Devil’s Advocate: Phone carriers must do more to prevent theft

Photo Illustration by John Pekcan / Daily Titan

Photo Illustration by John Pekcan / Daily Titan

 

Cell phone theft is on the rise and carriers are doing little to combat the problem.

The current software that is in effect to deter thieves from stealing phones and to locate the stolen devices are ineffective. Stolen cellphones shouldn’t be chalked up to the consumers responsibility to keep their phone safe as accidents happen and mugging is can hardly be ignored as a cellphone carrier’s fault fact.

If my cell phone was snatched up, I would want every resource available to prevent it from happening again and to be compensated for the theft.

I called Apple’s support line and was told that if my phone is stolen, I would have to purchase a whole new one.  Additionally, there is no insurance I can through the company purchase if I want to get some sort of discount or replacement for my phone in case it gets stolen.

The only option Apple offers in case an iPhone gets stolen is Icloud, a system made to  track a stolen phone’s location.  However, this only works if your iPhone is turned on and if the Internet services are enabled. If not, you’re out of luck.

IPhones are expensive and replacing them isn’t something I can afford.

Furthermore, people keep personal information on their cell phones which would devastate their security. Even if a phone was located, it wouldn’t fix the breach of privacy.

And say one was able to track their phones location, there is still not much they can do to retrieve it, unless you desperately look around at everyone who has an IPhone out and call the police to search each person in the vicinity.

There is a new nationwide database set in place to try to prevent a stolen phone from being activated. This is done by entering a cell phone’s unique ID number into the system’s database. Still, there is a flaw in this system because if a phone is taken overseas, which happens often, the database no longer works.

Another flaw is that the unique ID numbers can be changed or altered.

Some phone carriers like Verizon say it is taking independent steps to reduce theft. The company has its own private database that makes it impossible for thieves to reactivate cell phones on its network that have been reported stolen.

Certainly a step in the right direction, but one that remains untested at this point.

Some police believe that cell phone companies are profiting from phones and handsets being stolen, which would why the carriers aren’t taking harsher measures to combat theft. This makes sense since consumers of stolen phones have to pay to replace their phones.

In San Francisco, the resale market for stolen phones is increasing. According to the New York Times, iPhones are going for  $400-$500 in cash for thieves. Last year $69 billion profit was made on handsets in the U.S. And in San Francisco last year nearly half of all robberies involved cell phones. In Washington 42 percent of all robberies were cell phones.

Obviously the current technology offered to sway thieves from stealing phones isn’t doing its job. Carriers need to provide a system that prevents a phone from working after it is reported stolen.

Kevin Mahaffey, chief technology officer for Lookout, a mobile security firm, told the Times that this type of security is possible. He added that although there are ways to work around software and the like, it would be expensive to reactivate the stolen cell phone, thus creating a solid deterrence.

Other solutions would be for carriers to provide an effective system that remotely wipes out the consumers personal information immediately after the device is reported stolen, so thieves cannot take advantage of consumers private information.

Consumers are getting played from carriers who don’t take the initiative to make better antitheft equipment.

About Tiffany Johnstone