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Old 03-02-2019, 05:30 AM
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Is smartphone theft impossible nowadays in the US/UK?


It seems that smartphones over the late noughties to now have change dramatically in regards to security features. I've heard many anecdotal stories as well as stories in the media of thieves turning on smartphones only to be discovered by apps that automatically take pictures of them as well as GPS coordinated embeded in photos. Even simply browsing YouTube or Google can track the phone with the I.P address of the device.

The US and the UK seem to be very draconian with security measures (CCTV, GPS tracking) and thus it also seems logical that stealing smartphones there would make selling them very difficult. Am I wrong?
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Old 03-02-2019, 05:50 AM
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Wouldn't it be enough to remove and throw away the SIM card?
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Old 03-02-2019, 06:38 AM
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Wouldn't it be enough to remove and throw away the SIM card?
Nope, AFAIK, If your phone is stolen and you contact your network carrier, they have all the details of the IMEI, MAC Address, phone I.P address etc... Now, in many cases, police aren't going to go all their way to investigate due to resource issues but it definitely can be done.

As well as that, there are some apps that allow you to remotely disable the phone even if a new SIM card inserted. The thief has to connect to the internet though.
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Old 03-02-2019, 07:26 AM
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Originally Posted by kleptomaniac View Post
It seems that smartphones over the late noughties to now have change dramatically in regards to security features. I've heard many anecdotal stories as well as stories in the media of thieves turning on smartphones only to be discovered by apps that automatically take pictures of them as well as GPS coordinated embeded in photos. Even simply browsing YouTube or Google can track the phone with the I.P address of the device.

The US and the UK seem to be very draconian with security measures (CCTV, GPS tracking) and thus it also seems logical that stealing smartphones there would make selling them very difficult. Am I wrong?
You can browse YouTube and see videos of thieves driving through urban areas on scooters and motorcycles and snatching phones out of peoples' hands as they're talking on them.

That thief sells the phones to a fence. The phones can be rooted/jailbroken and everything spoofed. (IP addresses are trivial to hide with proxies and (by design) change depending on what provider/wifi network they are on. Maybe you read about IMEI numbers, they would theoretically make use of a stolen phone hard. In truth, it can be easily faked.)

Like cars, phones can be dissassembled and sold as parts, or shipped intact to another country/continent where no one gives a shit about first world problems.

There are videos from DefCon where hackers/IT security professionals locate stolen devices online, but just getting a webcam photo or GPS coordinates does not translate to arrest/prosecution without a lot of additional work, and even then, cops have better things to do than petty theft. Your average victim has no understanding of computers or networks, so buying a new phone is the cheapest, fastest, easiest solution.

So, only inexperienced and/or opportunist thieves might get caught up, and that's because they are trying to personally use the device, as opposed to selling it.

(MAC addresses are trivial to spoof.)
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Old 03-02-2019, 08:48 AM
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Originally Posted by kleptomaniac View Post
Nope, AFAIK, If your phone is stolen and you contact your network carrier, they have all the details of the IMEI, MAC Address, phone I.P address etc... Now, in many cases, police aren't going to go all their way to investigate due to resource issues but it definitely can be done.
I had a phone stolen years ago. I contacted my carrier and they were completely not interested in helping at all. As in, they refused to do anything about it whatsoever.
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Old 03-03-2019, 05:59 AM
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The UK has a had a recent crimewave involving kids on motor scooters snatching phones from pedestrians. A lot of recorded by the huge number of CCTV cameras in public places. Somehow I doubt that the victims of crime feel more secure knowing that videos the them being robbed can be obtained if the police are sufficiently motivated. But it did prove very newsworthy.

The kids are often high on drugs and sell the phones to fences who have contacts overseas in countries that have not signed up to a international agreement for telcos to disable phones reported as stolen.

Here is an investigation by one of our more sensational newspapers.

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/595771...n-moped-theft/

I guess it might be enough to reset the phone and give it another IMEI number if you have the right equipment. So even these IMEI blacklisting services run by telcos may not be enough.

For a while the police did not chase these hoodlums because it could endanger the public. Instead detectives followed leads of kids bragging of their exploits on social media, identify them, follow them to find the fences. Traditional detective work.

After a great deal of discussion in the press and by politicians, the police procedures were modified to allow pursuit in some locations. So we have been entertained with a few classic cops chasing robbers videos like this.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Ers7JSQRPE

Smartphones are usually bought with a contract or plan in the UK and other countries, but in many parts of the world there are no financial services that offer this. So the phones are sold for their true price, which is much higher. So there is always going to be a demand for the latest model stolen and mailed overseas,

There are, of course, apps for remotely wiping your phone and its sim and blocking it is stolen and you can insure them, so damage can be limited. Some people lose their phones of a very regular basis.

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