The New York Times has published a report today that quotes security experts and industry observers as saying that smartphone manufacturers and wireless carriers could be doing a lot more to fight iPhone and other mobile device thefts, singling out Apple specifically.
As iPhones, iPads, and other mobile devices increase in popularity, so too is the crime rate involving such devices on the rise. In San Francisco, where a stolen iPhone 5 can sell for as much as $500, nearly half of all robberies last year involved a cellphone, according to The New York Times, which profiled the trends Thursday in an article with a headline that accused the mobile industry of looking “the other way.”
Late last year, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg blamed iPhone thefts as the single driver of an overall crime increase in the city. When Apple product thefts were removed from the equation, crime would have been down overall in 2012.
As phone theft rates continue to rise, police representatives and security experts are calling on wireless carriers and phone manufacturers to implement measures to make it harder for thieves to profit from such theft.
“Unlike other types of crimes, this is a crime that could easily be fixed with a technological solution,” George Gascón, San Francisco’s district attorney, told the Times. He says manufacturers like Apple should be developing technology to fight phone theft. While Gascón has met with Apple to discuss such antitheft technology, he says he received no indication from the company that it was interested in stepping up its efforts.
Some efforts have been made to fight cellphone theft, with AT&T rolling out a new system last year to block stolen iPhones from network access. Apple’s Find my iPhone feature in iCloud allow users to track their stolen or lost iOS devices.
Critics say more can be done to fight thefts. Thieves have the ability to hack the International Mobile Station Equipment Identity on a phone in order to erase all data on the phone, making it unidentifiable to databases such as AT&T’s that track stolen phones. Some critics believe smartphone makers should make their devices able to become inoperable should a reset of this type be performed. Privacy advocates disagree, saying that consumers should be able to reset their devices however they wish if they want to avoid tracking.
Apple has reportedly been working with police to track stolen devices, using the device’s IMEI numbers to track their current locations and directing police as to where they should go.