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A Blackberry Pickpocket Notification System 83

Posted by samzenpus
from the hands-off dept.
Crackberry Guy writes "Research In Motion, the maker of the Blackberry, is looking into offering a wireless device that aims to thwart thieves and ease the minds of those who are prone to misplacing their handheld units. According to the recent patent application, the new device would be carried in a holster armed with a wireless transceiver. The handheld unit could be switched to a pickpocket mode so that once it's removed from the holster, a wireless alert message would be sent to the user. Unless a user authentication code is input in a predetermined length of time, the device's data would be rendered unusable."
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A Blackberry Pickpocket Notification System

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  • I Don't Get It (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOsPam.gmail.com> on Thursday September 21, 2006 @06:52AM (#16152508) Journal
    So this summary and article talk of an anti-theft (yes, they use that word) pickpocket notification system.

    Is this supposed to work in real time? I mean, setup the scenario in which this thing will prevent theft. Ok, a thief steals a BlackBerry and the victim receives a wireless message on their ... well, not BlackBerry because that's in pickpocket's hands right now. They probably aren't carrying anything else if the BlackBerry is supposed to encompass all. So maybe this just isn't going to realistically work in alerting you and thwarting a pickpocket on the street.

    What it does do is "render your data unusable" if you don't enter your code fast enough. Now, unless it also disables the device, I don't see that deterring pickpockets much at all. Since their primary take is probably the device itself for resale on the streets of your nearest metropolis. The data onboard is just a bonus if you were stupid enough to store financial information on a mobile device.

    But let's assume this "wireless alert message" would be in the form of sound waves (hey, sound waves are wireless) and were just a bunch of sirens and a guy shouting "I'm being stolen!" Well, I could imagine this to be either A) more trouble than it's worth, B) ineffective because a minute after it's removed from the holster it's probably already half way across town or C) a reason for a smack addict to shoot you when he holds you at gun point and demands everything in your pockets.

    "It's the kind of feature you didn't know you need until you see other people have it -- and then you want it," said James Faucette, an analyst with Pacific Crest Securities in Oregon.

    Faucette said government workers or those who have sensitive data on their BlackBerrys would be likely customers for the new feature, although he said that niche group of buyers probably wouldn't account for more than a hundred thousand customers in North America. "And even if it were 500,000, we're still only talking about 10 per cent of the BlackBerrys they're going to ship this year."
    I don't know about Faucette but where I work, BlackBerrys aren't allowed -- and your an idiot if you put any important data on a mobile device!

    So really, the only news here is that you can now be notified via e-mail or text message that your BlackBerry has officially been found to be not in its holster. I guess the people who get on the bus with their BlackBerry in their bag and then get off the bus without the BlackBerry in their bag will no longer have to put two and two together to discover that they've been robbed. They will be notified by e-mail which they can read at their leisure -- with things as stream lined as that, it must be THE FUTURE!
    • Re:I Don't Get It (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Jasin Natael (14968) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @07:03AM (#16152541)

      It sounds like the Blackberry's holster, which is typically worn on a belt and would be very difficult to remove (especially with the paunch present on so many of the executives that carry them), would be equipped with a proximity sensor, or at least would receive a message from the Blackberry, which is measuring its own proximity to the holster. The holster could then vibrate / play a sound / flash to indicate that the Blackberry is missing and, if the user doesn't find the device within a few minutes and type in a cancellation code, poof!!

      This is quite a good idea. An "Active Case" for your cellphone. Especially for Blackberries, which can be totally DESTROYED remotely. Not only can you wipe out all your sensitive data, but you can corrupt the firmware so there's a good chance the device becomes a brick. I wouldn't be surprised if, given gov't and corporate culture these days, a Blackberry appeared that could be remotely "detonated" to release an etching compound and eat through some of the circuit boards.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        You raise some good points and I think the "detonating" idea with the circuit etching compound is a great idea. However, I know many people that regularly flash the firmware on their BlackBerrys [unlv.edu] (videos only work in IE) with little or no trouble. In fact, I've seen some great ideas done with them. Now, of course, there could be restricted firmware that's never upgraded that they corrupt with this but I somehow think that would be difficult to do, especially with all the BlackBerrys already out there.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by joe 155 (937621)
        Thats how I thought this would work and does seem like quite a good idea, I worry though that if it was vibrate or a low sound (which would stop a theif from killing you trying to get you to switch it off as the GP mentions) then you might set it off by accident and not notice... therefore lose their data/phone. You also have to worry about what your kids might do if they are playing with your phone

        More over though I wonder why this is needed because mobile phones can be deactivated permanently by the
      • by arun_s (877518)
        From the article and summary, it says that the person should specifically switch on the pickpocket mode. And then if the blackberry is removed from the holster it triggers the alarm.
        I don't get it either. This might have been useful for absent minded people who misplace their stuff, but now they're expected to trigger the device before misplacing it?
        • by Billosaur (927319) *

          I don't get it either. This might have been useful for absent minded people who misplace their stuff, but now they're expected to trigger the device before misplacing it?

          Didn't you know? Blackberry owners are psychic which is why they are able to walk down the sidewalk while mindlessly looking at the tiny little screens without bumping into people. Oh wait...

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by tdemark (512406)
        I'm a little confused. The last time I had a Blackberry was in 1999. At that time, the holster had a little metal bar on one side. There was some sort of magnetic switch in the unit that could detect when the unit was removed from the holster - if you had a message waiting and the device was removed from the holster, it would automatically open up to the most recent message and send notification to the sender that the message was received.

        The details might be a little fuzzy, but I specifically remember cowo
      • by Billosaur (927319) *

        It sounds like the Blackberry's holster, which is typically worn on a belt and would be very difficult to remove (especially with the paunch present on so many of the executives that carry them), would be equipped with a proximity sensor, or at least would receive a message from the Blackberry, which is measuring its own proximity to the holster. The holster could then vibrate / play a sound / flash to indicate that the Blackberry is missing and, if the user doesn't find the device within a few minutes and

        • by fishbowl (7759)
          >Most Blackberry addicts stumble around holding them in their hand, making them easy targets.

          People who haven't been mugged tend to have distorted ideas of the process.

          The "pickpocket" isn't necessarily going to use stealth. It's much more common for them to just walk up and forceably take stuff out of your hands or whatever. Happened to me once like this: Somebody comes up from behind, grabs my raincoat hood, pulls it over my head, grabs the stuff out of my hand, and forcefully rips a chain I was wea
    • It is kind of pointless and taking things to far. The idea of a smart holster (for this purpose) is completely unnecessary.

      Many of the online data services for the various smartphones already implement lock-down systems. For example, Windows Mobile 5 will allow you to completely reset the device when you mark it as stolen. Provided you password-protect the device, your data is safe.

      Given that services to remote-erase the device already exist, all this gizmo does is gives you an alert when it happens. Yo

      • by Billosaur (927319) *

        It is kind of pointless and taking things to far. The idea of a smart holster (for this purpose) is completely unnecessary.

        Agreed. The technology already exists to secure a Blackberry that's carried in its holster; it was developed for parents years ago. Put an alarm on the Blackberry that when it gets a certain distance from the holster, the alarm goes off. Simple and no "smart" tech required. Mind you, now you'll be wedded to your Blackberry unless you remove the holster, but then most Blackberry user

      • "Many of the online data services for the various smartphones already implement lock-down systems."

        The blackberry enterprise server (BES) already has this functionality, if a corporate blackberry is lost or stolen, a signal can be sent to the device that wipes it of all info. Sounds like this is just a user based idea of the same functionality.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by maxrate (886773)
      and your an idiot if you put any important data on a mobile device!

      If the data wasn't important, why are you carrying the BlackBerry around anyway? BlackBerry isn't very unqiue in what a typical mobile phone can carry today (data). Address book information and email are delivered to both BB's and mobile phones. I know a lot of people who use BB with out a 'blackberry enterprise server' -- a 'BES' server. BB's do not have a lot of functionality when you don't have a BES server.

      If you have a BB and

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I think the main reason for this system is to keep the average person out of your phone, and if someone is sneaking a peek, you'll know about it.
        Oh, you'll know about it, alright. Your data will be rendered useless if they don't put it back in the holster. I'm glad I know that my coworker was checking my address book -- too bad I had to pay for it with all my data.
      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        I remember 4 years ago somebody told me that you could password protect your blackberry, and that all data would be destroyed on the 3rd (maybe 5th) incorrect password attempt. Doesn't that make this whole thing kind of useless? It seems like a way to over-complicate the problem.
        • by blincoln (592401)
          I remember 4 years ago somebody told me that you could password protect your blackberry, and that all data would be destroyed on the 3rd (maybe 5th) incorrect password attempt.

          Yes, the number of attempts is configurable by the system admin if you have your Blackberry hooked up to a corporate network. We have ours set to ten, for example.
        • By default, a Blackberry is wiped after the 10th incorrect password. An administrator may be able to change the number of attempts, but I've never tried it myself so I can't say for certain.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by emmaussmith (256072)
        Pickpockets are dumb - how many kazillions of car stereos have simiar anti-theft technology built in, but theifs still take them?
        They must be a pretty good pickpocket if they can take a car stereo out of your pocket. If I were carrying something that bulky around in my pocket, I'd definitely notice it was missing.
        • by maxrate (886773)
          Good point :) - I meant theives and pickpockets are the same bullshit type of asshole.
      • by fishbowl (7759)
        >how many kazillions of car stereos have simiar anti-theft technology built in

        The anti-theft solution on the radio in my car is simple. I expoxied razor blades to the back and sides.
        Anyone who takes the brute force approach will be in for a surprise. I will take it out for the next owner, don't worry.
    • Much more useful to me would be an instant audio alert on the holster if I move more than four feet from the thing (distance negotiable, but that seems about right). Losing it seems a far more likely scenario. Sooner or later I'm going to put 10 cent RFID tags on just about everything I own. I want to be able to find things by running through the house with a scanner in one hand, and have it bleep when I come within three yards of the target. The first to be tagged will be several hundred feet of doubl
  • Lose the device? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ebob9 (726509) * on Thursday September 21, 2006 @06:53AM (#16152511)
    Great idea, but aren't they just giving us another device to lose? At least I can call my Blackberry when I lose it.

    Hopefully they've thought of this, but the article seems to be lacking details on this new device.

    ebob9
    • by k2dbk (724898)
      If it were built into the holster (which TFA seems to imply), the it wouldn't be another thing to loose.

      As other posters have noted, sending wireless notification to the (ex-)owner of the blackberry is pretty useless (since they no longer have it), but notification could be sent to a system administrator (for enterprise use; not sure if this would be useful for personal use), who could send a "kill pill" to remotely wipe out the device.

      The "kill pill" isn't new, only the ability to proactively notify so

  • Ok, I give up (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Tim C (15259)
    What exactly is the YRO topic for? I've seen stories that I thought didn't fit posted under it, but I could always see a (to me) tenuous link.

    This one has me completely stumped, however.
    • Here's a guess: Some exec has your ssid/etc in a spreadsheet on his blackberry. It gets stolen, compromising your identity. This device might help protect your data.
  • by xixax (44677) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @07:08AM (#16152556)
    For at least a couple of years now, I have wanted my PDA, heandfree headset and laptop to be Bluetooth paired so that the other devices make noise if one of them is left behind or stolen. It's probably already been done, but at least putting it here may stop Lawsuits In Motion from patenting the idea.

    Actually, it'd sort of be like Rogue Tropper [wikipedia.org]'s helmet, gun and back-pack.

    Xix.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by maxrate (886773)
      Neat idea - I wonder about battery consumption, always having to keep the Bluetooth radio chriping.....
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      I've actually been more in favor of a system where if your laptop, cell phone, crackberry gets more than a predetermined distance from you, it explodes. Having dealt with people who've had their computers stolen, I really think this should be a standard feature, and now, thanks to Dell, it probably is.

      In all seriousness, there should just be an option to have it charge a capacitor, which would then deliver enough of a jolt to fuse some critical components, rendering the device useless and the data safe.
      • by mgblst (80109)
        Ha, lots of opportunity for mischief. Just leave the item in someone elses hands, and run away. Watch as they suddenly realise what is going to happen, and their face expresses it.
  • by decadre (980513)
    Yes, you would have to carry around an extra device, but those that are security and privacy conscious this is a great thing.

    Yes, there will be the occasional accident where your data is wiped because you made a mistake and then couldn't find the damn thing, but one sync later and it's all better :)
  • by devstuff (1004268) <jodi...middleton@@@gmail...com> on Thursday September 21, 2006 @07:29AM (#16152618) Homepage
    There is already a device just as useful as this. Available in most stores as well! What is this amazing device..? A piece of string Tie end A around wrist and tie end B around black berry. Upon your precious black berry being picked pocketed it immediately starts feedback and upon getting to far from your person alerts you by a careful tug on the arm. It even stops you leaving your black berry on a desk by mistake, as soon as you start walking off your black berry will follow. All for less then the price of pen.
    • ... before it was patented by someone else!
    • by clickety6 (141178)

      Vital Specifications Missing: How long is a piece of string?

      • by ajs318 (655362)
        Ah. What you have to do, you see, is take your piece of string, tie something heavy to the end of it, and set it swinging. Time in seconds the time it takes to swing from one extremity to the other. Multiply that figure by itself. The answer is roughly equal to the length in metres of the string.
    • by tehcyder (746570)
      I think you are ignoring the very real danger of the traditional psychotic crack-addict simply slicing off your arm above the wrist with a samurai sword (or chainsaw) and taking the blackberry, string and hand back to their crack-house. While cackling maniacally.
  • by Tsu-na-mi (88576) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @07:43AM (#16152661) Homepage
    And just how many executives do YOU know who are capable of remembering their passwords?
    • Executive's Blackberry: This device will self-destruct in 10 seconds please enter code; 9 seconds please enter code... Executive typing: 1234 Executive's Blackberry: Code excepted
  • Suppose you don't use the holster... say keep the thing in a purse or something? Not going to help you when the holster is taken too... or the purse with your holster holding the Blackberry... Sounds like marketing trying to sell something useless to pretend to be addressing the recent mobile device theft news articles.
  • Assuming you always keep your Blackberry "on your person", why not rig it to have an alarm sound go off if the Blackberry gets more than 5-10 feet away from the holster? This would also help remind you to pick it up if you set it down somewhere and walk away.
  • i see the blackberry as a nuisance more than a tool. People who own one, at least the ones around me, seem compelled to glance at their BB every 35 seconds or so, even when in an important conversation. Let the BBs be stolen so these people can break the crackberry addiction and come back to the real physical world.

    ant
  • So I accidentaly leave my blackberry at home/in car and my data is made un-usable, great!

    better would be if it sent the GPS co-ordinate to your home pc so if it's lost or stollen you know where it is?
  • Yeah so I sat my Blackberry down this morning in the kitchen and went to make some toast. I forgot to enter the activation code and all of my data was erased. Now the device won't turn on and I missed an important phone call.. shit.
  • Meh... (Score:3, Funny)

    by jconley (28741) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @08:14AM (#16152797) Homepage
    I like the theft deterrent from the sprint commercials better
  • by mbourgon (186257) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @08:29AM (#16152877) Homepage
    There's this nifty thing on the blackberry. It's called a PASSWORD. When I pull mine out, it asks for a password. The holster already has a sensor - it's what allows two different modes of rings, one behavior in-holster, one out-of-holster. (default behavior - buzz if in the holster, ring if out)

    And, like someone else mentioned, you CAN disable them remotely. Found _that_ out the hard way. :(

    Anyhow, a total non-starter. All they need is some sort of setting (maybe it already exists) that if you drop your blackberry in the holster, it auto-locks.

    Besides - they don't care about the data, 99% of the time. They just want to pawn the device.
  • This will never stop a theft. Do they think the average theif reads slashdot or keeps up with the newest anti-theft messures? No. The average theif has one of the following mentalities:

    1) I have a gun. I'm going to point it at this dude and take his shit.

    2) Good he's not looking. [swipe]

    3) This guy looks like he's got money. [bumps into rich guy] Oh, I'm sorry. [Minutes later...] Sweet, I got a black box thingy that looks technologicy. I'm going to sell it for $10 and buy a rock.

    I bet its pretty e
    • I wouldn't buy a rock with $10.. I would buy 4 rocks.
    • The feature is not meant to thwart theft of hardware. It seems like it is there to thwart the theft of information. Most companies and firms have a site insurance coverage on handheld devices through the WSP, which makes lost and stolen devices less of a concern from the hardware level.
  • My wallet, it's around hear somewhere ..probably hiding out with my keys. It's not like I ever misplace anything! Goodbye data? Still, I suppose if it's just an offline known-transient copy, than it needn't matter so much.
  • The posts containing text reading that accidental loss of data is going to be frequent. The article does not give many details about the item, however it does say that there will be a pickpocket mode. Which means that if you are walking around town with it you should have that mode turned on.. while at home, you should have it turned off. If you're on the bus, have it turned on.. While in the car, have it turned off. It's going to be a simple daily routine for most people when they get around to filling it
  • When I read this I imagined something along the lines of a wallet card being carried around (or a purse card, or key card) if your black berry isn't within 15 feet of the card it would be in lock down mode. This means no code punching and time limits, just carry your card around and RFID takes care of the rest, leave your wallet at home and you wouldn't be able to get your fix or work. If your black berry gets stolen the thief must be within 15 feet of you in order for it to work. This could be partnered wi
  • Rather than an alert, keep it silent and fit the Blackberry device with a Sony battery. Trigger a little "accident"

    Only, it might be a good idea to remember to turn it off...
  • Assigning a lock password on a Blackberry takes care of the direct impact of this. The password lock on the Blackberry unit allows 10 possible logins before it performs a wipe of the handheld data. If you have a remotely strong password, you'd be fine. Also, there is an option to "Kill Handheld" directly on the BES (Blackberry Enterprise Server) which wipes the user's data from the handheld the next time it contacts the WSP. The only problem with this is that the kill command will only try to execute fo
    • by fishbowl (7759)
      >he password lock on the Blackberry unit allows 10 possible logins before it performs a wipe of the handheld >data.

      You can wipe anyone's Blackberry? Please tell me this "feature" can be turned off!
      • Simple. Turn the password lock off.
        • by fishbowl (7759)
          >Simple. Turn the password lock off.

          That works for *me*, not that I'd own such a device. But I don't see how your advice protects the *other* guy from *my* mayhem.
      • My original response was fairly short. Let me provide a different view. For the most part, the enterprise activation and intial synchronization with the BES will get the majority of your data back. So once the password is incorrectly guesses 10 times and the blackberry wipes itself, a hard or wireless reactivation and synch with your exchange account will get you pretty close to where you were before the wipe occurred. If you have data that is not replicating to Exchange, then you want to make sure you
  • All this does is create the possibility for a DOS attack where none existed before.

    Beside which, if you are prepared to destroy your own property rather than let it fall into the hands of a thief, you don't deserve to have it in the first place.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Beside which, if you are prepared to destroy your own property rather than let it fall into the hands of a thief, you don't deserve to have it in the first place.

      How so?

      Scenario one, you let the thief steal it. Result: you don't have it any more. Thief does, he's happy and will likely do it again.

      Scenario two, you destroy it. Result: you don't have it any more. But neither does the thief, so he hasn't had his aberrant behaviour rewarded. Happens often enough and the thief gives up or starves.

      • by ajs318 (655362)
        What you are basically saying with that attitude is that you don't value the device in its own right so much as you value the fact that you have one and other people don't. I hope you like your own company, because you are unlikely to win many friends thinking like that.
        • What you are basically saying with that attitude is that you don't value the device in its own right so much as you value the fact that you have one and other people don't.

          No, that's not what I'm saying at all. It's not whether other people have one - if they've bought it with their own money it's their decision. If some asshole's wanting to take mine, that I've worked for, that's an entirely different thing. It's mine to start with, and if I'd rather it was destroyed than some undeserving shitbag got it

          • by ajs318 (655362)
            There is no deterrent effect in destroying your own property to prevent theft. All that happens when people twig onto you doing that, is that your property ends up getting stolen by people whose primary motivation isn't for them to have it for themselves, but for you not to have it. In effect, you're doing the mindless vandals' hard work for them.

            Beside which, you may think you have worked hard to earn the money to buy your possessions; but given the way the economy works today, it's almost certain that
  • by tearmeapart (674637) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @11:51AM (#16154547) Homepage Journal
    Many of the comments above state that having private data on the blackberry is simply a big mistake. I disagree.

    I believe that for some situations, it is required to have private data on the blackberry. For instance, if my job is to go around fixing deployed hardware/software to different job sites (often without the internet or cell connectivity), I need to use the RIM as a data/password repository for applications/devices.

    I do not see any other device being as handy and secure as the blackberry for this job:
    Paper: Can easily be stolen, does not automatically update
    Remote login via other people's machines (e.g. ssh): Not always possible, and other people might have keyboard loggers.
    Laptop: Too bulky. Also easy to steal. Cannot update as easily as the RIM can.

    So if RIM comes out with a way to notify someoe that they no longer have the RIM on them, and also someway to remotely destroy data, I would be happy.

    Yes, I realize someone is probably going to reply with: How come you cannot just put a password on it?
    Well, I cannot trust my data with a single password, especially when someone has physical access to the device that has the data on it.

    -Really Paranoid guy.
    (Really, check my history)
    • Yes, but the BB device has a 10x missed password limit. Once that has been achieved, the data is wiped. Hopefully you can trust your password to not be guessed in 1/10 tries.
  • Slightly off topic, but I've long thought that a good way to protect against credit/debit card fraud/theft is to have a system whereby anytime a purchase is made on your credit card, your bank (that is, the company which issues your credit card, which isn't always ostensibly a "bank") sends a text message to your cell phone as confirmation.

    This has two security advantages:
    (1) it tells you that the company who just swiped (er...read) your card is actually connected to the network, and it isn't only a dummy m
  • In other news, sales of that great low-tech security device, string, have soared, making it possible for a blackberry to stay within a predetermined radius of the opposing end of the string.

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary saftey deserve neither liberty not saftey." -- Benjamin Franklin, 1759

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