By Okey Ndiribe
Falebita Omoniyi is the Executive Director of Track and Shield Ltd., an Abuja-based Infotech service company which has just introduced a new product that has the ability to eliminate the theft of smart phones in the country. In this interview, he explains how the device works.
I want you to talk more about the new product which you said has the capability of protecting smart phones from theft.
Track and Shield has just launched a new product,which is designed for smart phones like BlackBerry and others in that category. What I mean by smart phones are the new generation phones which run the operating system called Android or BlackBerry or symbian for Nokia products.
What this application does is that it enables the owner to remotely control his phone in case of theft or loss. The most unique aspect of this device is that you can initiate this control through an sms from another phone.
You can also do the same thing through our website on the internet. We introduced the sms alternative because we know that the internet is not yet ubiquitous in Nigeria.
Identity theft issues
In these days of registered sim cards, you have to be concerned about the theft or loss of your phone because criminals could use your phone to commit crimes.
This is because once your sim card is registered, you picture and fingerprint is already in the data base of your service provider and that of the NCC. This could be easily accessed by the law enforcement agencies.
So losing your phone could result in a lot of hassles for you if you cannot prevent somebody else from using it. This application gives you the power to control your phone regardless of where you are in the world or where your phone is. The major function is that you can lock the phone such that the thief cannot use it.
How the app works
Another function is that you can lock it and make it sound an alarm so that you can trace where the phone is especially if you are in a gathering. Another function is that you can initiate a call-back from the phone to you so that you can turn-on what is going on the background so that you can turn on the speaker for the microphone of the phone.
Another function is that even if your phone’s sim card is removed and another sim card is put into the phone, the application would immediately send the new phone number to another phone line which you must have provided earlier.
This could have been your second phone or that of your wife or a friend or relative who would now inform you about the new number so that you can take necessary action and call the thief to get your phone back.
You can also use a text message to get the exact location of the phone by using the GPS on the phone. This feature could give you the actual address of the location of your phone.
So with this type of device, you can closely monitor your stolen or lost phone in the bid to get it back. In the event that you couldn’t get your phone back, you can immediately wipe all the personal data in it. You know that these smart phones can store a lot of data just like a small computer.
Some people have their banking information details in their phones; others have some compromising private pictures in their phones. All these things could come back to haunt you if they fall into the wrong hands.
In order to prevent that, you can just send an sms code to wipe out everything. Using the same application, you can get a new phone and restore all your information. In the event that you eventually get your phone back, you can also restore all your information into it.
Given the ability of cyber criminals to find ways of neutralizing any security device introduced in the country, is it not possible to deactivate this device after a phone has been stolen?
App works with phone firmware
This device was introduced basically because Nigerians are very smart people. So, it is a Nigerian innovation. Because it is a Nigerian innovation, we have thought about what Nigerians can do and this device can frustrate such efforts.
What this programme does is that it attaches itself to the firmware of the phone. The firmware of a phone is whatever came with the phone when you bought it. It works in such a way that even if you wipe the phone, the device would continue to work.
App works with server
For deactivation, there are two components for this software; the cyber component and the client component. There is no way deactivation can occur without you, the owner of the phone initiating it.
This is because the server must be aware of the deactivation. The only reason why Nigerians are able to crack other products like Microsoft Windows is because the software does not have a server component.
This product always has a server in place; there is always communication in place. It is like you want to make a call on a GSM network and the service provider doesn’t allow you.
What role does a server have to play in all this?
The role a server plays is that it controls messages that you initiate like when you say lock my phone, the server would then send a lock my phone command to your phone.
What is your advice to the Government in respect of the on-going sim card registration and its implication for the future of telecommunications in Nigeria?
Like I said earlier, with the sim card registration, everybody is vulnerable. Even though Track and Shield would come to the rescue of smart phone users, what about non-smart phone users? They would not be protected like those who use smart phones.
What I would urge the Government to do is to continue to support the laudable initiative that the NCC had with Netvisa which they have subsidized for two years.
I urge them to continue to subsidise it so that any phone that is stolen on any network could be disabled; That is if the owner of the phone immediately reports the theft of his phone. Once this is done, the phone would be disabled so that it can no longer be used on any network.
It can no longer be used to commit crimes in the name of an innocent person. Of course, the operators may not deactivate the phone immediately.