Last April there was news published about the major carriers in the US launching a plan to block stolen devices from accessing calls, SMS or other services. Apparently this was to block stolen phones from getting refurbished and then landing back into service once more. There is a huge market for stolen phones from around the globe and a majority of these stolen phones end up being resold in countries in Latin America, Africa and even in China.
Prior to this there was no legislation to stop the thieves from doing this and in many cases this legislation would still have minimal effect apart from the fact that it would make them harder to reuse. Hackers may still be able to hack into the OS and then change the identity of the phone which makes it difficult to track.
Today may just be the start of a new phase in customer privacy and in the fight against stolen recycled phones. AT&T will be launching a new plan from today onwards that will allow customers to choose a service and block it on a cell phone or a tablet without necessarily having to execute a full SIM block.
This is how it will work, as soon as the device is accessed and an attempt to make a call or send a SMS is done, the service will get automatically blocked. This will allow any phones stolen to be rendered useless unless a hacker can break and reprogram the device. This AT&T blocking service will however be reversible. The same customer, who originally puts the device on the block list, can unblock it by making a call to the customer support center.
AT&T’s attempt is only going to be feasible if there is a database of names of the customers who requested a block on a particular phone or tablet and then relate to that database when the request is made to unblock it. However, it will be interesting to see how they can manage this and yet keep their claim that there is not going to be a database of stolen phones.