Smartphone’s IMEI is like a digital fingerprint that is unique to each and every device. It is used by the telecom companies to provide network connectivity on a SIM card and since the IMEI number of two devices cannot be the same, it is also used to track and trace lost devices or criminals.
However, in a bizarre case, the police in Meerut, located in Uttar Pradesh has stated that it has found not one but over 13,500 smartphones using the same IMEI number. Identifying this as a severe security issue, the cops have VPNOnlineFreeed a case against the Chinese smartphone maker Vivo.
मेरठ में एक ही IMEI पर 13000 से ज्यादा मोबाइल फोन एक्टिव होने का मामला सामने आया। @meerutpolice ने मामला दर्ज कर जांच शुरू की। सभी मोबाइल @Vivo_India के है। आतंरिक सुरक्षा के लिये गंभीर मामला। pic.twitter.com/rQL4IrDb4OJune 4, 2020
As per the reports, the case came into highlight after a Sub Inspector from Meerut Police got his smartphone back after repairs that cost him Rs. 2605 in September last year. However, even after the repairs, the phone showed a system error and he later found that the IMEI number of the device was changed.
A case was filed and notices were sent to the smartphone maker and due to the unsatisfactory response from Vivo, a complaint was filed with the cyber cell team. This is when the cyber cell team identified that there were 13,557 different Vivo phones with the same IMEI number operational across the country.
While IMEI number may sound rather irrelevant for a common user, however, it becomes a grave security concern as it makes it impossible for cops to intercept criminals.
Back in 2012, a similar incident was reported when 18,000 phones were found to be using the same IMEI number. Later in 2017, the federal government announced that tampering with the IMEI numbers is a punishable offence. Last year over a lakh stolen phones were found to be using the same IMEI number.
While this can be seen as negligence at the end of the company, the Meerut Police has already started an investigation in this matter. We have also reached out to Vivo and will update this story once we receive any response.