Same IMEI Number for Over 13,500 VIVO Phones- A Security Concern?

Meerut Police has filed a case against the Chinese Smartphone brand Vivo Communication Technology Co. Ltd. under section 140 of the Indian Penal Code. It was a result of a five month long investigation, which revealed that more than 13,500 Vivo handsets had the same IMEI number.

What is IMEI Number ?

Explicitly, the International Mobile Equipment Identity is a unique identification number. It is 15-digit long. To explain, IMEI number identifies mobile phones, smart phones and sometimes satellite phones. It’s found printed inside the battery compartment of the phone or on the box of the handset.

The number can stop a stolen phone from accessing any kind of network. Precisely, a network provider can use the IMEI number to block the phone in case the mobile phone is stolen. Even if the thief changes the Subscriber Identity Module(SIM) of the phone, the phone would become unusable on the network.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority Of India (TRAI) in 2017, declared a note stating that the IMEI number should be unique to every smartphone. Manipulation or trifling with the number would result in imprisonment for three years.

How did the case came into light ?

Vivo is among the top five smartphone brands in the country. This act of negligence by the company was exposed when a police Sub-Inspector’s phone was having some glitches despite being restored at the Vivo service centre in Meerut. The policeman gave his mobile phone to the employee at cybercrime cell for assessing. The cyber cell revealed that the IMEI number of the phone and the one printed on the box are not the same.

Further inquiry revealed that above 13,500 Vivo phones had the same IMEI number which leads to speculations regarding matters of safety and cyber security. As a matter of fact, the delinquency done by the mobile company can also result in criminal activities.

How is this a security concern?

The IMEI number should be unique to every mobile phone. The operators can use the IMEI number to locate, track or immobilize a handset. Whenever a user makes a call from a particular handset the IMEI number gets illustrated at the operator’s network.

It therefore allows the caller identification and also grants call impediment. This becomes a serious privacy concern and a security breach for mobile phone users. The cyber cell has disclosed that the mobile company Vivo has violated the rules of TRAI.

The cyber cell has issued a note to the nodal officer of Vivo India, Harmanjit Singh.