Searching for a Mobile Device Diagnostics Provider? Be Warned About Backdoors.

In 2017, Apple shut down its Check Activation Lock Status webpage, a tool many individuals and mobile diagnostics providers used to manually check to see if iOS devices were open for activation and not locked to a previous user’s iCloud account. The tool worked by checking the iPhone’s IMEI device or serial number to verify if the FMiP (Find my iPhone) activation lock was turned off. Though Apple didn’t publicly […]

andrew kroeger

Andrew brings an entrepreneurial and strategic perspective to his role as a trusted advisor for Blancco’s mobile customers and partners. He is well versed in mobile market trends and their application to contemporary business, sharing the latest insights, providing thought leadership and facilitating key connections across the industry. As Director of Sales, Mobile Practice at Blancco, he leads North American mobile sales operations and is a product champion for Blancco Mobile in North America, LATAM, EMEA and APAC. Andrew is an accomplished golfer, a polished communicator and a senior sales leader with over 20 years’ experience translating business strategies into top-line results.

In 2017, Apple shut down its Check Activation Lock Status webpage, a tool many individuals and mobile diagnostics providers used to manually check to see if iOS devices were open for activation and not locked to a previous user’s iCloud account. The tool worked by checking the iPhone’s IMEI device or serial number to verify if the FMiP (Find my iPhone) activation lock was turned off. Though Apple didn’t publicly provide a reason for removing the tool, we believe it was due to the tool being exploited to unlock phones by mobile device diagnostics providers, mobile processors and mobile resellers.

The burgeoning mobile market is full of areas that lack formal regulation. No longer able to use tools like Check Activation Lock Status, mobile processors and operators must now be linked into Apple Global Service Exchange (GSX) network as an authorized Apple Repair provider to check IMEI locks and to ensure iOS devices are no longer be tied to a previous owner; however, many mobile device diagnostics and erasure providers are getting past this process by “borrowing” (paying for) another company’s GSX network access.

This type of access not only jeopardizes providers’ relationships with OEMs like Apple, but it is also unethical. Apple is getting more stringent about recognizing these backdoors as a threat and increasing its audits to reign in such activity. More and more unauthorized channels are being shut down each day.

These days, proper processing via diagnostics and data erasure simply isn’t enough. The aforementioned Apple GSX is just one example of the challenges inherent in taking a mobile device back out to the secondary market.  Numerous others exist—driven by a need to control the asset by the likes of OEMs, carriers, financial lenders and businesses that have a vested interest in where that device resides and who may have access to data on that device.

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Because of this, we find increasing controls in the forms of SIM Locks, FMiP, FRP (Factory Reset Protection), MDM (Mobile Device Management), DEP (Device Enrollment Protection) and many more.  So, how does the industry identify all these characteristics important to valuation and processing of a device?  The short answer is data integration.  But, this leaves ethical mobile phone diagnostics providers with a dilemma, as they’re not always able to access these data points without explicit partnership with the mobile brand—something that can be difficult to achieve.

What to Look for in a Mobile Diagnostics Provider

If the goal of your organization is to prioritize processing mobile devices as efficiently as possible without breaking any potential laws or jeopardizing relationship, consider the following qualities when looking for a mobile device diagnostics provider:

  1. Data Intelligence—The provider’s solution(s) should give you the ability understand the phone’s value beyond what you can see on the surface, with a wide array of performance testing available. When looking at solutions, be sure to inquire (1) How is this data acquired? (2) Will they certify legal access rights to the data?
  2. Erasure Capabilities—Why invest in two different vendor’s solutions for mobile diagnostics and data erasure? Ensure your vendor offers both—and that the erasure solutions offered go beyond factory reset to achieve true data sanitization—especially for the vast majority of Android devices—which lack encryption.
  3. Integrity—As mentioned above, you want to ensure that any organization you work with keeps compliant with stringent legal requirements from providers like Apple and the major mobile carriers.
  4. Speed—In the mobile warehouse, there’s no time to slow down. Consider how many devices the vendor’s solutions allow you to erase and diagnose at one time while providing a proper audit trail. Everything should be tuned and optimized to fit your goals.
  5. Industry Experience—While new mobile diagnostics providers often have interesting products, it’s important to consider their role within the marketplace. How long have they been around? Is the business stable? Is the product one that will evolve well over time?
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Mobile diagnostics vendors that use backdoors to get their job done may seem to offer a good product, but consider the potential ethical and legal issues that could come along.  Furthermore, what happens to your business if that access is no longer available?  As part of due diligence, align your business with a vendor that always keeps your needs top-of-mind.

Learn more about Blancco’s Mobile Diagnostics Repair Solution. Read the product overview here.

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