Feeds

North Americans just don't steal handsets, apparently...

Rogers dodgers

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Back in 2005, when he lost his three-day-old Motorola v 635, Pete Gillespie immediately phoned his cell provider, Canada's Rogers Wireless. Among other things, he urged the cellco giant to blacklist the phone's IMEI number so that miscreants couldn't reconnect his $600 purchase to the Canadian airwaves. But the company said it didn't do such things.

Then, just this week, Gillespie lost a second phone: his Blackberry 8820. And three years on, Rogers again said it doesn't do IMEI blacklisting. "They won't trace the IMEI in any way to see if the phone is back on the network, and if there's a GPS in the phone, they won't use that to recover the thing," Gillespie tells The Reg. "They just say that these are things their network does not support."

Among North American wireless providers, Rogers is not alone. Though most of western Europe has spent the past several years blacklisting the IMEI numbers of lost and stolen phones, US and Canadian providers continue to ignore the practice.

"Presently, we don't have any North American operators connected to our [IMEI blacklist] database," says James Moran, fraud and security director of the GSM Association (GSMA). "When we've raised the issue with these operators in the past, what they've said is that handset theft has not been an issue North America - or least not to the same degree it has been in Europe and the rest of the world."

This is not an argument Moran is inclined to believe. But he does say that just this week, a Canadian provider phoned him to "express interest" in IMEI blacklisting. "Though we haven't heard anything from the US," he added.

Scandinavian operators have been sharing stolen handset data since the mid-nineties. And early this decade, the GSMA standardized the practice, urging member companies to blacklist according to the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number that uniquely identifies each GSM and 3G handset. That includes North American members. But six years on, they've yet fall in line.

Nonetheless, a Rogers spokeswoman tells us the company "is very concerned about the trends in handset theft and its impact to our handset manufacturing partners, our distribution channels and our customers." The company also says its "always reviewing its policies." But at the moment, those policies are behind the times.

This morning, when Pete Gillespie spoke to someone from Rogers "Customer Relations" team, she confirmed that any lost or stolen could easily be reactivated on the company's network. But she also told Gillespie it was his responsibility to lock his own phone. "When I told her that a simple re-flashing of the phone would remove any such locks," Gillespie says, "she did not have much of a response."

More importantly, IMEI blacklisting would discourage handset theft. But North American providers aren't likely to acknowledge this unless they first acknowledge that handsets do indeed get stolen. ®

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
Major problems beset UK ISP filth filters: But it's OK, nobody uses them
It's almost as though pr0n was actually rather popular
Microsoft unsheathes cheap Android-killer: Behold, the Lumia 530
Say it with us: I'm King of the Landfill-ill-ill-ill
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
Apple orders huge MOUNTAIN of 80 MILLION 'Air' iPhone 6s
Bigger, harder trouser bulges foretold for fanbois
US freemium mobile network eyes up Europe
FreedomPop touts 'free' calls, texts and data
'Two-speed internet' storm turns FCC.gov into zero-speed website
Deadline for comments on net neutrality shake-up extended to Friday
Oh girl, you jus' didn't: Level 3 slaps Verizon in Netflix throttle blowup
Just hook us up to more 10Gbps ports, backbone biz yells in tit-for-tat spat
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.