Mobiles & Tablets

Stolen phones may no longer be traceable

Rajesh Kurup Mumbai | Updated on November 14, 2014 Published on November 14, 2014

BL15_hacking.jpg

Hacking IMEI numbers of such phones is rampant in grey markets





At New Delhi’s Gaffar Market, the grey market for electronic goods, there are a number of shops that do brisk business hacking IMEI numbers on the sly. In the majority of cases, the device’s identity is stolen by replacing a simple chip, costing as little as ₹150-200.

International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) is generally a 15-digit serial number for devices with SIMs. The number, which can be found by dialling *#06# on a handset, contains information of origin, model and the serial number of the device. It can be used to block or trace a lost or stolen mobile phone. “We have come across a number of instances where IMEI numbers are duplicated or changed by inserting a new chip. This generally happens on low-cost devices, as high-end and branded phones generally get damaged when tampered with,” Sanjay Katkar, Chief Technology Officer at anti-virus solutions provider Quick Heal, told BusinessLine. Even though, there were sporadic incidents reported earlier, the hacking is much more rampant now.

In certain cases, the hacking would result in duplication of IMEI numbers, which are generated by handset manufacturers under the guidance of the telecom regulator. “When brought to the notice of manufacturers, both the numbers are blocked and an enquiry is conducted to flush out the duplicate,” Katkar said.

Apart from the Gaffar market, IMEI hackings are rampant across other places in New Delhi; Heera Panna, Manish Market and other locales in Mumbai, as well as Pune, Patna and Kochi, among others.

Why they are hacked

The IMEI is hacked to make the device untraceable and these handsets are sold as second-hand phones (used phones), Mashood Mahamood, a Mumbai-based dealer of new handsets said. “With the prices of mobile handsets on the wane, the demand for used phones is also declining. The risk is great as now a mobile handset is used for Internet, emails and banking, among others,” Mahamood added.

Tracking a false IMEI number is impossible as there are no records of it. In 2010, India banned imports of mobile phones without IMEI numbers, citing a security threat as these phones could be used by terrorists or anti-social elements.

“Hacking of IMEI numbers has been observed as an increasing trend in the industry, which is certainly going to affect all the brands in the long run. Although, at Panasonic, we haven’t faced any such issue yet, home-grown brands dealing with exceptionally high volumes will get adversely impacted,” said Manish Sharma, Managing Director, Panasonic India and South Asia.

“A mobile phone user is linked to a SIM card, and a SIM is good enough to track down a subscriber. The issue is that now a lost or stolen phone is lost forever,” said Rajan S Mathews, Director-General of the GSM operators’ body Cellular Operators’ Association of India.

Published on November 14, 2014

A letter from the Editor


Dear Readers,

The coronavirus crisis has changed the world completely in the last few months. All of us have been locked into our homes, economic activity has come to a near standstill. Everyone has been impacted.

Including your favourite business and financial newspaper. Our printing and distribution chains have been severely disrupted across the country, leaving readers without access to newspapers. Newspaper delivery agents have also been unable to service their customers because of multiple restrictions.

In these difficult times, we, at BusinessLine have been working continuously every day so that you are informed about all the developments – whether on the pandemic, on policy responses, or the impact on the world of business and finance. Our team has been working round the clock to keep track of developments so that you – the reader – gets accurate information and actionable insights so that you can protect your jobs, businesses, finances and investments.

We are trying our best to ensure the newspaper reaches your hands every day. We have also ensured that even if your paper is not delivered, you can access BusinessLine in the e-paper format – just as it appears in print. Our website and apps too, are updated every minute, so that you can access the information you want anywhere, anytime.

But all this comes at a heavy cost. As you are aware, the lockdowns have wiped out almost all our entire revenue stream. Sustaining our quality journalism has become extremely challenging. That we have managed so far is thanks to your support. I thank all our subscribers – print and digital – for your support.

I appeal to all or readers to help us navigate these challenging times and help sustain one of the truly independent and credible voices in the world of Indian journalism. Doing so is easy. You can help us enormously simply by subscribing to our digital or e-paper editions. We offer several affordable subscription plans for our website, which includes Portfolio, our investment advisory section that offers rich investment advice from our highly qualified, in-house Research Bureau, the only such team in the Indian newspaper industry.

A little help from you can make a huge difference to the cause of quality journalism!

Sincerely,

Support Quality Journalism
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor
You have read 1 out of 3 free articles for this week. For full access, please subscribe and get unlimited access to all sections.