Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?
Technology Your Rights Online

Hack Your Phone, Go to Jail 577

thodu writes: "This bill [Mobile Telephones (Re-Programming)] in the UK aims to make it illegal for anyone to change a GSM phone's IMEI number. Though the intention in this case is seemingly for the good (to track and prevent stolen phones from being used), the line between legitimate mods and illegal hacks is increasingly becoming blurred. What next - a bill to disallow modifying your PC ?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Hack Your Phone, Go to Jail

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 01, 2002 @10:03AM (#3991718)
    dont worry buddy, no one's coming in that basement.

    My cell phone was stolen and I bet the number was changed so someone could use it. You have to be reasonable here. If for every 1,000 hacks there is only 1 person doing it for scientific purposes then that one person has to pay the sacrifice for the greater good.

    It seems like a small price to pay if it gets a few people their cell phone backs or less stolen.

  • by netphilter ( 549954 ) on Thursday August 01, 2002 @10:05AM (#3991738) Homepage Journal
    There are laws in place about stealing phone service...just enforce them. Don't create new, more specific ones. If we continue to let the government infringe upon our's never going to end.
  • by slakdrgn ( 531347 ) on Thursday August 01, 2002 @10:09AM (#3991769) Homepage
    Actually, atleast in the old days, there was a reason.. Say you had a car phone, and a regular cell phone.. Your car phone has hands free, intergrates with your stereo, makes food, whatever.. If they both have the same number, you can call from either phone using the same service, same account, same phone number.. I don't know how viable this now with digital pcs phones and the like, but atleast back in the mid 90s it was great..

    A lot of companies charge extra for 2 phones, and they can't have the same number, etc.. thats what this was perfect for..

    But I think now you have more people stealing phones then using this method to make life easier.

  • Re:er no (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 01, 2002 @10:18AM (#3991834)
    No legitimate uses?

    What if I want to clone my own phone that
    will run off my one account, so say, my
    wife has a cloned phone. Or perhaps I make
    my living recieving and placing calls on my
    cell - a duplicated phone might be a good

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but without being
    able to change the IMEI number I'd otherwise have to pay some fee (probably monthly) to my cell
    company to do something I should otherwise
    be able to do myself with the property that
    I have purchased.
  • Re:A good thing... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FyRE666 ( 263011 ) on Thursday August 01, 2002 @10:22AM (#3991866) Homepage
    This will do nothing to stop mugging

    Erm, I think it will have a VERY noticable effect on the blackmarket in reprogrammed phones. There are businesses that currently operate legitimately whose sole business is chaning the identity of [stolen] phones. The only reason anyone would wish to do this is to sell a stolen phone, there's no other purpose for it. Sure you might want to do this yourself, but why? It's not as though anything spectacular will happen!

    Maybe you think anyone should be able to file off vehicle identification serial numbers too, or wire up their house with all the earth wires and live wires reversed?
  • by drj11 ( 221521 ) on Thursday August 01, 2002 @10:26AM (#3991902) Homepage
    The bill is sufficiently vaguely worded that it covers changing the unique identifier of any wireless communications device. Of course, "wireless communications device" isn't defined in the bill, but it might cover wireless ethernet cards in a laptop for example. And using ipconfig to change the MAC address would be an offence. Possibly, owning a copy of ipconfig or supplying it could be an offence. I can think of several reasonable uses of changing a card's MAC address.

    Also, I just checked parliament's website and this isn't a bill, it has been passed as an act! Soon to become law no doubt.
  • Uhh, directv sent letters [] to over 100,000 Americans telling them not to illegally modify their smartcards to pirate TV. They estimate (quite rightly) that there are over 1 million directv receivers in America that are hacked illegally. That's almost 10% of all satellite receivers.

    Considering this, why doesn't the UK look at the stats and realise that just because its illegal doesn't mean people won't do it. Not to mention that theft of mobile phones is already illegal anyways.

    It doesn't matter wether there are legitimate reasons for chaging the IMEI number or not. The fact is that changing it because you have a stolen cell phone is the reason for this bill. It therefore in and of itself is redundant. What a waste of taxpayers money, and another reason why I don't like visiting the UK (number two would be because the law there can strongarm me into giving away keys to any data they wish, and number three because I find the virtual panopticon the UK has become quite distasteful).

    Just my 2 cents.
  • by drew_kime ( 303965 ) on Thursday August 01, 2002 @10:44AM (#3992044) Journal
    The law should say that simply doing this mod isn't illegal, but that it is sufficient grounds for a search warrant/wire tap/other investigative methods. After all, the IMEI was put in specifically to fight theft and cloning. It seems reasonable to assume that anyone changing it is probably going to do something illegal with it.
  • by NKJensen ( 51126 ) < minus cat> on Thursday August 01, 2002 @10:49AM (#3992081) Homepage
    It makes no sense to let 4 phones "act as one".

    Your SIM card makes a phone act, not the IMEI number. The SIM card identifies YOU to the phone company, not the IMEI number.

    IMEI identifies the PHONE to the phone company - and they would rather not have to check if the phone is stolen or not. They don't make a profit on that.

    The IMEI number has one use, only, to make stolen phones easy to track.

    Don't waste everybodys time making funny analogies, they simply do not apply. Stick to the facts, please.
  • Two phones (Score:3, Interesting)

    by morcheeba ( 260908 ) on Thursday August 01, 2002 @11:50AM (#3992576) Journal
    Hang glider pilots... (hopefully me soon)

    I spend most of my time in and near a city with decent digital coverage. I want the smallest phone possible, so I use a single-band digital phone for 99% of my phone calls.

    When I'm in the countryside, towers are further apart and I need analog compatibility and as much power as possible. A many-watt multi-band phone is needed to make sure I have a ride back home.

    What can I dO?
    1. Two phone services. I can sepnd an extra $20/mo.
    2. Clone the serial number, using both phones on the same service, neither at the same time.

    Before anyone claims that cloning the phone is stealing service, it's not: I would be paying for the airtime because it's a clone of my other phone. There used to be a time when adding another phone to your land-line was illegal, but courts ruled that, although you get the additional benefit of having multiple people talk and listen, you still only have one line to use.

    Now, I will leave open one uncertainty: using a closed phone may not be allowed in my contract with a phone company. If so, then fine - I'll move to another provider. Outlawing cloning would stifle competiton from compaines that choose to provide this benefit, and would be anticompetative.

    How about enforcing the existing laws? Surely it's illegal to help trade stolen phones. If the phone companies made it easy to identify stolen phones (like, they would get a "stolen phone" message instead of a dial tone, or even better, constantly ring), then it would be much harder for illegal reprogrammers to claim they didn't know the phone was stolen.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 01, 2002 @01:44PM (#3993452)
    I am afraid this is typical of the UK government's contempt for individual rights. There seems to be something especially about computer geeks that attracts their legislative fury. This is only one of a long line of lunatic measures here, from IR-35 (essentially an anti-IT tax), to the police closing down IT companies by simply seizing all their hardware if they won't allow them arbirary seaches and to install bank-doors, to the RIP act and so on.

    One of the other nightmare/1984 things going on is persecuting random people via child pornography allagations - some 20,000 cases so far this year, according to a lawyer friend of mine. Essentially what seems to happen is that someone, possibly another police officer, makes an allagtion that a person is viewing or disributing kiddie porn. Then the police raid that poor person, rip through their houses, and seize anything electronic they can get their hands on.

    Basically, they then keep the equipment and informally distribute it amongst themselves. Nobody in their right mind is willing to go to court to recover their stuff because they are likely to have their house burned down by enraged neighbours shortly afterwards. I understand that anyone who actually does have pictures of semi-dressed girls over 16 on their machine is prosecuted anyway, on the grounds that they can't prove that the picures are not of under-16s, and this has led to a large number of lives ruined and suicides. Knowing that this kind of thing goes on, and knowing that people who know members of police child protection units often have access to cheap computer, I am now extremely careful not to look at anything that might be construed as pornogrpahic on the Internet. It really isn't worth the risk for me - at least with Slashdot you can idle away time reading and commenting about safe things.

The human mind ordinarily operates at only ten percent of its capacity -- the rest is overhead for the operating system.