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back to article NYC attorney seeks mobe-makers' help to curb muggings

In a series of letters, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has called upon smartphone makers to explain what they are doing to combat the growing problem of handset theft. "Cracking down on violent and dangerous cell phone thefts is important for New Yorkers," Schneiderman said in a canned statement. "The …

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Anonymous Coward

SCR across the battery....

They need to have a nice crowbar across the battery.

"My phone's been stolen - here's the info."

Later, miscreant dials phone:

"Yo dude, I just scored me a nice new Sam"

<BOOM!>

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Surely there is an app for that.

Surely there is an app that you can have running that can be triggered to lock the phone, pretend to be off, broadcast a distress signal and upload identifying information like photos, voice prints, fingerprints etc to the Internet. My phone is able to pinpoint where it is within a few feet half the time.

Find my iPhone does a pretty good job of finding the phone, but it would not work if the phone is immediately dismantled for parts.

There are all kinds of things that are possible such as marking parts so that they can be identified.

I guess if I was making $30 billion selling replacements I might be a bit slow to fix this too.

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Holmes

Re: Surely there is an app for that.

Your final sentence is exactly the point isn't it.

"I would be especially concerned if device theft accrues to your company's financial benefit through increased sales of replacement devices,"

Well he should be concerned then as it obviously does benefit those companies. They're not going to do anything about it unless consumers or laws demand it.

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Flame

With a court order

Mobile companies can track your phone by ESSID no mater what SIM is in them. Seems like a simple solution to the problem would be to allow the police access to this information without court order but with the simple consent of the owner. It is a policy problem, not a technology or legal problem, and the mobile companies are to blame...

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Re: With a court order

The only problem with that is that it only provides the cell that the mobile is currently connected to. true you can triangulate, but a GPS locator is better

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Re: With a court order

I imagine the thieves pass their wares along. Simply track the sim to the sim owner and go from there. I thought this was the whole point of IMEI numbers anyway?

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Flame

Re: Simply track the sim to the sim owner and go from there.

What?!?!?!

You expect the NYC politicians to enable and expect the police to work and remove criminals from the street?

What kind of a damned fool are you?! It's a hell of a lot easier to just blame the phone companies and especially their profits.

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Mushroom

1st world problems

"Cracking down on violent and dangerous cell phone thefts is important for New Yorkers .."

Wow .. I always thought it was avoiding getting randomly stopped, searched and/or shot by police that was important. Oh wait, he means white noo yoikers .. sorry.

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@Nicho

"'Cracking down on violent and dangerous cell phone thefts is important for New Yorkers .' Wow .. I always thought it was avoiding getting randomly stopped, searched and/or shot by police that was important. Oh wait, he means white noo yoikers .. sorry."

Just as a little technical note: "getting stopped and searched" and "getting shot" are not equivalent. Hopefully you will find this out by personal experience.

But as long as you've broached the subject, could you perhaps give me a few examples of people who were randomly stopped and shot by New York Police?

Your ignorance of the economic demographics of New York City is hopelessly racist - although it is in conformity with left-wing stereotypes.This is obviously connected to your idea that only white New Yorkers have smartphones; and your related idea that non-white smartphone owners either do not exist, or, if they do, then they do not or should not or would not mind having their smartphones stolen or that they are somehow immune from crime - and so only white New Yorkers need, want or deserve to have their property protected. That's also quite overtly racist.

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Facepalm

Re: @Nicho

"could you perhaps give me a few examples of people who were randomly stopped and shot by New York Police?"

I can give you 685,000 examples of people who were randomly stopped and searched by the NYPD. Just have a look at the NY Civil Liberties Union website or follow the ongoing inquiries into Stop and Frisk: http://www.nyclu.org/node/1598

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Nicho

@Turtle. <chuckle> Ad hominem attacks from someone using the handle 'Turtle' ? You can't make this stuff up.

However to respond to your query may I suggest you google 'Kimani Gray' ?

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Go

Block by IMEI

In Australia carriers can block the phone by its IMEI, which means it can no longer make or receive calls on any network in the country (http://www.amta.org.au/pages/Lost.and.stolen.phones). The existence of the ability to remotely lock down any phone means that kicking them in the first place becomes a waste of time.

The technology already exists to solve this problem, just need the carriers to get on board.

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Re: Block by IMEI

I never understood why they don't do it state side. Back in Blighty I know they do this. Simple solution.... to a problem & people want to over complicate it?

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Black Helicopters

Re: Block by IMEI

I've never understood the reluctance/refusal to do it either. The tech does exist and not using it to sell a few extra phones (it's really not a big number when tens of millions are sold every year through legitimate venues) simply isn't much of a sales strategy. There's obviously a significant advantage to not doing it but I can't figure out what it is.

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Re: Block by IMEI

I think some of the reluctance to block by IMEI is that a savvy criminal will have the IMEI changed, and blocking it will be pointless, not to mention each network would have to block it, not just the one it was originally on.

Quite why IMEI numbers can be changed is a mystery in itself, and worse still, theyre not necessarily globally unique, although with more people roaming, I'd imagine the newer handsets were.

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Re: Block by IMEI

Unfortunately IMEI blocking is just not effective. To be effective you'd have to block the IMEI on all networks in all countries in the world. For example, a phone stolen in the UK and blocked will simply be shipped to another European country and flogged. It might work better in Australia because it is more difficult to set up that international exchange, but like in Europe I doubt it would be effective in the US.

Even if you did manage to block the IMEI everywhere the simple fact is that on a lot of phones the IMEI can be changed and on those that it can't it simply requires a mainboard swap so you can still profit from some of the more valuable components of the phone, e.g. the screen.

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Re: Block by IMEI

The technology exists in the UK too. Plus theres a central registry of blocked IMEI's that any carrier in the UK can check (I believe). However, don't ask Vodafone UK to do an IMEI block.

I had a nice Samsung on Vodafone, that got stolen. I reported it, they blocked te SIM, I asked them to block the IMEI too, they point blank refused. I pressed them, and was told they have the ability to block it yes, but internal policy prohibits them. This was about 4 years ago. Might have changed since.

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Go

Re: Block by IMEI

The point is convenience. If it is convenient to steal and sell then it will happen. The more obstacles that are put in the way can only help. IMEI blocking is a start and will certainly slow the desirability. Not all criminals are tech savvy enough to do the required work of IMEI swapping adn then you need to see if it is worth their while to do so.

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FAIL

Re: The point is convenience.

Right! That why NYC has completely eliminated gun crime in the city by making it inconvenient to obtain a gun.

Oh, wait...

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Re: Block by IMEI

Vodafone blocked the IMEI on my phone, last year. No fuss.

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11447 ios devices stolen in NY in 9 months. 56680 stolen in London between April and September, 6 months, half were iPhone's 23340 then.

So in London more than double the number of ios devices were stolen in a third less time period? That doesn't sound correct to me.

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Anonymous Coward

Is that a constant rate of theft?

Or are there clusters immediately prior to the release of a new model?

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Is it possible that they're less likely to be reported as stolen in NYC than in London? For example, is claiming on insurance in the UK require a police report whereas it doesn't in the US?

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Thefts in London vs. NYC

Since people always complain about how Apple screws them on the exchange rate, maybe they're a better theft target because they're worth more in London?

Maybe the New Yorkers are more willing to fight back if someone tries to take their phone without displaying a gun?

Maybe the cops in London actually try to solve crimes like this, while in the US if you report your phone stolen they take down your name and tell you they'll look into it but do nothing, so people feel it is futile to even report it?

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Pint

There may be issues with the amount of deductibles per theft, and a limit on the number of thefts per contract period.

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Flame

New York City is not New York State

This article contains errors:

- Schneiderman is not an "NYC attorney". He is the Attorney-General of New York State.

- Lookout isn't going to advise New York City; it's going to advise New York State.

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Upgrade Path

Do they have statistics on how many phones were 'stolen' just so the owner can get the shiny new model? Is there a spike of thefts just as the new model is released?

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Is there a difference ...

... and I mean a *real* difference, between being mugged/threatened/battered/seriously harmed/killed over a phone as, say, a wallet/watch/necklace/whatever? The problem is the people who feel the need to take other people's stuff, for whatever reason, not what is being taken.

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Re: Is there a difference ...

Sure, but if the thief knows they're not going to get $20 for the phone, that makes it incrementally less worthwhile.

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Emo
Holmes

Or owners could protect their kit by using preyproject.org.

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