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Duplicates abound: Over 13,000 phones from one OEM share the same IMEI number

In India, these unique numbers ended up not being unique at all, which is a huge security risk.

Published onJune 8, 2020

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International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers are meant to be unique to each phone. They’re sort of like a fingerprint that helps carriers identify each device. When authorities in India found out that over 13,000 vivo phones shared duplicate IMEI numbers, they knew something wasn’t quite right.

According to Jitender Sharma on Twitter (via TechRadar), a police officer in Meerut first discovered the fraudulent IMEI numbers when his phone was repaired. After getting it back, he received frequent system errors and realized that his IMEI was changed. Once they dug in further, the police realized that 13,557 other vivo phones shared the same number. After further investigation, the police decided to file a case against smartphone manufacturer vivo.

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An IMEI is essential because it allows authorities to track and trace lost or stolen devices. It’s easy to see how having a ton of devices with the same number could lead to some pretty serious security issues. Any of the phones with the same identifier would be almost impossible to track.

This incident isn’t the first time vivo has come under fire for duplicate IMEI numbers. According to a report from The Times of Indiaa police department in another part of the country found that more than 50,000 vivo phones shared IMEI numbers.

At this time, it’s unclear whether this was simply a case of negligence by vivo or something more malicious. It’s difficult to say whether the mobile repair shops or vivo itself are responsible for the issue. The police in Meerut are further investigating the matter. vivo hasn’t made a statement regarding the duplicate IMEI numbers, so it’ll be interesting to see how the company handles the allegations it’s currently facing.