Stolen Cellphones Will Be Blocked From Major Networks

Major U.S. carriers have switched on a database to block stolen handset from their networks. Pretty soon that stolen cell phone, won’t be much good to anyone.

Thefts of cell phones and other devices are on the rise. In New York (according to the IDG/Network World article) cell phones represented up to 40% of thefts. So even if you’ve wiped your phone remotely (Find my Phone FTW), thieves still had a valuable device to sell.

Until now.

AT&T and T-Mobile turned on their database on Wednesday, Verizon and Sprint will have their own database coming soon, and by November next year they will have a combined database. Smaller carriers have plans to get on board as well. So, how does the list work? Like this:

With the introduction of the database, carriers will be able to block stolen handsets from being used on their networks. Until now, such blocking had targeted the SIM card, so unauthorized calls could not be made on stolen phones, but putting in a new SIM card meant the phone could still be used. That meant a stolen phone could be sold on the second-hand market.

The new database blocks the IMEI number, a unique identification number in the cellphone akin to a VIN (vehicle identification number) in a car. The ID number remains with the cellphone no matter what SIM card is used.
Via: Stolen cellphone databases switched on in US

Just like each device on the Internet has a unique MAC (hardware) address, a phone does too. The carriers, obviously, know what all the IDs are and can just block that device from connecting to or using the network. What about people stealing U.S. cell phones and sending them elsewhere? Officials have that covered as well:

There are also plans to link it with an international database maintained by the GSM Association to stop stolen phones being shipped overseas and used on foreign networks.

This is great new for folks in the U.S. I’m reaching out to the major Canadian carriers and industry group to learn if there is a similar plan in Canada. If there were to be a U.S.-Canada-Mexico database of stolen phones, that would also help stem the tide of stolen phones.

See also our previous post about AT&T starting this on their own last summer.

Brick image from Flickr by nottsexminer.

Like this post? Share it!