Stolen-Cellpone Database to Combat Mobile Theft

by Jennifer R

The article talks about how the major companies that provide wireless services are making a joint effort to produce a database that keeps track of stolen cellphones. As technology helps to improve cellphones, it  also increases the value of and demand for smartphones on the market. According to the article, the Metropolitan Police Department say “in Washington, D.C., cellphone-related robberies jumped 54% from 2007 to 2011”. The providers will come out with their own databases before merging them into a single national database. The article lists some important issues that need to be addressed in designing the database, starting with how to deal with the different technologies the providers use. It also talks about the way some phones are currently identified, such as the SIM card for AT&T & T-mobile phones, can make them more attractive to thieves.   There are stolen cellphone databases currently in use in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Australia.

Considering how many people use smartphones nowadays, I like that the wireless carriers are taking this issue seriously. I know from reading comments on some of the cloud security blogs that people have concerns about how secure their information will be on the cloud. Considering that such concerns arise even when accessing the network from a desktop or laptop with the proper security software installed, I have to wonder how much more serious it is for devices with Wi-Fi, like smart phones. I am also curious as to how they will integrate individual databases into one database as each carrier may use different software to create its database. Creating an individual database is no easy task, let alone merging several databases.

Up until this point, we have discussed making a single database with the assumption that the information is coming from one source. What happens when we try to organize data coming from different companies, who probably have their own way of identifying information or sorting data. The article says centralization of the individual databases will take over 12 months after the databases are created. I hope that is enough time for them to be thorough in homogenizing the database.


Source: Winkler, R. (2012). Carriers Band to Fight Cellphone Theft. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved April 15, 2012, from

2 thoughts on “Stolen-Cellpone Database to Combat Mobile Theft”

  1. This article challenges my understanding of cell phone companies. For example, I thought that an iPhone is registered with Apple and only Apple can support the device. So if someone did steal a phone, or buy a stolen one, they need to go to Apple to get it to work and Apple would deny the service request if it doesn’t belong to the initial purchaser. This has opened my eyes.

    1. CyberChic, I don’t know what you are referring to when you say “get it to work.” Are you referring to activating it? Or for maintenance when the device malfunctions? Either way, Apple products are almost always an exception, especially the iphone, when it comes to phone contracts and insurance. Any iphone stolen or not can be cleared and the phone can be reactivated by the service provider that the phone was originally designed for. I definitely think that in regards to this article, the phone would have to be reported stolen for them to be able to add it to their stolen phone database. I don’t think their is way for them to tell if the phone was stolen, sold, or given away otherwise.

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