UK fuzz want PINCODES on ALL mobile phones

Met Police calls for mandatory passwords on all new mobes

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Exclusive The Metropolitan Police has spent more than two years lobbying phone manufacturers and the government in a bid to introduce mandatory passwords on every new unit sold in Blighty, The Reg has learned.

Senior officers from the Met's National Mobile Phone Crime Unit (NMPCU) have met with firms including Apple and Samsung to discuss the new measure, which police see as a key way of tackling handset and identity theft. Cops want to see each phone sold with a password already in place, so that buyers are dissuaded from leaving their mobe unlocked.

Internal research conducted by the NMPCU suggests that up to 60 per cent of phones do not have a password, offering thieves access to a treasure trove of valuable personal information.

DCI Bob Mahoney heads up a team of two sergeants and 10 constables at the NMPCU, which works within the auspices of the Met Police, but has a national remit.

In an interview at the team's offices in West London, DCI Mahoney said he wanted to "target-harden" Blighty's mobile phones.

"We are trying to get [passwords] to be set as a default on new phones, so that when you purchase it you will physically have to switch the password off, rather than switch it on," he said.

"We have been talking to the industry and government. This is one of the main ideas among a range of measures we are trying to push to protect personal data.

"All of the industry has been engaged at all levels - and government too."

The talks have been underway for two years, he continued, and the idea has gained "a lot of traction".

"If you have to get into the phone to switch something on, our research indicates people are less likely to do it," he added. "The industry are very supportive."

An unlocked phone is worth far more to a crook than a safely guarded mobe with a tough-to-crack pincode.

"We have intelligence that shows a phone with personal information is worth more than other mobiles, because the thief can sell it on to anyone who can make use of that info," the DCI said.

"On an unlocked phone, you can find a person's home address, home telephone number, their partner's details, diary, Facebook and Twitter account. This allows thieves to know when a target is not going to be at home or perhaps use their details to set up banking loans. They could destroy a person's life."

Mobile phone theft is changing in Britain, particularly in the wake of Apple's Activation Lock, which put a massive dent in the popularity of iPhones among thieves. Although they are still the most in demand among the criminal fraternity, the number of fruity mobes nicked has halved in the past year, DCI Mahoney added.

Mobiles are often now sold on a global market, with stolen phones ending up on the other side of the world just a few days after being stolen, he continued.

One of the NMPCU's greatest achievements in the past year was the cracking of a "steam-in" gang, which would burst into mobile phone shops en masse and steal whatever they could find. DCI Mahoney said his force managed to find and cage more than 40 youngsters who took part in such crimes.

However, according to official Home Office figures handed to The Register, crime statistics for England and Wales show that in the 12 months ending March 2014, theft "from the person" fell by 10 per cent.

Crime Prevention Minister Norman Baker told us this proved "action to reduce crimes such as mobile phone theft is working".

“The mobile phone industry and police already have arrangements in place to block stolen phones, which stop them being re-used in this country and reduces their value. We have also launched an online advice service to help people make the most of their phone’s security feature," he said.

“But we recognise that more can be done and mobile phone technology is changing all the time, which is why we will continue to work with industry and the police to improve security.”

Cops are optimistic that measures such as Apple's Activation Lock, which can effectively brick a phone from afar, will contribute to a decline in mobile thefts.

We contacted Apple, which you might expect would respond to praise about its efforts to tackle crime. But it did not respond.

A Samsung spokesman did. “Samsung is pleased to be supporting the UK Government and Crime Prevention Committee in its goal to reduce the serious issue of mobile phone crime theft," he said.

"Samsung phones already have features such as ‘Find My Mobile’ which gives people control over how their devices are used if lost or stolen, as well as ‘Reactivation Lock’ on new mobile devices which prevents a reset of the device if it isn’t recovered. Samsung is working with the Home Office on an on-going basis with the aim of reducing mobile phone theft in the UK.” ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Mighty Blighty broadbanders beg: Let us lay cable in BT's, er, ducts
Complain to Ofcom that telco has 'effective monopoly'
Download alert: Nearly ALL top 100 Android, iOS paid apps hacked
Attack of the Clones? Yeah, but much, much scarier – report
BT said to have pulled patent-infringing boxes from DSL network
Take your license demand and stick it in your ASSIA
Yahoo! blames! MONSTER! email! OUTAGE! on! CUT! CABLE! bungle!
Weekend woe for BT as telco struggles to restore service
Fujitsu CTO: We'll be 3D-printing tech execs in 15 years
Fleshy techie disses network neutrality, helmet-less motorcyclists
Ofcom tackles complaint over Premier League footie TV rights
Virgin Media: UK fans pay the most for the fewest matches
prev story


Go beyond APM with real-time IT operations analytics
How IT operations teams can harness the wealth of wire data already flowing through their environment for real-time operational intelligence.
The total economic impact of Druva inSync
Examining the ROI enterprises may realize by implementing inSync, as they look to improve backup and recovery of endpoint data in a cost-effective manner.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Mitigating web security risk with SSL certificates
Web-based systems are essential tools for running business processes and delivering services to customers.