Carriers Unite to Track Stolen Phones NationwideS

Cell phone theft is among the fastest-growing crime segments in the US and police commissioners from around the nation are fed up. So the FCC and the Big Four carriers are developing a nation lost/stolen phone registry.

The database, which will be maintained by each carrier, will track all phones reported stolen and remotely deny them voice and data service. Carriers plan to track the individual phones with serial numbers associated with each device. Verizon and Sprint—both of which employ CDMA networks—already have the ability to remotely kill a pilfered phone and deny their reactivation. T-Mobile and AT&T—which run on GSM and rely on easily-swappable SIM cards—do not. The later two are reportedly working include extra checks to ensure that both the phone and the SIM card are legit.

"New technologies create new risks," said Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, which negotiated the database proposal. "We wanted to find a way to reduce the value of stolen smartphones."

Each carrier's individual database is expected to be online within six months, the four will merge within 18 months, and smaller, regional carriers will be allowed to join within 24 months. The Big Four are also reportedly rolling out PSA drives, prompting users to set a screen-unlock password and take other bare-necessity security measures. [WSJ via Norebbo / Shutterstock]