Smartphone Theft Database Complete: CTIA
December 2, 2013

CTIA Announces Completion Of Stolen Smartphone Database

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

A database of stolen smartphones, launched last year as part of the wireless industry’s FCC and federal law enforcement efforts to protect consumer data, has been completed, the CTIA Wireless Association has confirmed.

The database, which was first announced in October 2012, now allows cellphone service providers to block the activation of 3G and LTE smartphones that have been reported stolen, according to Sean Hollister of The Verge. The database was launched by AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless, and has been integrated with international stolen phone registries to allow carriers in other countries to help the endeavor.

“Today, I am pleased to confirm that the global, multi-carrier, common database for LTE smartphones has been finalized and implemented in advance of the November 30, 2013 deadline,” CTIA president and CEO Steve Largent said in a statement Wednesday. “The matter of stolen devices is extremely important to the wireless providers, which is why they worked so hard over the last year to meet each deadline on time.”

“As more countries and more carriers around the world participate in the 3G and 4G/LTE databases, criminals will have fewer outlets since these stolen phones would be blacklisted and could not be reactivated,” he added. “We also need more foreign countries and carriers to participate in the global stolen phone database to prevent criminals from selling stolen devices internationally.”

While the database has been active for roughly a year, Hollister said that officials in New York City report that it has yet to have a significant impact on the number of smartphone thefts, largely because foreign carriers were not initially part of the effort. That oversight has caused organized crime syndicates to ship stolen devices overseas so that they could be resold without fear of triggering the database and alerting authorities.

“Smartphone theft is such an issue in San Francisco and New York City, in fact, that prosecutors launched the ‘Save Our Smartphones Initiative’, hoping to convince US carriers and smartphone manufacturers to install a ‘kill switch’ in their devices that could completely deactivate them if they were stolen,” the Verge reporter said. However, as UberGizmo’s Edwin Kee pointed out, “most carriers are not too happy with such a suggestion.”

While many types of smartphones include software allowing phone owners to track down the devices if they become lost or stolen, Hollister said that Apple is the only one to currently include a feature on their phones which meets the Save Our Smartphones Initiative’s anti-theft recommendations. The iOS7 Activation Lock feature can not only remotely wipe out all the information on a smartphone, but it can also prevent it from being reactivated without the owner’s approval. Largent also emphasized the important role that consumers play in preventing smartphone theft.

“To assist users, we offer a list of apps to download that will remotely erase, track and/or lock the stolen devices,” he explained. “We also remind consumers to pay attention to their surroundings. Similar to your purse or wallet, it’s best to not call attention to your smartphone and create an opportunity for a thief to steal it (e.g., leave it on a restaurant table, use it while walking or taking public transportation, allowing strangers to ‘borrow’ it to get directions, etc.).”

“We continue to believe that combating stolen cellphones will require a comprehensive effort. We encourage consumers to use currently available apps and features that would remotely wipe, track and lock their devices in case they are lost or stolen, and our members are continuing to explore and offer new technologies,” Largent added. “By working together with everyone – from the wireless companies, law enforcement, policymakers and consumers – we will make a difference.”