Entries in Cell Phones (12)


Hostage Prison Guard Saved by Inmates' Contraband Cell Phones

Kevin Horan/Stone(BISHOPVILLE, S.C.) -- A South Carolina prison guard was released late Thursday night following a tense five-hour standoff, after inmates using contraband cell phones tipped off authorities that the injured officer was being held hostage in a broom closet.

About 120 inmates in one dormitory of the Lee Correctional Institution, a maximum security prison in Bishopville, S.C., "overtook an officer" using homemade shanks and other weapons around 5 p.m. EDT, said department of corrections spokesman Clark Newsom.

The guard suffered lacerations on his face and was held hostage for five hours in a closet guarded by inmates, many of them convicted rapists and murderers.

Other inmates inside the prison alerted authorities to the guard's whereabouts by making phone calls from contraband mobile phones, which had previously been smuggled into the prison by throwing them over the perimeter fence, Newsom said.

The state department of corrections directed hostage negotiators and SWAT teams to the prison, where a standoff ensued for nearly five hours.

At 9:34 p.m. a special operations team stormed the prison and found the guard, freeing him within 15 minutes and suppressing the riot.

The guard, who officials have not identified, had "lacerations from homemade shanks but was in pretty good condition and did not seem to be injured seriously," said Newsom. Nevertheless, he was "taken to a local hospital by helicopter as a precaution."

The spokesman said the attack on the guard was a crime of "opportunity" and did not appear to have been planned.

Authorities did a search of the prison and confiscated contraband including cell phones. The prison remains on lockdown.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Teen Faces Prison in Landmark Texting While Driving Case

ABC News(HAVERHILL, Mass.) -- Teenager Aaron Deveau insists he was not texting when his car swerved and collided head-on with an oncoming pickup truck on Feb. 20, 2011, but 18 days after the crash, the man he hit died.

Now Deveau is on trial in Haverhill, Mass. in what could be a landmark case in the controversial topic of texting while driving. Deveau now stands accused of killing 55-year-old Donald Bowley.

Prosecutors allege that Deveau, who has pleaded not guilty, was texting the day his vehicle slipped across the center line of a Haverhill street and crashed into Bowley's truck.

"My brother received such severe head trauma that he had, there was no hope for him," the victim's sister Donna Bowley told ABC News.

Deveau was charged with motor vehicle homicide by negligent operation, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, being an operator under 18 using a mobile phone, being an operator reading or sending an electronic message, a marked lanes violation, and two counts of negligent operation and injury from mobile phone use.

Deveau's lawyer has said there is no evidence the crash caused Bowley's death, while Deveau told police he swerved to avoid a vehicle in front of him that slowed down, according to ABC News Boston affiliate WCVB.

Luz Roman, who was dating Bowley, also suffered serious injuries in the crash. When she took to the stand earlier this week, she broke down as she talked about being in the truck with Bowley that day.

"This is a miracle that I'm here," Roman told the court.

Prosecutors contend Deveau was not paying attention when the vehicles collided. Police say he received two messages: one at 2:34 p.m. and a second at 2:35 p.m., on the day of the crash. Prosecutors say the accident happened at 2:36 p.m.

"The defendant sent and received 193 texts on Feb 20, 2011," a prosecuting attorney in the case told the court.

In a videotaped statement recorded after the crash, Deveau, then 17, had a question for police: "If anything happens to them, if one passes away, what would happen to me?"

Texting while driving is a crime in Washington, D.C. and 38 states, including Massachusetts. Many advocates of bans on texting while driving want to see the number of states outlawing it expand.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Many Young Drivers Text, Talk Behind Wheel Despite Knowing Risks

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(YONKERS, N.Y.) -- Most young drivers are aware that talking or texting behind the wheel is dangerous, but that hasn't stopped many from doing it.

A new survey out Tuesday by Consumer Reports found that while 80 percent of 16- to 21-year-olds polled said texting or using apps while driving poses serious risks, almost a third -- 29 percent -- admitted to texting as they drove in the last 30 days.  Another 8 percent said they used apps while driving and 7 percent confessed to using e-mail or social media.

The magazine also found that although 60 percent of young drivers surveyed considered talking on the phone while driving to be dangerous, half of them said they did it in the last 30 days.

Despite the findings, there are some safety-minded young people on the road as Liza Barth, an associate editor for Consumers Reports, points out.

"We found that about 50 percent said that they are speaking up for their safety, if they see some of their friends using these things behind the wheel," Barth said.

What's more, "74 percent have tried to stop their behaviors and they've read about the problem; 61 percent have heard or read about the problem of distracted driving; and 40 percent said the laws have helped them reduce or stop some of the behaviors," Barth said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


FCC and Wireless Companies Create Stolen Smartphone Database

DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The burgeoning market for stolen smart phones and tablet devices is the target of a new partnership between the FCC, law enforcement and wireless carriers, who announced Tuesday a plan to create a national database that would render the stolen devices worthless.

During the next six months, the nation's top wireless carriers will work to create databases of stolen devices. The unique identifying number on each stolen device will be entered into a database that will prevent thieves from being able to reactivate the smartphones and tablets on other carriers. The FCC expects the databases will be integrated within the next 18 months, and ultimately hopes to create an international database to quash the secondary market.

"If the industry can help dry up the demand, we will take the profit motive away from the criminals," said Christopher Guttman-McCabe, a vice president at CTIA, a wireless trade group.

A decade ago, cellular devices accounted for eight percent of thefts in large cities. They now account for more than 40 percent of thefts, according to the FCC.

During those 10 years, what was first petty theft has since become a much larger issue, jeopardizing the personal information of users who bank, pay bills and store other sensitive data on their devices.

"We're sending a message to consumers we've got your back and a message to criminals we're cracking down on the resale market," FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said Tuesday.

The chairman said he will hold wireless carriers accountable for meeting certain benchmarks. Aside from the database, the goals will include notifying and prompting consumers of how they can lock their phones with passwords, educating consumers on how they can locate and wipe their phones using applications and measures that can be taken to deter theft.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said he hopes those measures, coupled with legislation he is introducing, "will make a stolen cellphone as worthless as an empty wallet."

The senator's legislation would make altering the unique identification numbers on cell phones a federal crime, punishable with up to five years in prison, similar to the law that was passed criminalizing the tampering of vehicle identification numbers.

"It worked for the VIN numbers and it will work for the cell phone ID numbers," Schumer said.

The wireless industry's representative, Guttman-McCabe, declined to discuss the cost to the industry. Instead, he called the move a "good corporate citizen effort" and stressed it was about "safety and security".

The CTIA will submit its first quarterly report to the FCC on June 30 and will publish updates on its website.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


NTSB Suggests Nationwide Ban on Portable Electronic Devices While Driving

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday urged all U.S. states to ban drivers from using electronic devices while driving, including for text messaging.

The NTSB issued the recommendation after several investigations that found texting to be the cause of deadly accidents.

"According to NHTSA [National Highway Traffic Safety Administration], more than 3,000 people lost their lives last year in distraction-related accidents," NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman said in a statement. "It is time for all of us to stand up for safety by turning off electronic devices when driving. No call, no text, no update, is worth a human life."

Distracted driving, which includes texting and talking on a cell phone, is a major cause of death on the road. In 2009, more than 5,400 people died and nearly 550,000 were injured in crashes linked to distraction, according to the Department of Transportation.

The problem is rampant among teen drivers and advocacy groups, including Oprah, have launched aggressive campaigns to target this vulnerable group.

Nine states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands, already bar drivers from using any electronic devices while driving. Thirty-five states and D.C. ban texting while driving. But virtually all states allow drivers to use hands-free devices, even though talking can be a distraction.

An overwhelming number of Americans support a ban on texting while driving.

In a CBS News/New York Times poll in October 2009, 97 percent of Americans said they believed texting while driving should be outlawed.

But despite that view, a record number of Americans are using their electronic devices while on the road. Forty-seven percent of all adults surveyed in a Pew poll in June, 2010 conceded that they had at least once sent or read a text message while they were behind the wheel.

An NHTSA survey released last week found that nearly two out of every 10 drivers and half of drivers ages 21 to 24 said they are texting while driving. According to the survey, drivers younger than 25 are two to three times more likely than their older counterparts to read or send text messages or emails.

The problem is so rampant that even the White House held a summit in 2009 to discuss legislative action to ban texting while driving. President Obama signed legislation that would bar federal employees from texting behind the wheel.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


9/11 Families Meet with AG Eric Holder About Phone Hacking Scandal

Chris Hondros/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Attorney General Eric Holder met with a small group of 9/11 family members to discuss what he called "very disturbing" phone hacking allegations against Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and its now-defunct newspaper, News of the World.

The United States' look at the alleged hacking of phones of 9/11 victims and their family members comes just weeks after it was revealed that News of the World journalists engaged in a systemic conspiracy to pay bribes to British police and private investigators to hack into people's phones in Britain.

"It is fair to say we are pleased with the meeting with the attorney general," said Norman Siegel, an attorney who is representing some of the 9/11 families, after the meeting. "The allegations with regard to potential hacking of the 9/11 victims and their families is a very serious and substantial allegation.

"Hopefully the allegations turn out to be not true," Siegel said. "The 9/11 families have had too many tragedies already."

Holder met with the 9/11 families for about 75 minutes at the Justice Department headquarters along with Kevin Perkins, assistant director of the FBI's criminal investigative division and other officials.

The investigation is being run by Justice Department officials and FBI agents in New York and Washington, and assets from FBI headquarters.

"From everything we saw today it appears that the government is taking these allegations very seriously," said Peter Gadiel, whose son James died in New York during the Sept. 11 attacks.

Siegel said that the 9/11 family members who attended the meeting made three recommendations to the FBI and Justice Department officials: that the FBI get the 9/11 victims and family members cellphone numbers to see if the numbers were accessed after 9/11, that they expand the focus and scope of the investigation to look not only at cellphones but at computer records and emails, and that they look at news stories to see if personal information could only have come from hacking into phones or emails.

Justice Department officials declined to discuss the scope of the investigation other than to say it was in its preliminary stages, but the Justice Department and the FBI have established a hotline for the 9/11 family members to report any tips or concerns to law enforcement.

The family members said Holder and the FBI officials did not disclose if a grand jury had been convened to review information in the investigation.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Facebook, Law Enforcement Team Up to Remove Inmate Profiles

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- Facebook said it would work with law enforcement agencies across the country to delete accounts that belong to prison inmates -- all part of an effort to combat rising smartphone and social media use among the incarcerated.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said prisoners have used Facebook to stalk victims and organize criminal activity. It has started to report Facebook profiles either set up by prison inmates or by others on their behalf to Facebook security. Facebook will now remove these accounts.

"What we're seeing is inmates' contacting or sexually harassing or even stalking their victims in the community," overcoming the security measures put in place to protect victims from their offenders, said Dana Toyama, a spokeswoman for CDCR.

"They even go as far as coordinating with friends or fellow gang members outside of prison to harass victims," said Toyama. "There is a reason we have pay phones to monitor calls. Letters are copied so we know who they are writing to. These are methods we do to make victims feel safe."

Last year the California corrections department was made aware of a convicted child molester who mailed drawings to his 17-year-old victim from a state prison. The drawings were sketches of the girl, and though her molester had not seen her in at least seven years, he could accurately portray the clothes she wore and her current hairstyle by looking at her MySpace and Facebook profiles on his smartphone.

The department said it confiscated nearly 1,400 cellphones that were smuggled into prisons in 2007. In 2010, that number jumped to approximately 10,760 phones. As of July 1, the CDCR said it was "on track to pass" last year's number with 7,284 cell phones confiscated so far this year.

"This is a growing problem in California as modern cellphones can and are used in the commission of crimes within the state's prisons and outside community," Toyama said.

Facebook recognizes the problem. "If a state has decided that prisoners have forfeited their right to use the Internet, the most effective way to prevent access is to ensure prisons have the resources to keep smartphones and other devices out," said Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes. "We will disable accounts reported to us that are violating relevant U.S. laws or regulations or inmate accounts that are updated by someone on the outside. We will also take appropriate action against anyone who misuses Facebook to threaten or harass."

While Facebook always gave users the option to report accounts of offenders, it has now broadened its policy to prohibit current inmates from keeping active Facebook accounts.

"This is a new agreement," said Toyama. "It's Facebook's acknowledgment that this is obviously a problem."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Smuggled Cell Phones Prove Latest Problem For Prisons

Stockbyte/ThinkStock(DALLAS) -- Cell phones are causing headaches again for Texas correctional officials.

Two years ago, after a state lawmaker started receiving threats, apparently from a convict, a sweep of the massive Texas prison system turned up over 100 smuggled cell phones, along with accessories like chargers and batteries.  It's now become an issue in county jails, too, after one inmate used his phone to plan his escape and then to go on Facebook once he was out. 

Officials are looking at ways to electronically jam cell signals rather than trying to round up all the smuggled devices.  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Law Protects Hackers' Ability to Screen DUI Checkpoints

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Want to avoid DUI checkpoints? There are apps for that.

And while lawmakers called on smartphone companies last week to ban the programs that could enable drunk drivers to steer clear of police traps, legal experts say the law protects hackers who install unapproved software onto their phones.

So far, Research in Motion, the company that makes Blackberry phones, is the only company that has complied with the request from four Democratic senators. But even if companies were to ban all DUI dodging apps from their online store, customers would still have a legal right to bypass security software independently.

An exemption was granted in 2010 by the Library of Congress, the office that oversees copyrights, making it impossible for companies to sue individuals for circumventing the company's proprietary security software.

Under the revised rules, it's not illegal for wireless telephone users to hack into a company's security system to access programs that the company has previously disabled if the intent of the hacker is to simply use those programs. This is cited on the government's website as exempt from the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, passed during the Clinton administration.

"Jailbreaking" or "rooting" a phone is a term used by hackers to describe the process in which a smartphone is unhinged from company control -- it allows for the installation of unapproved programs. Savvy customers could load up the DUI dodging software as long as the program wasn't obtained illegally.

But surely an app that warns the driver of a nearby police DUI checkpoint must be illegal? Not so -- mobile applications such as Trapster work by allowing individuals to report the location of a police DUI checkpoint or speeding camera nearby thus creating a so-called "Trap Map" displayable on the dashboard of a car.

Because the handheld app gathers information through ordinary citizens phoning in the location of checkpoint, legal experts say that there is no way to write a law banning this without encroaching on our right to freedom of expression guaranteed in the Constitution.

Emma Llansó, a fellow at the Center for Democracy and Technology specializing in First Amendment issues, she doesn't believe that the senators have any legal recourse to outlaw the apps.

And because of the ban's likely violation of the Constitution, Congress will likely never create a law banning the app.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Lawmakers Seek to Crack Down on Distracted Pedestrians

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Lawmakers in New York and Arkansas are taking aim at pedestrians who are distracted by electronic devices while running or walking on sidewalks and streets.

New York Sen. Carl Kruger is looking to impose a fine on walkers or joggers using a cell phone, iPod, or other electronic device while crossing the street in a big city.

"If somebody is found using a cell phone or texting or receiving an instant message while crossing the street then they would be subject to a $100 fine," Kruger said.

The senator added that the fine would not be wiped out by simply mailing in a check.

"You get the fine, you have to appear in court, you have to lose some time.  You have to appear before a judge.  You're gonna get admonished for what you did.  And you're going to have to pay that civil fine," he said.

Kruger said the proposed fine is not a ploy to raise money but rather the result of reported deaths around the country in connection to distracted pedestrians.  Of those deaths, two were in his district in Brooklyn, where, in one incident, he said "a gentleman was standing on the corner, ready to cross the street, wired into his iPod, crosses over, walks right into a New York City bus."

Moreover, Arkansas Sen. Jimmy Jeffress is proposing a bill that would forbid pedestrians from wearing headphones in both ears when they are on or near streets, intersections or highways, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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