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Thieves off the air! - What's New? Thieves off the air!

16 August 2002
Written by Richard Browning

We all know that Australia is a world leader at sports, doing very well at the Olympics and Commonwealth Games. But rarely is Australia seen as a leader in adopting new technologies and the like.

To just to break stereotype, Telstra introduced world leading anti-theft technology to increase the security of our mobile phones, and to generally make a more secure phone network.

Theft of mobile phones is a very big problem in Australia, with about 10,000 phones reported lost or stolen in Australia each year. Telstra’s own market research showed that 6% of people surveyed have had their phone stolen in the last year, while 8% had lost their phone in the last year. This clearly shows that the problem is not a trivial one, but one that requires serious attention and action.

Telstra customers will be the first to experience such anti-theft action with today’s introduction of the new technology. For a long time, it has been possible to cancel access to your SIM card in the case of theft, thus leaving your SIM useless and leaving the thief with a handset which has to have its SIM card replaced - preventing incoming and (especially) outgoing calls. But Telstra is pioneering technology where the handset will be left useless as well.

A simple call to Telstra customer service (on 125 111) will allow Telstra GSM mobile customers to “block” their handset; meaning only calls to 125 111, 000 or 112 (the GSM emergency number) will be allowed and no calls can be received. The technology works off the phone’s IMEI (or serial) number, which is present on every phone. If the phone is reported stolen or lost, the IMEI number is “blocked” and the phone can’t be used again on the Telstra network, even with another SIM card.

Unfortunately, they can still be used on another network, but eventually all Australian GSM networks are expected to have similar schemes in place by March 2003. This is a great step forward for the security of mobile phones, because with one simple phone call your SIM card and phone can both be rendered useless leaving thieves with a small piece of plastic, as useful as a children’s toy.

And for those on the CDMA network, you’ll be pleased to note that Telstra have had a similar technology in place right from the outset of the network.

Naturally, prevention is better than cure, and we should all take proper care to ensure our phones are not easy targets for the thieves among us. Take advantage of our phone manufacturer’s research and development and use the “phone locks” and “security locks” many mobile phones are equipped with.

You may also be interested to know that 28% of phones were stolen from cars and 20% from social venues such as pubs, clubs and restaurants. If we take more care in these two areas, never leaving them unattended or in the car, phone theft rates will be already halved, and the $2 million worth that Telstra spent on this new technology can be invested back into more services and coverage!

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