My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: How smartphones are stolen, IMEI changed and Why GOJ ID Registration needed

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Monday, April 21, 2014

How smartphones are stolen, IMEI changed and Why GOJ ID Registration needed

There are times when I wonder if our growing love for smartphones since the JA$10,000 Digicel DL600 and DL700 came on the scene as described in my blog article entitled Digicel reports increases in Data Services, DL600 and DL700 sales in 2013 - LIME's all about the Benjamins from 4G LTE making Digicel Captain America The Winter Soldier” has a dark side.

Turns out it does; increased theft of smartphones is still placing Jamaicans at risk as they are very highly prized in the criminal underworld not only for their resale value but because they can be a source of money via Blackmail as explained in the article “Phones for the taking”, Published Monday April 14, 2014 by Corey Robinson, Staff Reporter, The Jamaica Gleaner.

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The article, based on a series of interviews with known phone thief named “Peter” who apparently lives in the Golden Triangle, admit to what’s already known in the area where I live; stealing smartphones is big money as nobody wants Blackberry’s anymore!

In fact, he also spoke what’s already known and even more troubling; most of the smartphones sold in the underground to high-end clientele, sometimes to Uptowners are stolen smartphones. These smartphones are often take from, ironically, party-goers pre-occupied at the various party events that they go to, from Carnival, massive Church Crusades to even Boys and Girls Champs.

So the next time someone says to meet you someplace to sell you a high end smartphones for a price between JA$10,000 (US$100) to JA$20,000 (US$200) that normally costs JA$50,000 (US$500) and up, most likely that smartphone stolen. Worse, it may also have been unlocked and even had its fifteen (15) digit IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identification) changed, much as a chassis on a car can be changed!

How smartphones are processed once stolen – Unlocking smartphones and IMEI can also be changed

The procedure sounds legit too; steal the phone, shut it down and then discard the SIM Card so that it won’t ring to allow the customer to manually locate the mobile phone as described in “Phone thieves bypassing security systems”, Published Monday April 14, 2014, by Tyrone Thompson, Staff Reporter, The Jamaica Gleaner.

If the target, as they’re called, wants back their number then they need to go to the nearest Customer Care Center for either Digicel or LIME and follow the procedure as laid out in my blog article entitled “How to Register your SIM Card and get the PUK1 and access Digicel’s Phone Calling Records”. 

The smartphone has to be eventually turned on at some time in the future to access any Data that stored on its Internal Memory or unlock it as described in my blog article entitled “How to unlock any phone and put it on any Network - Guaranteed to unlock any Feature or Smartphone on the Chennai Express”.

Additionally, the smartphone thieves can also unlock the smartphone using software that you can get for free or purchase online as listed in my blog article entitled “Free and Paid Professional Software to unlock smartphones unto any Network - The Nut Job on Unlocking any Feature or Smartphone”.

If it’s an Apple device, they can use the procedure as laid out in my blog article entitled “How to Unlock your Apple iPhone - Backup, Erase and Restore with The Bag Man being iOS Setup Assistant” in order to unlock both Apple iPhones, Apple iPhone Touch and Apple iPads!

Smartphone Tracking – Theft Deterrent gone awry as Thieves know how to stop the software

Therein lies the risk to the smartphone thief. As soon as the smartphone goes live, it’ll start to hunt for a Network or alert the user that it has a SIM missing, hence the precaution of throwing away the SIM. If the smartphone has tracking Apps installed AND the original SIM is still installed, it’ll start broadcasting its GPS location.

This can be sending email or Data from the installed tracking App via the 3G/4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) Data Service, GPRS (Global Packet Radio System), EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution) or even via SMS (Short Messaging Service) or Voice Channels to the customer’s email account or Tracking App API, which may be a Cloud Based Website.

Armed with this info, they can inform the ISCF or JCF aka the Jamaican Police and they’ll just zoom in on the location and apprehend who they hope is the person with the stolen smartphone.  

Most of the time they’ll just bump into a regular smartphone unlocker such as “David”, who is also apparently so skilled that he can also reset the fifteen (15) digit IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identification) in most smartphones as described in “Phone thieves bypassing security systems”, Published Monday April 14, 2014, by Tyrone Thompson, Staff Reporter, The Jamaica Gleaner.

This is worrying, as it suggests that the local Telecom Providers aren’t registering and blocking IMEI’s that are not registered on their Network. Quite simply, someone with a stolen smartphone, for example, can have their smartphone erased and re-registered with a different IMEI.

This makes it come up as a feature phone when you query the IMEI in a Global Database such as the free use IMEI Number Database Website like a feature phone when it’s actually a smartphone, even when using *#06#!

Some smartphone thieves may recover Data i.e. pictures, phone number contact information from the smartphone, particularly those that have a SD Card. If they can positively identify the person and the information recovered is of a nature that it can be used to blackmail the target, they may end up getting a “link” from the thief seeking money in exchange for not revealing the information.

Thieves making money from smartphone theft resale and Blackmail! Sounds like the making of a decent Jamaican Spy thriller!

Jamaican Police Tracking Jamaicans – Police ill-informed as usual but may be able to abuse access to information

This article also makes it plain that the Jamaican Police do have the capability of tracking people via GSM Triangulation using information passed on to them from the Telecom Provider, albeit dependent on a Court Order as I’d predicted long ago in my blog article entitled “Mobile Triangulation without GPS - a solution to crime under our noses”.

After all, if Telecom Provider Digicel can go into Business with Irish-owned f6 to offer GPS Vehicle Tracking and piggyback the Data over their GSM (Global System Mobile) Voice Channels, 3G/4G LTE Data Service, GPRS, EDGE or even via SMS as described in my blog article entitled “Irish f6 and Digicel Business partner to offer Fleet Management and Vehicle Tracking Services - St. Patrick's Day Blood Ties and the Luck of the Irish to Rob the Mob in Jamaica”, then it suggests that can also give that information to the Jamaican Police as well.

In fact, according to very ill-informed Inspector Warren Williams of the Organized Crime Investigative Division (OCID), quote: “By law they are required to provide communications Data for investigative purposes, as the Telecommunications Act stipulates that this is a condition for them being able to operate in the country. So once that information is available, law enforcement can then use it to their benefit, because one has to remember the service provider is not in the business of fighting crime, they are in the business of making money”.

I say ill-informed, as in Jamaica, unlocking smartphones isn’t illegal. Once unlocked, they are still able work on any Telecom Provider’s Network, as in the competitive Voice and Data Industry, the Telecom Provider are “in the business of making money”.

They’re not going to stop unregistered smartphones with unknown IMEI’s from operating on their Network, even though they may be losing money from the fact that these smartphone users do not sign up for a Data Plan. So ditto too for a smartphone that has had its IMEI changed, as it’s not the IMEI that determines access to Jamaican Telecom Provider’s Networks, but the SIM (Subscriber Identification Module) and the associated IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identification) on that SIM Card.

Still, with this access, it’s not inconceivable that the Jamaican Police can create a false case or situation against someone and use it as a pretext to obtain Mobile phone Records under the Telecommunications Act as I’d pointed out in my blog article entitled “Digicel's Voicemail Problems as their MINSAT and DWS Databases get hacked by Robin Hood - Upgrade Voicemail to Paid Advertising and Fiber Optic Backhaul as it's A good Day to Die Hard”.

CTIA ‘s Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment –  US Govt ID Registration by Telecom Providers needed  

Evidence of this fact can be seen from scant regard paid to the problem of stolen smartphones in the US of A. The CTIA, the Trade group representing American Telecom Providers only recently committed to the idea of a standard pre-installed remote shutdown App called the “Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment” program.

This would be a voluntary app on all their smartphones to allow users to track and disable their smartphones if stolen as stated in “Smartphone industry commits to antitheft measures amid calls for 'kill switch'”, published April 15, 2014 2:15 PM PDT by Roger Cheng, CNET News.

But this was after a lot of pressuring from the Public and the US Government to do so. However, the move was met with huge criticism by the New York Attorney General and San Francisco District Attorney, quote: “While CTIA's decision to respond to our call for action by announcing a new voluntary commitment to make theft-deterrent features available on smartphones is a welcome step forward, it falls short of what is needed to effectively end the epidemic of smartphone theft. We strongly urge CTIA and its members to make their antitheft features enabled by default on all devices, rather than relying on consumers to opt-in”.

Their complaint was that the CTIA made the "Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment" program voluntary when it should be mandatory. My complaint is that the Telecom Providers need to be able to block IMEI’s that are unregistered and forces such phone instrument owners to come in and have them registered with a SSD (Social Security Number) or other suitable Government Identification.

Ditto the same thing in Jamaica as well using GOJ (Government of Jamaica) Picture ID, as I’ve been pointing out for a long time as stated in my blog article entitled “MNP and MRSI - How it leads to Mobile Number Portability and Crime Eradication in Jamaica”.

The lack of a Telecom Regulator as pointed out in my blog article entitled “New Telecom Regulator finally coming by July 2014 - New Telecom Provider looking for stability in the Jamaican Telecoms Market post-LNP and MNP by May 2014”, however, means that this issue will not be addressed anytime soon, even at the basic level it has been addressed in the US of A.


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