A total of 569 cases of IMEI Number Cloning were ‘reported’ in the year 2012. Minister of State for Communications and IT Milind Deora, confirmed in a written reply to Lok Sabha, “The number of cases reported where the same IMEIs have been used in more than 100 cellphones during the last three years (2009, 2010, 2011) are 749 while 569 cases are reported during the current year (2012)”.
International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) is a 15 Digit Unique Identification number of every handset, irrespective of make or technology. It is independent of telecom service provider & is supposed to be hardcoded at the manufacturing stage itself. Furthermore, this same number now has to be registered with GSMA. The body represents the interests of the worldwide mobile communications industry. Spanning 219 countries, the GSMA unites about 800 of the world’s mobile operators, as well as more than 200 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset makers, software companies, equipment providers, Internet companies, and media and entertainment organizations.
In the early days of Chinese handset makers flooding the world with cheap mobile phones, many such manufacturers simply bypassed the requirement. They either stuffed the handset with a ‘null’ IMEI number i.e. all Zeros or with no IMEI number at all. Such devices pose a serious security risk, India quickly banned handsets that had such rudimentary flaws. As an added security measure, Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had issued instructions to mobile phone operators to not process calls from handsets with invalid or non-existent IMEI numbers.
So what is the Government doing about the same?
Unfortunately, the Indian Government does not posses the technology to single-out & eliminate duplicate and fake IMEI handsets. But, “a technical committee has been constituted to study and suggest the possible solutions” confirmed Deora. However, what’s truly worrisome is the fact that about 18,000 handsets were reported to have duplicate IMEI numbers. But since there is no way of knowing which is original, DoT & telecom companies are helpless.
Anti-social elements can very easily make use of such loopholes to wreck havoc & get away with it. Shouldn’t the country now take some drastic steps to quickly eliminate such issues?
Image Courtesy | littleabout