The first phase of the FCC PROTECT initiative went into effect this week. PROTECT was started in April to combat the theft of mobile devices like phones and tablets and protect the data they contain. AT&T and T-Mobile now have a blacklist database in place to help further that initiative. The database contains information about cell phones that have been reported as lost or stolen. Cell phone dealers are supposed to check the database before unlocking a used phone for a customer.
Chris Guttman-McCabe, vice president of regulatory affairs for CTIA (a global association of wireless carriers), explained:
“The point of the blacklist database is to dry up the aftermarket for stolen phones. If you can’t reactivate a stolen phone, it’s just a worthless hunk of plastic and metal.”
Even though it has until November of 2013 to develop its database, Sprint has already rolled its blacklist out as well. But as of now it is specific only to Sprint dealers. It will become part of the joint national database later.
According to Amy Gahran, writing for CNN:
“Carriers which have launched their blacklist databases are now working to educate phone dealers on how to access them. It’s likely that phone dealerships operated by carriers will follow this process — but educating and gaining cooperation from independently operated phone retailers will be more challenging.”
As the PROTECT initiative moves forward, here are a few things you can do to keep your information and your devices safe:
- Keep your cell phones and tablets locked with a password or PIN code.
- Check your carrier’s website for information on phone security, mobile apps, e-mail information, and even bill inserts.
- Install a “remote wipe” service on your phone to protect your sensitive information.
- Install a “find my cell phone” program.
“This will take time,” Guttman-McCabe acknowledged. “I tend to see this as a glass half full. We’re definitely making progress on fighting this problem, but it’s not solved yet.”