Jack Straw shoots back in the Net

Mobile thefts and kiddie Web protection

Home Secretary Jack Straw is having a summit today and tomorrow concerning the problems the Internet is throwing up. Today at 3pm, he's meeting representatives from the mobile phone industry to discuss ways in which mobile theft can be tackled.

Tomorrow at midday he is meeting with the Internet Watch Foundation to discuss how to make surfing the Net safer for children.

Regarding mobile phone theft, the police have recently launched an advertising campaign to make people aware of the existence of your phone's unique IMEI (International mobile equipment identity) number. By writing down and reporting this number if your phone is stolen, the police can return it to its rightful owner when/if it is recovered.

Not only this but mobile phone companies can disable phones reported as stolen since the IMEI number is sent to the mobile network every time it is used. Some mobile companies currently block use of phones reported as stolen but others haven't deemed it necessary (stolen phones make calls too). Jack Straw is likely to push for closer communication between the police and mobile companies in this area and back an awareness campaign.

One flaw in this process though was brought to our attention by a Register reader. He claimed that the IMEI was stored on a piece of flash memory on the phone. As such, it can be wiped and a new number put in its place. We have been onto mobile companies about this but none have yet replied. Even if it were true though, it would require some specialised equipment - beyond the means of most phone thieves.

Tomorrow's meeting will see Jack Straw discuss the recent report on child safety on the Internet by the Internet Watch Foundation. The report was released last week at the Home Office. It made nine recommendations, which are expected to be pushed at the meeting.

Among these were that a kitemark system should be put in place so parents know which sites are safe for their children to browse, and that an extensive education programme is launched to make parents and teachers aware of the issue (the first part of this was revealed last week).

Fortunately, this time, Jack Straw is unlikely to seek the introduction of new laws to tackle these problems. ®

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