AT&T launching new smartphone anti-theft service on Tuesday

Apple’s Find My iPhone service is rather convenient for finding a lost device, but it falls short in theft prevention. See, thieves have figured out by now they simply need to shut down a stolen device to stop Find My iPhone.

Cabel Sasser thought of an interesting solution – a “Shutdown Requires PIN” feature in iOS Settings – and carrier AT&T’s also been tackling this problem for some time.

It looks like the nation’s leading carrier, which sold 17.5 million iPhones last year, has indeed come up with an effective remedy that might keep iPhone thieves on the grid longer: a block list of sorts on the network end…

Louis Goddard, reporting for The Verge, lays it all out:

AT&T will launch a new service for reporting and blocking stolen devices on Tuesday, July 10, according to a trusted source.

The service will allow customers to deny voice, data and SMS access to any individual phone or tablet while keeping their account intact, avoiding the inconvenience of a full SIM block.

The carrier already informed its customer service representatives that its servers will automatically suspend service “if any attempt is made to use a device that is stored in the blocklist.” Users will need to contact a customer service representative directly in order to re-enable service.

Also, “users with remote data wipe apps will be required to activate them before suspending their device, to prevent access to their personal information”.

AT&T’s new service is likely a part of of a Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) initiative from April which promised to create a joint database that would keep track of stolen handsets and those reported as lost.

According to FCC, a whopping forty percent of all robberies in major metropolitan areas are mobile devices, especially pricey and popular gadgets such as the iPhone and iPad.

I’ve always wondered why carriers never tapped their back-end to prevent device theft, or make it inconvenient at the least. AT&T’s solution struck me as the most effective yet, though I wished AT&T worked more closely with device vendors to really tighten security.

For example, I’d love to be able to use Find My iPhone to directly lock my stolen device on the network end, without wasting time on paperwork with a carrier.

What do you think?

Speaking of Find My iPhone: please, rename it to reflect the fact it supports all iOS devices, not just iPhones.