Home Office to secure mobile phones
Despite eradicating phone theft in 2007
The UK's Design Council has been working with the Home Office to create technologies designed to prevent mobile phone theft - which is rampant, or not, depending on when you ask.
Development of the three technologies has been funded by the Technology Strategy Board, as part of the Mobile Phone Security Challenge, and will be demonstrated at the mobile industry shindig in Barcelona next week.
The breakthrough technologies that are going to leave thieves destitute are: a requirement for a PIN when the SIM is replaced; a tag which bleeps when the mobile phone is out of range; and (our favourite) an NFC card which is waved near the NFC-enabled phone in order to authorise an NFC transaction.
Requiring a PIN when replacing a SIM is already a feature of some handsets, though rarely enabled, and bracelets equipped with Bluetooth can already alert you if your phone gets too far away, as well as buzzing when a call comes in. The i-migo product named by the Home Office can't do that, but it will offer a backup capability instead.
Our favourite innovation, though, has to be the "Touch Safe" - a card (or tag) which is carried in addition to the phone. When you want to use Near Field Communications for a transaction you just take out your card and place it near your phone, then place the phone near the NFC reader and away you go.
It's fun to imagine those boarding the London Underground balancing this teetering combination of items on the reader as they stream through the NFC-based gates - quite why you couldn't do the entire transaction with the card (as already happens) isn't explained.
Phones are still stolen in the UK, despite an international database that prevents them being used once they've been reported stolen which was expected to make theft pointless. But in reality some phones never get reported, and some are taken during a mugging to prevent the rozzers being called too quickly, but most are nicked by opportunists when left lying around on tables and in bags.
The Home Office tells us that 228 phones are reported stolen every hour in the UK. That's doubly scary as the government's own figures put annual mobile theft at around 700,000, so we're forced to assume that over a million of those phones reported stolen are later recovered.
But it's not just theft which has got the Home Office all in a lather: apparently "Mobile phone identity fraud rose 74 per cent in the first half of 2009", which is obviously a concern to every one of us. We're not sure what exactly "mobile phone identity fraud" is; the Home Office rep we spoke to agreed that it was unlikely to be people pretending to be mobile phones and promised to get back to us when he found out.
Whatever it is we clearly need to come down on it hard, and only by carrying more NFC-enabled devices can we prevent the plague of mobile phone identities being used fraudulently. ®
Easy to get the Oink out
Tell them your phone was stolen by a bloke with a bit of a tan, a copy of the Quran and a rucksack that smelt of fireworks. Cressida Dick-Head will put together a death squad, execute every Brazilian in the city, cover it up and get a knighthood from the Queen.
The never ending story
So you need a card to authorise the telephone to authorise a transaction?
This means that they'll target your card as well as the telephone. Presumably in the next version there will be something else to authorise the card to authorise the telephone to authorise a transaction?
Eventually it'll get so bad that people give up and go back to cash.
Mobile phone Identity theft
Do you really have to wait for a Home Office PR wonk to explain it?
This refers to a phone that has been stolen being given the identity of a legitimate phone to bypass the network IMEI barring by reprogramming the handset's IMEI number as every handset in the world is supposed to have a unique IMEI or Internetional Mobile Equipment Identifier.
The IMEI identifies the phone while the SIM or USIM (in UMTS) identifies the subscriber intormation hence it is called the Subscriber Identity Module or Universal Subsciber Identity Module (meaning it has the encryption keys for both 2G and 3G networks).
Roger Cook (I think) did an investigation about phone theft and featured some information from Cellnet as it then was that when they did a network audit they found 10 mobiles with the same IMEI operating on the network so if they had barred them they would likely bar a legitimate subscriber too.
So from this I would infer that this figure refers to either how many collaborators of thieving scum they have arrested for reporgraaming or how many apparently dupiicate phones networks have seen log on to their networks.
I have nothing to declare other than a sound knowledge of the technology.
Don't count on hearing back from hearing back from the wonk that soon as people in the Home Office probably don't know what they are talking about either.