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Securing IMEIs

Securing IMEIs

The 21st Century has been a sparkling display of technology going further beyond. Wireless technology was born and became almost indistinguishable in our lives living up to its name. Mobile phones turned into smartphones overloaded with features and the internet. Amongst those features are applications which were also born with the advent of smartphones and went on to revolutionise the way we use mobile phones. Somewhere in this exponential curve of progress, our lives got digitalised. Data stored in computers and mobile devices were no longer restricted to isolated systems but could be shared and accessed anytime through cloud storage. Fast and cheap internet only proliferated data technology and use. Soon we arrived at a stage where our personal lives got synchronised with data and before we realised, we had made these very mobile phones an integral part of our identity to some extent. Encryption technology ensured safeguards to protect our data as we now carry everything we need in our smartphones accessible anytime. Digitisation has been exciting and technology makes us awe but security, nevertheless, remains imperative. While technology did its part and evolved the ugly-looking big handsets into bezel-less smartphones carrying our personal data, security had to keep up in order to avoid misuse. After all, crimes are part of our real world from time immemorial which is why law and order is a thing, and hence, it is only necessary to extend its reach to technology in a bid to safeguard people from mala fide intentions that never cease to exist. Cyber crimes have persistently clung on to technology. From a financial perspective, cybercrimes define modern criminals. Bank frauds to mobile cloning, technological advancement, like other aspects of civil society, is not insulated to criminal minds. The rampant account of mobile clonings and mobile theft, especially in the current age of data-driven society, is a cause for alarming concern. Therefore, the need for security and safeguards is a widely acknowledged view just as in every other aspect of society. To cease mobile clonings and thefts – which are a daily affair – there have been several measures but most of them depend on individual-level awareness. Technology companies programmed face-enabled locks which safeguarded data but even those have been breached. Beyond financial loss, these thefts can potentially jeopardise the personal life of citizens. And, if those citizens are government officials then the concern is amplified since there is the scope of national security being jeopardised. To serve this rising need to safeguard threat to personal lives, the government is all set to roll-out the IMEI database. International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) is a 15-digit number unique to each mobile device. IMEI trackers have been provided to law-enforcement agencies but an IMEI database would now enable them to blacklist these stolen or cloned devices in a bid to curtail their misuse by preventing them from accessing the network altogether. This database of IMEIs called the Central Equipment Identity Registry (CEIR) will be instrumental in categorising mobile devices and aiding law enforcement agencies in intercepting them. Citizens can inform the Department of Telecom (DoT) about theft after filing a report with police regarding their stolen mobile device and DoT will proceed to blacklist them. Along with the theft of these phones, counterfeit phones are also a menace. Counterfeit phones have been reportedly used in numerous cases of cybercrime where perpetrators utilised fake IMEIs. Globally, such a database has been in place in several countries and India's effort aligns by global standards in creating three lists under the registry – White, Black, Grey. As the name suggests, the Black list constitutes reported stolen phones which will not be able to access the network while the Grey list will have IMEIs that do not conform to standards but are allowed access under supervision. The White list will have all IMEIs which are permitted to use.

CEIR is expected to safeguard mobile phones and discourage mobile theft because a blacklisted IMEI is of no use. With the phone locked, IMEI blacklisted and SIM blocked, the three-fold system provides enough safeguard to our smartphones. DoT will have to ensure that its database is unbreachable while consumers will have to be aware of the fact that it is their duty to report and inform the concerned authorities of theft in order to safeguard their lives.

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