India setting up service stations to program IMEI into phones

This is not really current news, as it was released much earlier this year. However, I'm not following Indian news that closely so it has slipped my attention:

India's COAI is setting up hundreds of service centers where end users can have an IMEI programmed into their phone. This apparently relates to the fact that there are plenty of phones of Chinese origin with an all-zero IMEI in India.

Since there is a government law that requires every phone to have an unique IMEI number, operators have been ordered to refuse phones with an all-zero IMEI onto their network.

I personally find all of this very funny:

  • Firstly, what law enforcement typically cares about is the subscriber identity (the SIM). Persons are identified by their phone number. The phone number in turn is associated with the SIM. The SIM is issued by the operator and has a world-wide unique number called IMSI. So why would you care about the phone serial number? People can switch their phones much more easily than they can switch their SIM card, since the latter would always mean using a different number.
  • Secondly, for most common phones (and particularly the cheaper Chinese phones), tools to program/reset the IMEI are readily available on the Internet. So what's the point for a government initiative to even create more such software, distributed widely across the country. Chances are high that software leaks.
  • Finally, if I get a COAI-issued IMEI programmed into my phone, I can at any time erase it again and go back to the COAI to have a new IMEI programmed into it.

So from a real IT security point of view, this entire exercise is nothing but an annoyance to keep people busy and create employment for the staff operating those IMEI programmers.

Tho those involved: Work smarter, not harder ;)