Cybersecurity/Trust | ITU-T Standards | Quality/Performance
July 27, 2018

Combating counterfeit and stolen ICT devices: ITU workshop renews international commitment

By ITU News

Today concludes the 18-27 July meeting of the ITU standardization expert group for ‘protocols, test specifications and combating counterfeit’, ITU-T Study Group 11. The meeting has shone a spotlight on the battle against counterfeit and stolen ICT devices, a global challenge to which ITU members are developing a global response.

An ITU workshop held in conjunction with the meeting on 23 July showcased innovative solutions to the challenge and offered a platform to discuss concerns surrounding the tampering with or cloning of ICT device identifiers.

A summary of the workshop’s discussions highlights strong public and private-sector commitment to the objectives of WTSA Resolutions 96 and 97, directives to combat counterfeit and stolen devices issued by the governing body of ITU standardization, the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly.

A growing socio-economic challenge

ICT counterfeiting poses dangers to the health, safety and privacy of consumers, and the number and range of affected products is growing.

“Usually you think of mobile phones, handsets,” says Uwe Bader, Rohde & Schwarz. But the expansion of the Internet of Things gives rise to new concerns, says Bader.  “When you have a much higher number of devices in the network, and if those devices cause problems in the network, that can multiply even into a breakdown of the network.”

Counterfeiting has seen ICT companies fall victim to revenue losses and erosions in brand value as a result of trademark infringement. Consumers do not experience the quality of service (QoS) associated with their chosen brands, in some cases even to the detriment of their health. “Power amplifiers can be low quality. Antenna design can be made very badly. It can cause health issues when you have high radiated exposure,” says Bader.

Speaking to Russia’s experience, Rustam Pirmagomedov, SPbSUT and Rostelecom R&D, points to counterfeit medicines, mobile phones and luxury goods as major challenges to be addressed alongside the theft of mobile devices. Counterfeit medicines are “a very socially significant problem … corresponding directly to the most expensive medicines,” says Pirmagomedov, going on to highlight that the rise of mobile payment systems has made the ramifications of mobile device theft more significant.

Watch the video playlist from the workshop to see interviews with key participants as well as two demos of proposed solutions to the unique identification challenge based on blockchain (Deutsche Telekom, SAP and Camelot ITLab) and IMEI-DOA (Rostelecom).

Where does ITU-T Study Group 11 come in?

“It’s important to have cooperation and sharing of ideas,” says João Zanon, Anatel, Rapporteur for the ITU-T Study Group 11 work stream on counterfeit and stolen ICT equipment (Q15/11). “That’s where Study Group 11 can be a very good platform.”

The tampering with or cloning of device identifiers came to form a large part of the workshop’s discussions.

The nature of the challenge was described by Biren Karmakar of India’s Centre for Development of Telematics, saying that India had “found that multiple customers exist with the same IMEI [International Mobile Equipment Identity] numbers,” and that, “in some cases there is no IMEI number.”

Rostelecom highlights that it is participating in ITU-T Study Group 11 with the aim of contributing to a unified management layer for device and object identification systems – as described by Pirmagomedov, an “individual approach to every individual object but the same management layer.”

The summary of the workshop’s discussions calls for accelerated action to increase the reliability of existing ICT identifiers, encouraging ITU-T Study Group 11 to:

  • Study approaches to defend against the tampering with or cloning of existing ICT identifiers
  • Produce a list of unique ICT identifiers to be used in combating the counterfeiting and theft of ICT devices
  • Develop methods to assess and verify the identifiers used to combat counterfeit and stolen devices
  • Consider blockchain-based technologies as means to address the tampering with or cloning of existing ICT identifiers, and combat counterfeit and stolen ICT devices
  • Develop mechanisms, as appropriate, to identify counterfeit production

ITU-T Study Group 11 is developing two international standards to provide frameworks for global efforts to combat counterfeit and stolen ICT equipment, TD618/GEN and TD619/GEN, respectively.

The framework to combat counterfeiting – draft international standard ITU Q.5050 – today achieved the first-stage approval (‘determination’) required to enter the close of its development cycle.

ITU-T Study Group 11 also leads ITU’s efforts to improve conformance with international standards, an essential means of certifying the legitimacy of ICT products. Learn more about ITU’s Conformity and Interoperability programme.

For more information on ITU-T Study Group 11, visit the group’s homepage.

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Combating counterfeit and stolen ICT devices: ITU workshop renews international commitment

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