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TMCNet:  Canada's Wireless Carriers Take Action to Help Battle Smartphone Theft

[November 08, 2012]

Canada's Wireless Carriers Take Action to Help Battle Smartphone Theft

(Canada Newswire Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Industry launches initiative to raise awareness about keeping personal data secure OTTAWA, Nov. 8, 2012 /CNW/ - The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA) and Canada's wireless carriers today announced a plan of action to assist law enforcement agencies with their efforts to combat the theft of wireless devices. By September 30, 2013, the authorization of any GSM or LTE wireless device on any Canadian network will include verification that the IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number of the device has not been reported lost or stolen on any Canadian network, as well as some international networks that are available in the GSMA IMEI database.

This new device verification process, which will deny service to any device that is on the GSMA "blacklist", is designed to help eliminate the black market for stolen devices in Canada and abroad by reducing the value of smartphones in the eyes of criminals.

"After comprehensive study, Canada's wireless industry today is announcing what it believes is the best solution to help keep Canadians safe from cell phone theft," said CWTA President & CEO Bernard Lord.

"And with U.S. wireless carriers following Canada's planned implementation by completing similar international database measures by November 2013, customers across North America will benefit from this added level of protection." As part of today's announcement, CWTA is launching a consumer information Web site and the first in a series of broadcast public service announcements focused on reminding Canadians of the critical importance of protecting the data on their smartphones. The new bilingual Web site - www.ProtectYourData.ca (www.Protegezvosdonnees.ca) - is designed to act as a hub of resources for Canadians to educate themselves about how to secure their data, as well as how to help protect themselves from becoming a victim of device theft.

"Our Government has taken concrete actions to build a strong and competitive telecommunications sector and I welcome this step by industry to address the serious problem of cell phone theft," said the Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of Industry. "We will continue to work with industry to protect Canadian consumers and deliver more choice through greater competition." It is imperative that customers contact their service provider to immediately report a lost or stolen phone to have their device deactivated. Once the device has been reported, the service provider can then add the device to the blacklist. All instances of personal theft should of course be reported to local law enforcement as well.

"The loss or theft of a wireless device can have many implications," said Mr. Lord. "At best, it can be a costly nuisance, and at worst, it can have serious repercussions related to one's personal information and safety." CWTA recognizes support for this industry initiative by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), and calls on the federal government to consider legislative measures that could augment industry solutions to contribute to the reduction of cell phone theft in Canada. The UK and Australian governments have each adopted legislation that makes it a crime to tamper with, alter or remove a mobile device's identifier. Maximum penalties for modifying or reprogramming a mobile handset's IMEI number in these countries range from two to five years in prison. Similar legislation has also been proposed in the U.S.  Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA) CWTA is the authority on wireless issues, developments and trends in Canada. It represents cellular, PCS, messaging, mobile radio, fixed wireless and mobile satellite carriers as well as companies that develop and produce products and services for the industry. (www.cwta.ca) BACKGROUNDERGSMA IMEI Database The GSMA maintains a unique system known as the IMEI Database (IMEI DB), which is a global central database containing basic information on the IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) of millions of mobile devices that are in use across the world's mobile networks. The IMEI is a 15-digit number that is used to identify a wireless device when it is used on a mobile phone network.

The IMEI DB also supports what is known as a "blacklist". The blacklist is a list of IMEIs that are associated with mobile devices that should be denied service on mobile networks because they have been reported as lost, stolen, faulty or otherwise unsuitable for use. The IMEI DB acts as a central system for network operators to share their individual blacklists, making it possible to prevent devices denied service (blacklisted) by one network from working on other networks even if the SIM card in the device is changed.

Network operators who deploy Equipment Identity Registers (EIR) in their networks use them to keep their own lists of blacklisted lost or stolen phones. Operators' EIRs can automatically connect to the IMEI DB to share their latest lists of blacklisted devices with other operators.

The IMEI DB takes the blacklists from the various operators around the world that are connected to the system and it compiles the data into one global blacklist.

When a network operator EIR subsequently connects to the IMEI DB, it downloads the latest global blacklist (or a national or regional subset of the global list) for its own use. By loading the IMEI DB blacklist onto the local EIR, all handsets reported as stolen on other connected networks up to the previous day are now also capable of being blocked on that network.

Mobile phone users whose devices have been stolen should note that GSMA does not add device IMEIs to the IMEI DB blacklist or otherwise assist with incidents of device theft. Device theft should be reported to the user's service provider and to the police.

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