How Pinoy-made app can help recover stolen phones

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 15 2014 01:26 PM | Updated as of Oct 16 2014 04:12 AM

MANILA – A Filipino-made app aims to address the issue of cellphone theft in the country by immobilizing, locating, and eventually recovering stolen phones.

App developer Jun Lozada said the Theft Apprehension and Recovery Application (TARA) app, which is similar to a "kill-switch app," is unique to the Philippines as an anti-theft solution because of the low number of mobile data users in the country.

“If you want to make it effective, you cannot do it over the mobile data,” Lozada told ANC on Wednesday.

Unlike other anti-theft apps, TARA does not require Internet connection because it is embedded in the phone's software and not in its operating system.

In incidents of phone theft, the user can lock the phone and trigger an alarm by sending an SMS and a six-digit code to the stolen device or by calling the TARA hotline numbers.

The alarm gives off a loud "Magnanakaw” (robber) tone on loop and will play continuously even without a SIM card.

Thieves may attempt to remove the battery and sell the phone but the alarm will be re-activated when the device is turned on.

The phone can also be traced and contacted by the TARA call center to inform whoever has the phone that it is stolen.

“If the owner really wants to recover the device, we will unlock the phone and call that SIM card and tell them, The phone you’re using is a stole phone reported by the owner. After this conversation, your phone will be locked, please take note of the number and call us,” said Lozada.

He added they are also coordinating with police in apprehending phone thieves.

TARA also features an emergency button embedded on the phone screen to alert the call center and loved ones in case of an emergency.

Lozada said he came up with the idea of developing the app after he heard a story of a young boy who was stabbed to death because he refused to surrender his cellphone to a robber.

“The idea really is to create a cocoon of safety for the mobile phone user. People are dying, and we find it revolting that people are dying over a phone. So what we are doing is creating layers and layers of safety,” he said.

The app is currently installed on several myPhone devices. Lozada said it will be available on other mobile phone manufacturers by the end of the year.

A bill, authored by AMA Party-list Rep. Lorna Velasco, has been filed seeking to require all cellphone network service providers to equip all mobile phones with a "kill-switch" software.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) earlier lauded the proposed measure, saying it poses no objection as long as the software is also protected from hackers.