[the australian] MOBILE phone cloning techniques used by counterfeiters and thieves could be confusing police surveillance activities, the communications watchdog has revealed.
Carriers are obliged to help law enforcement agencies carry out surveillance on mobile phone communications but growing use of handsets with duplicate identity numbers could derail their efforts to do the job accurately.
The warning comes as the telecommunications industry awaits public comments on a raft of changes to mobile equipment codes most of which are geared to increasing security around the use of unique handset identifiers.
Commenting on the draft, the Australian Communications and Media Authority said it was important to restore the integrity of the mobile phone handset numbering system to ensure carriers could meet obligations to law enforcement agencies.
"Changes in these standards firm up existing requirements for the uniqueness and integrity and non changeability of the mobile device identifier," an ACMA spokesman said.
The Australian Federal Police said it would not comment on operational matters but said it would support the changes to mobile equipment codes.
The handset identification scheme system relies on a register of unique 15-digit international mobile equipment identity (IMEI) numbers maintained by Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association.
It's primarily used to allow carriers to block handsets that have been reported stolen or don't comply with Australian import standards. However, thieves can side step the system by cloning a number used on a handset that hasn't been blocked.
IMEI cloning software is readily available on the internet.
Carriers will not block phones using duplicate IMEI numbers as they would block service to handsets using them legitimately.
The federal Attorney-General revealed it had been working with ACMA and the communications industry to solve the problem.
Phone cloning disrupts police surveillance