Mobile Cloning hits India

Satheesh C B | Wednesday, March 19, 2008 | 0 comments

Are your mobile phone bills unexpectedly high? There’s a chance you are the victim of ‘‘mobile cloning’’. It is also known as cell phone piracy and has been taking place throughout the world since decades. Recently this crime has come to India.
Mobile phones have become a major part of our everyday life. On the one hand, India’s mobile phone market has grown rapidly in the last few years on the back of falling phone tariffs and handset prices, making it one of the fastest growing markets globally. On the other the number of mobile phone subscribers is exceeding that of fixed-line users. The mobile phone subscriber base has already crossed the 50-mn mark.
Today millions of mobile phones users, be it Global System for Mobile communication (GSM) or Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA), run the risk of having their phones cloned. And the worst part is that there isn’t much that you can do to prevent this.

Usually this is done for the purpose of making fraudulent telephone calls. The bill for the calls go to the legitimate subscriber. This made cloning very popular in areas with large immigrant populations, where the cost to "call home" was very steep. The cloner is also able to make effectively anonymous calls, which attracts another group of interested users.

Cell phone cloning started with Motorola "bag" phones and reached its peak in the mid 90's with a commonly available modification for the Motorola "brick" phones, such as the Classic, the Ultra Classic, and the Model 8000.

Cloning involved modifying or replacing the EPROM in the phone with a new chip which would allow you to configure an ESN (Electronic Serial Number) via software. You would also have to change the MIN (Mobile Identification Number).

The “cloning” occurs when the account number of a victim telephone user is stolen and reprogrammed into another cellular telephone.When you had successfully changed the ESN/MIN pair, your phone was an effective clone of the other phone.

Cloning required access to ESN and MIN pairs. ESN/MIN pairs were discovered in several ways:

  • Sniffing the cellular network
  • Trashing cellular companies or cellular resellers
  • Hacking cellular companies or cellular resellers

What is an ESN/MIN pair?
The ESN is the serial number of your cellular telephone. And the MIN is simply the phone number of the cellular telephone.

How can mobile phone thieves detect ESN/MIN pair?
Cellular thieves can capture ESN/MINs using devices such as cell phone ESN reader or digital data interpreters (DDI). DDIs are devices specially manufactured to intercept ESN/MINs. By simply sitting near busy roads where the volume of cellular traffic is high, cellular thieves monitoring the radio wave transmissions from the cell phones of legitimate subscribers can capture ESN/MIN pair.
Numbers can be recorded by hand, one-by-one, or stored in the box and later downloaded to a computer. ESN/MIN readers can also be used from inside an offender’s home, office, or hotel room, increasing the difficulty of detection


So the next time you get a huge bill from your cell phone service provider, be aware that your cell phone may have been cloned.

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