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Punters will pay for mobile phone anti-theft devices

In theory. Practice is very different

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A third of adults would be happy to pay more for their mobiles if it lead to a decrease in the risk of their phones being stolen.

That's according to UK survey by communs technology firm CMG which found a third of people it asked were willing to pay a one-off fee of up to $31 (funny sum translated for US audience) for extra security to make their phones useless to thieves.

A much smaller group (three per cent) even said that they would be willing to pay up to $155 for mobile crime busting technology.

But in the research, users' security fears failed to translate into direct action. Almost a half (45 per cent) admitted they hadn't even bothered to set up a PIN to protect their SIM card. Only one in three had registered their phones' serial number with a network operator, which allows service to disable the phone in the event of a theft.

Clearly there's a lack of knowledge about mobile phone security with people, apparently, willing to spend extra money in curtailing the problem without taking the most basic steps themselves.

You have to wonder about some of the 1,000 people CMG polled in its survey because one in four said that security fears put them off from using mobile phones in public places, which raises the question of why those people have a mobile in the first place.

Leaving that to one side, the survey revealed that the overwhelming majority of respondents (69 per cent) believed that it was the network operators' role, rather than the customers', to register the phones' serial number. But 82 per cent went on to say they believed that all parties - operators, handset manufacturers, retailers, the police and the government (no mention of consumers, though) - should work together in reducing mobile phone theft.

CMG said that while the issue mobile phone left is well known recognition of possible solutions is much lower.

The company goes on to make some suggestions about technological measures that could be introduced to curtail mobile phone theft.

In the future, operators could offer to register the SIM card number, telephone number, PIN Unlock Key, International Mobile Equipment Identification (IMEI) and security code on behalf of the customer. If the IMEI number was hard-wired in a chip, rather than programmable as it is today, might also make life more difficult for thieves.

Then there's the 'Mission Impossible' option. Manufacturers could include a `self destruct' facility to render a phone inoperable after it has been stolen. This could take the form of a predefined message, which, when sent to a phone either erases its program memory, and/or locks it up completely. If this message was sent at regular intervals, it would make reprogramming of the device pointless, CMG believes.

As an additional deterrent, CMG suggest that software in the mobile device should be personalised, so that unauthorised reprogramming with software from a different device would lock up the phone. ®

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