Blurred Lines – Mobile Theft and Carrier Profit – Are they the same?

Written by Movero Inc. on . Posted in Mobile Devices

by Cory Pattison, Product Manager

The title for this posting would seemingly pose an easy question, but the big four U.S. wireless carriers have made an interesting decision which blurred the lines between the two choices. The carriers (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile) and their trade association, CTIA, refused to adopt a “kill switch” that would allow owners to remotely brick their phone if it were ever stolen.

Apple and Samsung have attempted to incorporate new security features into their devices to deter theft, but Apple has had better luck because of their control over their devices. Since a majority of Samsung’s devices run Android, the carriers have been able to strip out any undesirable functionality before releasing them to the public, as they did this year with Samsung’s new antitheft software.

Apple’s new software, Activation Lock, is a step in the right direction: It allows an owner to disable a phone and reactivate it with the username and password if it is ever recovered. Google’s Android Device Manager allows for remote wipe, but the device can be reactivated on another account.

So why would the CTIA and wireless carriers balk over functionality that manufacturers are trying to bring to market and is obviously in demand? The exact reason behind the refusal may never be know since the only statement from the carriers or CTIA was a filing to the FCC stating that “a kill switch isn’t the answer” due to concerns over hackers. They instead created a national database for stolen phones, but in my opinion it will be shown as ineffective since many stolen devices end up overseas out of reach of carriers or law enforcement. So I believe this leaves the main culprit: preservation of profits from device sales and insurance. The device market is worth nearly $70 billion in the U.S. and each theft represents a new purchase or claim, not to mention the increasing monthly coverage costs. Corporate profit seems to be the logical answer.

Car manufacturers alleviated their radio theft issue by tying radio functionality to the VIN.

Diamond suppliers started adding microscopic serial numbers to diamonds to deter theft. How long will the public allow the wireless carriers to continue fleecing them before they enact easy fixes for this epidemic?

“Apple Picking” is a large part of the more than 1.5 million handsets that are stolen each year in the United States. Have you been left with a sour taste in your mouth from a device theft, while the carriers are seeing green from your resulting purchase? If you haven’t, you probably know a victim.

Our data is becoming more secure by the minute, now how about they do the same for our wallets?


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