Misplacing a smartphone or other mobile device is an increasingly dangerous identity theft proposition, but a new database being created by four giant U.S. wireless carriers as part of a deal with the federal govenrment could help minimize the impact, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.
The WSJ reports that the agreement brokered by the Federal Communications Commission will result in the creation of a database listening phones that have been reported as stolen or lost. Phones in the database would be denied voice or data communications service, the article said.
The database is being created by AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint Nextel and Verizon Communications, according to the WSJ. Sprint and Verizon already have a process and system in place for blocking reactivation for phones that are reported stolen. The protection for the integrated database would come in the form of a unique serial number for each device that has gone missing.
Without service, it would be more difficult for thieves to pilfer confidential information that could be used to mess with some person's financial life or some company's confidential information. It would also make stolen phones harder to unload on the black market -- at least until someone figures out a workaround to mess with the serial numbers used for protection.
There aren't any real details yet or statements about the plan from the carriers, but individual databases are supposed to be together within six months. Over the subsequent 18 months, those databases will be integrated into a central source, according to the WSJ report.
Apparently, tablet computers with wireless data plans would be included in the database.
The problem of smartphone and tablet computer theft has taken on new urgency as more people buy them personally, but bring them over into their professional lives. That phenomenon is exposing businesses to new security threats, as businesses scramble to put data management policies in place.
The chances of actually recovering a smartphone are still pretty bleak. A recent study by Symantec found that only half of the people who actually find a mobile device tried to return it. Meanwhile, in about 90 percent of the cases, "found" smartphones were later used to try to access private or personal information on the device or on related applications.
(Thumbnail image by Jakub Krechowicz; courtesy of Stock.xchng)