Counterfeit Phones May Explode
An official investigation has been launched after 30 "haunted" phones exploded leaving 20 hospitalized in the Indian region of Assam. Victims reported they received a call from an unknown number, the digits highlighted in red, just moments before the phones exploded. The government has dubbed the problem "Bombile," an expression that means bombs in mobile phones.
"I got a phone call from an unknown number and I noticed on my handset that the numbers were highlighted in red color. Soon after I received the call, there was a loud sound and I was left unconscious," Mujib Ali told reporters from the Indo-Asian News Service.
Police earlier believed the exploding phones were knock-off or counterfeit Chinese phones, but the exploding phones include Nokia, Samsung and Motorola models, according to the Indo-Asian News Service. The phones have not been authenticated. Authorities say they don't know who to blame for the dangerous phones.
Similar incidents have been reported in Kenya over the past several weeks, but the government has dismissed the reports as "simply a hoax."
Last month an Indian farmer was killed by a counterfeit battery that exploded in his Nokia cell phone.
India's Department of Telecom banned the import of Chinese cell phones last April, after the Ministry of Home Affairs expressed concern that the equipment could have built-in spyware or malware , but the blackmarket phones are still widely used in the country.
Phones that have been programmed to explode would be classified as Improvised Explosive Devices, or IEDs, according to Greg Soule, spokesperson for the U.S. Transportation Security Administration at the Department of Homeland Security.
"TSA officials see millions of cell phones and are trained to look for anomalies and other indicators of improvised explosive devices," Soule told TechNewsDaily. "If a passenger was found to be carrying a potentially explosive device, he or she would be referred to local law enforcement."
While being the unwitting carrier of an improvised explosive device is an unlikely consequence of purchasing a counterfeit phon e, there are other reasons to avoid knock-off devices.
Slower processing speeds, a lack of features that authentic models possess, cheap chipsets, pirated operating systems, or outright failure―the product simply shuts down after a few weeks of use―are all reasons to buy authentic products, according to Theresa Mock, vice president of marketing at OpSec Security, a London-based firm that offers brand security protection to companies.
Consumers should also be vigilant when purchasing replacement parts for their electronic products, said Mock.
For instance, because of a program that OpSec worked on with cell phone manufacturers and their battery vendors following a series of sub-par exploding batteries in 2004, genuine batteries that pass new U.S. standards can be identified by an authentication label on the battery itself.