The Federal Communications Commission is spearheading an effort to crack down on the theft of smartphones and tablets, which account for roughly 40 percent of all theft-related crimes in major metropolitan markets such as New York City and Washington, D.C.
Among other things, the new Protects Initiative will establish a national database that will enable wireless carriers and consumers to reduce the black market value of stolen devices by turning them off. Other elements of the new program include providing consumers with the requisite tools for locking a lost or stolen mobile device or remotely erasing personal data .
Through the CTIA wireless trade association, major mobile device makers and the major U.S. network operators have agreed to ensure that devices they sell include automatic prompts to make consumers aware that they need to set up passwords.
"We're sending a message to consumers that we've got your back, and a message to criminals that we're cracking down on the stolen phone and tablet resale market and making smartphone theft a crime that doesn't pay," said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski on Tuesday.
New Opportunities and Challenges
The CTIA said Tuesday that the major U.S. wireless networks using GSM mobile technology have agreed to initiate, implement and deploy database solutions using unique identifying numbers. "U.S. GSM providers will implement this database [by the end of October] so that stolen GSM smartphones will not work on any U.S. GSM network," the CTIA said in a statement.
The CTIA's wireless provider members have also agreed to educate consumers about smartphone security features as well as third-party apps for remotely locking or wiping data from a lost or stolen device. Additionally, the trade association's device manufacturer members have agreed to have a software mechanism in place by April, 2013 that will prompt new smartphone purchasers to establish a device password.
Meanwhile, all handsets and media tablets are currently equipped with a set of codes that tell the wireless network which tasks each mobile device is capable of performing. This unique set of codes is known as a mobile equipment identifier (MEID) or international mobile equipment identifier (IMEI). (continued...)