Screaming phones plan to cut down mobile theft

By Marc Jones

LONDON - A British firm has developed a mobile phone security sytem which sets off a high pitch scream, permanently locks the handset and wipes all data if stolen, to combat spiralling phone thefts.

The Remote XT technology, designed to make phones unusable, and therefore worthless if they are stolen, works by installing software onto the operating system of the phone which is then activated via a call to a call centre once users realise their phone has been snatched or lost.

The phone is then remotely disabled, all the data held on the device is wiped and a high pitched screech is triggered.

"It makes a loud squealing noise which is enough to distract a restaurant if it went off and it completely locks the phone," Remote XT Managing Director, Mark Whiteman told Reuters.

"We also then set a small bomb off, if you like, that completely wipes the data...if it has genuinely been stolen then it renders the phone useless to the thief," he added.

The screaming noise can be stopped by taking out the phone's battery but starts again as soon as it is put back in, while replacing the SIM card has no effect.

The system also automatically backs up data held on a device once a day, meaning users can re-load their information onto a replacement handset.

According to the latest government statistics, mobile phone theft has risen 190 per cent in recent years, with one third of all robberies now solely involving mobile phones.

Insurer Halifax estimates a mobile handset is stolen every 12 seconds in Britain costing consumers around 390 million pounds ($11.2 billion) every year.

The police and Home Office backed software currently only works on so called "smart phones" which run operating systems such as Symbian or Windows Mobile, but it is expected to be suitable for the majority of phones within two years as mobile technology advances.

"While primarily aimed at the business market...any product which adds a level of security for the user and a barrier for the thief has to be good news," said Mobile Industry Crime Action Forum (MICAF) Chairman Jack Wraith.

Costing around 120 pounds a year the technology is not 100 per cent fool proof however, with organised tech savvy thieves likely to have the equipment and know how be able to get round the security measures.

- REUTERS

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