal a phone, who knows what else they'll do? In any case, it is easy for a thief to circumvent that feature.
Have you had your phone stolen? What did you do - and did you ever get it back?
Danny Bradbury, MSN Tech & Gadgets