Stolen phone blocking – A short story about CA vs MNOs

Honestly I don’t know, but usually these issues need to be addressed as an industry, through various official standards bodies (like 3GPP or ITU) or other industry entities like GSMA. It does sound like something GSMA might be able work on.

From: Barrack Otieno [] Sent: Wednesday, April 1, 2020 10:59 AM
To: KICTAnet ICT Policy Discussions <>
Subject: Re: [kictanet] Stolen phone blocking – A short story about CA vs MNOs

Interesting Security Conundrum that requires input from a device manufacturer. Maybe Adam, can give us a Huawei Perspective


On Wed, Apr 1, 2020 at 10:47 AM Odhiambo Washington via kictanet <<>> wrote:

What I meant to say (based on an assumption though) is that in the database, when a device connects, the system captures the IMEI number and the device name, i.e. Samsung Galaxy S10|0123456789
Assuming another device with an implanted/overwritten IMEI connects, the system then captures Samsung Galaxy S7|0123456789. The IMEI is supposedly unique so there is a discrepancy here – which one is the actual device that should be having this IMEI? Is it the S10 or S7? And that is where proof is now required.

On Tue, 31 Mar 2020 at 19:11, simiyu mse <<>> wrote:
If they picked the IMEI from a dead phone then it wouldn’t register twice anywhere. Even having another db keeping track of IMSI associations with IMEIs. But that is highly inefficient for this use.

On Tue, 31 Mar 2020, 14:57 Odhiambo Washington via kictanet, <<>> wrote:

It would appear that the crooks destined the BLOCKING database the dodo way.
I am told that they do it on the cheap (less than KES 500) by picking an IMEI from any dead phone and writing it in the ROM of the stolen ones.
If CA could filter for duplicate IMEIs on the system, they will find several – with some being shared across manufacturer devices.

At the end of the day, the blocking service is supposed to be offered as a public service by who (CA? MNOs?)

Because I need whoever is responsible to help me recover my phone. I am willing to work together with them if need be.

On Tue, 31 Mar 2020 at 12:57, Ali Hussein <<>> wrote:
Ndugu Washington

Let me give you a short (very short) Kenyan story:-

Waki Advance…Nasisi tuna Advance.

End of story. 🙂

Ali Hussein

Tel: +254 713 601113

Twitter: @AliHKassim

Skype: abu-jomo


Any information of a personal nature expressed in this email are purely mine and do not necessarily reflect the official positions of the organizations that I work with.

On Mon, Mar 30, 2020 at 12:17 PM Odhiambo Washington via kictanet <<>> wrote:
Once upon a time, when your mobile phone got stolen, you’d report to the police who’d issue you with their famous “Police Abstract”.
You would present that form, together with proof of purchase of your mobile phone to your preferred MNO – Safaricom, Kencell, etc who
would then verify your identity and ownership of the said phone and proceed to BLOCK it from being used.
During those days, the MNOs used to have a central shared database of all BLOCKed phones and those phones would be rendered almost
useless unless unBLOCKed. It was possible to recover your stolen phone then – should a buyer of a BLOCKED phone end up at one of the MNOs offices to ask
why “their phone” wasn’t working.

Las cosas cambiaron.

These days, when technology has advanced, if your phone gets stolen, the MNOs don’t block it.
The last time I had such an unfortunate incident, Airtel told me that they no longer block such phones because when stolen, the thieves go to some crooks who
then write a new set of IMEIs to the phones, which then keep on being used by the new owners.
However, if I needed that form to show that the MNO blocked my phone, I can get it 🙁

Now, it seems that crooks beat CA to their game, or who was it who had control/supervision and enforcement of this process???

And me here in my naivety was thinking that with the advancement of technology and regional integration in EA, the CA of KE, CA of UG, CA of TZ, Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi
would come together and ensure compliance from the regional MNOs, such that a phone stolen in EA Region becomes unusable due to the MNOs sharing the BLOCKage database.

End of story. Not sure it was short as initially intended.

CA, are you listening?

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