How Stolen Mobiles Can Be Tracked
The UK has seen such a widespread mobile phone theft problem because handsets have been so easy to snatch, reuse and resell, but security technology is now starting to catch up.
Security of Mobile PhonesNot resigned to simply making calls and sending text messages anymore, mobile phones can surf the web, send video messages, download and play music, facilitate GPS technology amongst other things. So naturally you’d think that the brains behind such technological feats would have long ago devised a brilliant security system to keep such features safely locked away from any unwelcome admirers?
Alas, no. For a gadget that you carry around with you in public, contains lots of personal information and can be worth hundreds of pounds, the security of mobile phones has until recently been surprisingly lax. The ease with which thieves could steal a mobile, swap its SIM card for a new one and then sell it on has helped cultivate a troubling scourge of mobile thievery across the UK. Fortunately developments in various tracking technology is helping to stem this tide.
Mobile Phone Tracking with IMEIOne method by which mobile phones can be tracked is using their unique serial number, or IMEI. As part of a system introduced in 2007, with the aid of the IMEI any stolen mobile phones reported to the network operator can be blocked within 48 hours. The black listed handsets are all logged into Central Equipment Identification Register (CEIR) - which all the major operators were forced to adopt in response to national legislation - using this tracking code.
Where Do I Find My IMEI?It is important that all mobile users make a note of their phone’s IMEI code as this may come in useful if the device is stolen. The code is usually found under the battery, or obtained using the phone software simply by entering ‘#06#’ as if it were a phone number.
Flaws in the IMEI BlockBlocking the IMEI won’t disable the phone completely just put it off limits for use on all networks linked to the CEIR. Of course this means that the many networks outside of the UK not linked up to the CEIR will still accommodate the stolen device, thereby opening up the opportunity for its resale abroad.
It is also possible to re-programme a black listed handset with a new IMEI, which does pose another cause for concern for this security system. Nevertheless, this is very difficult to do and incurs a heavy penalty – if you just offer to re-programme a stolen mobile then you might yourself facing a five year jail term. Insurance fraud by people desperate for a new model is also another ongoing reason for phones that disappear.
Mobile Phone Tracking ServicesMethods of pinpointing the location of a specific mobile phone have become increasingly common since first appearing several years ago. A service launched in 2003 made it possible to locate a mobile phone on a map using the internet, as long as that phone that given you authorisation to do so. Although intended to aid people in keeping track of one another – if they’re lost or you’re worried about them – in theory it could also be used to track your stolen handset.
There are several services now available, currently the most powerful of which is mapAmobile, which can track down a mobile using the web, text or by dialling a phone number. Other services include Child Locate, which is designed for parents keeping tabs on their young ones, and MiniGPS, which can send out a text when the tracked phone is in a particular area. Such tracking facilities are still a niche market and are largely only available via costly subscriptions.