Entries in Smartphones (4)


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


New Secret Weapon?: Department of Defense Enlists Mobile Devices

Apple Inc.(WASHINGTON) -- Picture yourself as a young Marine who's just been sent to Haiti after an earthquake. There is horror everywhere. Fifty survivors crowd around you, asking for food and water, and you'd love to help them. But in the chaos you don't know where caches of supplies have been delivered.

So you do exactly what you've been trained to do: you whip out your smartphone.

Right there on the screen is an app that tells you exactly where you are, where your fellow troops are, and where relief supplies have now been delivered.

"He can tell the refugees, 'Head that way,' and send a text ahead to be ready for 50 refugees," said Greg d'Arbonne of Overwatch Systems, a Textron subsidiary developing apps for the Department of Defense.

The U.S. military, used to spending big bucks on specialized hardware for its troops, has found that it can sometimes get the same results from the smartphones many teenagers have in their pockets before they enlist.

Private companies have jumped on board, creating software that does what the military needs, and for a lot less money than battle-hardened equipment would cost.

"What we need is a compass, an accelerometer, and GPS," said d'Arbonne. "Most smartphones have that."

"There was concern that a soldier might drop his phone. In that case, you can deactivate it remotely and get him a new one," he said. "And you know what? You're out $400, a lot less than you would have paid for hardware a few years ago."

The story is told of a chopper pilot in Afghanistan who got frustrated fumbling with maps over unfamiliar terrain. He loaded them all onto an iPad instead. His commanders liked his initiative. Thirty other pilots are now flying with everything they need on a tablet instead of paper.

There are issues to be dealt with, of course. Security is a major one. The hackers who crashed Sony's PlayStation network may find the U.S. Air Force too tempting to resist. So encryption specialists are already hard at work, which inevitably means a money-saving effort will get more expensive and cumbersome.

But momentum is growing. The Army ran a major exercise over the summer at Fort Bliss on the Texas-New Mexico border, with troops using Androids and BlackBerrys instead of specialized equipment. And d'Arbonne says that while the software his firm is developing is intended primarily for the military, some of the greatest interest comes from homeland security managers and relief agencies.

His firm has called its smartphone app Insite for civilian uses, and SoldierEyes for the military, but d'Arbonne said they're trying to come up with something better.

"We got some pushback from the Navy -- 'You want us to use something called SoldierEyes?'" he said.

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


US Army to Deploy Smartphones in Combat as Early as Spring

Photo Courtesy - US Army/ABC News(FORT BLISS, Texas) -- For many Americans, the smartphone is a constant source of intel on daily life, from tracking the whereabouts of friends and family to navigating city streets and finding the best price at the mall.  And as early as this spring, the U.S. Army could make iPhones, Androids, Blackberrys and similar devices standard-issue communication and intelligence-gathering tools on the front lines of the world's most dangerous battlefields.

"This is a profound and fundamental change about how soldiers will be able to access and share information," said Michael McCarthy, director of the mission command complex of the Army's Future Force Integration Directorate at Fort Bliss, Texas.

Troops with smartphones will be able to use text messages to more closely coordinate with their peers in the field and commanders at remote locations.  They'll also be able to stream real-time surveillance video from overhead drones to more effectively target the enemy, among other advantages, McCarthy said.

While the Army is still ironing out the details of a budget for the program, the benefits are expected to come at a relatively low cost to the military -- and taxpayers -- since the technology is commercially available and doesn't require significant investment for research and development.

The "Connecting Soldiers with Digital Applications" initiative began more than a year ago but is now several months ahead of schedule, officials say.  Tactical field tests with the smartphone technology have moved to advanced stages.

In the most recent exercise last week, a company-size Army unit used iPhones while running a simulated checkpoint, conducting tactical raids, and practicing local security sweeps.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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