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Cellphone firm comes up with modified handsets to stump ‘flashers’

Police sources claim that representatives of a cellphone company met them and told them about the solution; firm denies.

Mumbai | Published: September 23, 2014 1:09:36 am

By Rohit Alok

Following the advent of ‘flashers’ as an easy way to tamper with the international mobile equipment identity (IMEI) number of cellphone handsets, a handset manufacturing company has modified its handsets in a way that makes it impossible for flashers to locate the IMEI numbers.

The value of the IMEI number as a tool for tracing stolen cellphones, which used to be the one sure-shot method that investigating agencies used to rely on, first came under a cloud of doubt when the Mumbai Police Crime Branch arrested a gang of cellphone technicians who used flashers to change the IMEI numbers of stolen handsets and then sell them off as second-hand.

Sources in the Mumbai Police Crime Branch said that representatives of a cellphone company met them and told them about the solution that the company had discovered.

“A mobile company whose distribution is probably the highest in the city, has identified an issue that they consistently face and have informed us that they have carried out modifications in their handsets to deal with the threat posed by the flasher,” said Additional Commissioner of Police (Crime) K M M Prasanna.

“The flasher is a device that connects the phone to the computer and helps the user locate the IMEI number, which can be located anywhere on the handset, and then gives the user the option of swapping it with another number. What the company has decided to do is place the IMEI number on a smart chip that does not let the flasher find it,” said a cyber expert.

A representative from the mobile phone company, however, denied that any discussions took place between the company and the police.

Mallikarjun Malle, a cyber expert who works with the Mumbai police, said, “Prior to the use of flashers, thieves, after stealing the phones, would first throw away the original SIM card in the phone and then either sell the individual parts of the phone after dismantling it or sell the whole mobile instrument in another district or state, since a service provider could block a particular IMIE in that territory. The use of flashers has rendered all these precautions unnecessary,” said Malle.

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