Preventing mobile phone theft

After my cellphone was stolen from my car dashboard a few months back, I was left really mad, and I tried to convince my mobile operator Hutch to blacklist the phone IMEI. The operator told me that it was not worth the trouble because the IMEI of stolen mobile phones could be changed, and anyway there was too much paperwork involved in blocking the phone by IMEI.

There is currently an interesting thread at India-GII about this. This post by Nandkumar Saravade was interesting. He quoted an interesting page which talked about the Mobile Telephones (Re-Programming) Act in UK which had the following text:

This Act, which came into force on 4 October 2002, aims to tackle the rise in mobile phone theft by creating new offences that could mean five years in prison and unlimited fines for those re-programming stolen mobile phones. Mobile phone theft is a key factor in the rise in street robberies.

The Bill is a key measure in the Government and industry’s strategy to make stolen phones of little use or value. It backs moves by mobile phone operators to bar stolen phones from their networks. The new offences proposed are:

  • Changing the unique identifying characteristic of a mobile phone – the IMEI number
  • Owning or supplying the necessary equipment with the intent to use it for re-programming mobile phones.

Well, that is really reassuring. It confirms to me that the IMEI number can be changed. Ethernet MAC codes are similar to IMEI numbers, but they can also be changed. I wonder what are the legal circumstances in which modifying these unique identifiable ids is required, because of which the manufacturers have left this configurable.

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