back to article Home Office to secure mobile phones

The UK's Design Council has been working with the Home Office to create technologies designed to prevent mobile phone theft - which is rampant, or not, depending on when you ask. Development of the three technologies has been funded by the Technology Strategy Board, as part of the Mobile Phone Security Challenge, and will be …


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  1. CraigRoberts


    What would be useful - for all the GPS enabled phones out there - is a free or much cheaper than £100 per year MobileMe type service...

    Lock your phone to it, and if it goes missing you can locate via GPS and call the Rozzers... Who'll just LEAP into action...

    ... Probably...

    1. The Cube

      Easy to get the Oink out

      Tell them your phone was stolen by a bloke with a bit of a tan, a copy of the Quran and a rucksack that smelt of fireworks. Cressida Dick-Head will put together a death squad, execute every Brazilian in the city, cover it up and get a knighthood from the Queen.

    2. Anonymous Coward


      ..because the GPS antennas in phobiles work so well, even when you stand in the middle of the f'king road to try and get away from any possible occusion by buildings...

  2. lglethal Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    To be a fly on the wall in that phonecall...

    "We're not sure what exactly "mobile phone identity fraud" is; the Home Office rep we spoke to agreed that it was unlikely to be people pretending to be mobile phones and promised to get back to us when he found out."

    I sincerely hope the question "is that where a person is pretending to be a mobile phone?" was delivered with a completely deadpan serious expression... If so brilliant!

    Nice work Bill!

  3. AndrueC Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    The never ending story

    So you need a card to authorise the telephone to authorise a transaction?

    This means that they'll target your card as well as the telephone. Presumably in the next version there will be something else to authorise the card to authorise the telephone to authorise a transaction?

    Eventually it'll get so bad that people give up and go back to cash.

    1. Stuart Gepp

      I have a business proposal

      Who has connections in the wallet/purse manufacturers realm?

      We need a phone cover which incorporates a pocket for a card - brilliant or what?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mobile phone identity fraud

    Some years back I had a call from a nice detective in S.Yorkshire police telling me they had picked up a phone at a crime scene registered in my name, which was a surprise as I still had my phone and live in another part of the country entirely. This was followed a few weeks later by large bills (with insurance taken out a time of purchase) from several mobile phone companies.

    I assume this is what is meant by 'mobile phone identity fraud'; people purchasing phones using another persons details.

    In my particular case it seems the phones were purchased with minimal, if any, background checks as some of the details provided by the criminals wasn't even correct (ie. bank account).

    If the Home Office wants to reduce 'mobile phone identity fraud' then it needs to force the phone companies to perform adequate checks before selling a phone.

  5. Eddie Cooper

    MyPhone on Windows Mobile

    Microsoft's MyPhone service for online data/text backup can record your phone's location each time it syncs.

    The web portal can display the location recorded at last backup & in the event of loss/theft you can:

    - use the web portal to make your phone ring, even if the ringer is off;

    - lock your phone & display a message for the finder;

    - wipe your phone clean to prevent your data being used.

    If they added in live GPS tracking that would be even better!

    ....or even allow you to make the battery explode killing the nasty phone thief!! :)

  6. Andy Hards

    Stolen phones are only blocked

    in Europe and the US. In Africa, well all the places I went, they work fine, so the market for stolen phones is just as big as before as they all get sent to Africa and other places not signed up to what ever the agreement is called. To be honest I'm not surprised either. If it means the country is getting edeveloped cos everyone is walking round with phones nicked in Europe but they pay a reasonable price in Afrique the the govt there ain't really gonna do much to stop it are they?

    Notsaying it's right , just saying.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Here's how the Home Office normally goes about solving the problem

    LONDON. British boffins have opened their shed doors, clamped pipes between their teeth and proudly unveiled the Home Office's solution to street crime; a problem which afflicts even pleasant parts of our Metropolis. The half ton cast-iron and glass wonder is called The British Aerospace Mark I Telephonic Communications Enclosure'. This commodious device about the size of an average living room has been styled by a avant-garde cathedral architect and incorporates the very latest in Bakelite technology.

    Her Majesty's Minister for the Interior, the Right Honourable Alan Johnson MP, told this correspondent that the government soon hopes to have enclosures on every street corner so that even working class people can indulge in the latest craze of making 'telephone calls' for a modest sum and to provide convenient advertising locations for ladies working night shifts.

    The enclosures, which are already being called 'phone boxes' by the low orders will be painted in a patriotic shade of red. Once again, Britannia leads the way!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Mobile phone identity fraud

    People changing the IMEI of the phone to avoid the black list?

  9. Simon Crowe

    And the Winning NFC card is ....

    So let me guess in a few years there will be an upgrade to the Home Office Identity card to be NFC capable, so then you have to have a working Identity card to use your phone.

    Also would be very useful tool if the cellular phone recording the NFC card used to authenticate the phone call ...

  10. Pete 43
    Thumb Up


    Try at a tad under $20/year

    1. CraigRoberts
      Jobs Horns

      @Pete 43

      Ah-ha! Nice one...

      ... Hang on...

      Oh bugger!

      Don't suppose anyone want to buy a 3 month old jesusPhone do they? My first ever Apple device and I've just learned a very important lesson...


  11. Jerome 0

    Making it up as they go along

    Surely even if the other 1,300,000 phones are later recovered (hugely unlikely though that is), they've still been stolen in the first place, and should therefore still be included in figures for "annual mobile phone theft"?

  12. Natalie Gritpants

    No problem if phones are cheap

    I wouldn't report mine stolen, it (Motorola F5) cost £22 one ebay and came with £20 PAYG credit. It's ugly but small and works fine as a phone. I leave it on around and drop it all the time, I don't need GPS, camera, email, web, games, porn. If you nee gadgetry just buy a gadget, the sum total will be less than your iPhone and you won't get mugged.

    1. Jerome 0


      But I don't have big enough pockets for separate GPS, camera, games console and web tablet. Besides, all those things share components with my phone (screen, battery, storage, processor) so it seems pretty dumb not to just build them in, no?

  13. Wind Farmer

    Crime stats

    Weren't we promised 5 year terms for those prosecuted for nicking a phone? Is the CPS soft, or was it just spin by the government?

  14. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    Why is everyone so surprised?

    After all this idea comes from the same madhouse which suggested mandatory fingerprint recognition for MP3 players a few years ago...

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Simplest is bestest

    Some cheap chinese no-brand mobile phone descriptions I happened upon lately sported this:

    - Will send details of new sim to pre-set number if sim replaced.

    Useful in its own right, even better to track stolen devices. Though what would be even better is a competent police force that will pin-point the nearest reported-stolen device (by IMEI or IMSI or whatever) and dispatch the nearest idle bobby for a friendly chat and maybe an arrest for theft. That would be useful integration of data services, and very light on the privacy issues.

    But of course nobody in government or government-pandering business could've thought that one up by themselves. Curious.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Thing is, phones being sold on ebay to buyers from certain African countries could likely mean the seller ending up with no money at all.

    Obviously though, that threat is a good thing. If ebay would delete and disable the accounts of sellers selling 'blocked' phones, things would get better.

    Although my old Nokia 6100 and even phones a few years newer can have their IMEI changed, it is actually called an 'IMEI repair' function. When flashing software onto mobile phones it is possible the way in which the phone is set to read the IMEI-chip can get seriously messed up, meaning your IMEI ends up at 123456etc.

    For your standard idiotic thief, IMEI-changing is beyond home-use thankfully, and I'm glad the manufacturers and mobile networks, including insurance companies, are now able to block handsets pretty quickly, resulting in minimal profit for the thief.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Count on it....

    If the Home office is interested in our mobiles, you can count on the fact there's one more govt agenda that has little to do with protecting our property.

  18. pctechxp

    Mobile phone Identity theft

    Do you really have to wait for a Home Office PR wonk to explain it?

    This refers to a phone that has been stolen being given the identity of a legitimate phone to bypass the network IMEI barring by reprogramming the handset's IMEI number as every handset in the world is supposed to have a unique IMEI or Internetional Mobile Equipment Identifier.

    The IMEI identifies the phone while the SIM or USIM (in UMTS) identifies the subscriber intormation hence it is called the Subscriber Identity Module or Universal Subsciber Identity Module (meaning it has the encryption keys for both 2G and 3G networks).

    Roger Cook (I think) did an investigation about phone theft and featured some information from Cellnet as it then was that when they did a network audit they found 10 mobiles with the same IMEI operating on the network so if they had barred them they would likely bar a legitimate subscriber too.

    So from this I would infer that this figure refers to either how many collaborators of thieving scum they have arrested for reporgraaming or how many apparently dupiicate phones networks have seen log on to their networks.

    I have nothing to declare other than a sound knowledge of the technology.

    Don't count on hearing back from hearing back from the wonk that soon as people in the Home Office probably don't know what they are talking about either.

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