The CTIA has announced the early completion of a Stolen Smartphone Database in the US. As outlined in 2012, the CTIA, the FCC, police chiefs and wireless companies began working on a four step plan to combat mobile theft. The most notable step in the plan was the creation of a database for 3G, 4G/LTE smartphones in the US which is designed to prevent GSM smartphones that are reported as stolen from being activated.
Otherwise known as the a "blacklist", it is hoped that such a list would deter thieves from stealing phones that could no longer be used. Currently, thieves are bypassing existing blacklists in other countries by altering the IMEI numbers or shipping the phones abroad.
The CTIA database is currently linked with the GSMA's primarily European database, and it was announced last year that Mexico would collaborate as well. Although the CTIA hopes that more countries will participate in the databases, it is unlikely that all major importer countries of cell phones will participate.
Just like with the "kill switch", having programs that are not universally applied provides enough incentive for thieves to continue to steal these phones. As is our opinion, the CTIA suggests that mobile theft needs to be combatted with a "comprehensive effort" that includes consumer awareness, technology such as the "kill switch", databases and the support of the legal system.
"We encourage consumers to use currently available apps and features that would remotely wipe, track and lock their devices in case they are lost or stolen, and our members are continuing to explore and offer new technologies. We also strongly support and need Senator Schumer’s legislation to pass that would impose tough penalties on those who steal devices or modify them illegally since it would help dry up the market for those who traffic in stolen devices. We also need more foreign countries and carriers to participate in the global stolen phone database to prevent criminals from selling stolen devices internationally.
By working together with everyone – from the wireless companies, law enforcement, policymakers and consumers – we will make a difference." - CTIA-The Wireless Association President and CEO Steve Largent
Although this blacklist is a good step in stemming crime, it will not stop it. Devices will continue to be stolen, exported to other markets for resale, sold to electronic recyclers or simply used without cellular service (used via WiFi instead).
From an enterprise perspective, the database won’t affect security concerns. Data will still be at risk. Devices will continue to be targeted for opportunistic theft. To protect the data on your devices, make sure you add device tracking with remote wipe and lock capabilities.