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Prison Service Vows Crackdown On Keyfob Mobile Phones

The illegal use of mobile phones within prisons is back in the news with the arrival of tiny keyfob mobile phones

On by Tom Jowitt 1

Tiny mobile phones that resemble a car keyfob are presenting an increasing problem for UK authorities concerned about their use within prisons.

However the Prison Service told TechweekEurope that it is well able to counter their use.

Tiny Mobiles

The response comes amid speculation that officials are considering banning the sale of the tiny mobile phones, which because of their small size and the fact they contain very little metal, is creating a problem for prison authorities.

The BBC reported that a government spokesman confirmed it discussing the issue with the National Trading Standards Board (NTSB) and the Serious Organised Crime Agency.

© Nomad_Soul - Fotolia.comThe NTSB’s eCrime Centre meanwhile also seperately confirmed it is working with the Serious Organised Crime Agency. The NSTB said it was concerned about these tiny phones could be sold to young children as novelty items and that they may be dangerous. It said that the phones may also infringe the trademarks of a number of car brands.

“Trading Standards takes a very serious view of products being sold that might pose a danger to members of the public,” said Lord Toby Harris, Chairman of the National Trading Standards Board. “We are particularly concerned that these phone are being sold online and retailers may not be aware of who they are selling them to.”

The NTSB also said it is asking online retailers not to sell the phones.

Online Shutdown?

“We would urge online retailers not to sell these phones, or members of the public to buy them,” said Lord Harris.

However a quick search online reveals numerous examples of these product still up for sale at a leading online retailer. As can be seen, the keyfob mobile phones are designed to resemble the keyfobs used by leading car makers in order to unlock their vehicles.

The arrival of these devices is causing concern, not only because of the copyright implications, but more importantly because they can easily be smuggled into prisons, where the use of mobile phones is not permitted.

Prison Clampdown

The use of mobile phones within prison, where they could be a potential security risk, has long been a pressing issue for authorities.

Mobile phones within prisons have been previously used by prisoners to intimidate their victims and communicate with the outside world on Facebook. Another example saw a convicted arsonist used a smuggled mobile phone to boast about his life of drinking, relaxing and playing video games whilst behind bars.

It is thought that more than 7,000 mobile phones and SIM cards have been detected and confiscated in prisons in England and Wales in the last year alone. And the Prison Service told TechweekEurope that it is measures to tackle the problem.

“The Government is clamping down on mobile phones in prison and our rigorous security measures mean even the smallest mobiles can be detected and kept out of prison,” a Prison Service spokesperson told TechweekEurope in an emailed statement.

“A range of techniques – including Body Orifice Security Scanners and high sensitivity metal detectors – has seen the number of recorded seizures increase,” the spokesperson added.

“We’re now working closely with the Serious Organised Crime Agency and Trading Standards to remove these small mobiles from sale in the UK, as well as legislating to block phone signals in prisons,” the spokesman added.

In the United States, a company developed what it called the “Bloodhound detector”, which ‘sniffs out’ and locates mobile phones being used in restricted environments.

The Bloodhound detector is mainly designed for prisons, and the advantage of a mobile phone detector over an installed system designed to suppress or jam all mobile phone signals, is that it will not interfere with 999 calls, public safety communications, or even normal mobile calls in permitted areas.

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Tom Jowitt
Author: Tom Jowitt
Freelance TechWeek Reporter
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One reply to Prison Service Vows Crackdown On Keyfob Mobile Phones

  • On August 23, 2013 at 8:42 am by David

    Well that’s annoying – all the links you provide in “However a quick search online reveals numerous examples of these product still up for sale at a leading online retailer.” has all the products “Currently unavailable. We don’t know when or if this item will be back in stock.” How *am* I going to buy some for Axe Man Pete now?
    (when did you write this article?)

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