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New AT&T system will allow users to block stolen devices from use

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AT&T, the second largest carrier in the U.S., is reportedly set to launch a new service next week that will let owners of stolen devices block them from accessing its network.

Once a device has been reported stolen, users who own the handset will be able to deny that device voice, data and text messaging access while keeping their account intact, according to The Verge. The new method would allow users to avoid having to engage a full SIM block, which can be inconvenient and cause disruption in service.

The new security measure is set to launch on July 10, according to a leaked memo from the company. The details shown in the memo state:

    The line [will] automatically be suspended if any attempt is made to use a device that is stored in the [blocklist].
  • Any stolen phone or tablet may be added to the blocklist.
  • Postpaid, Prepaid (GoPhone), and All Channels included.

If the owner of a stolen phone has a remote wipe functionality, like the one included in Apple's Find My iPhone feature in iCloud, they will need to perform this function before suspending access to that device in order to prevent the thief from viewing their personal information.

In addition to what the leaked memo states, The Verge was also told that AT&T will not keep a centralized directory of blocked phones. Instead, only the person who originated a block on a device may lift the block, if, for example, they were to get their handset back.

The new AT&T-specific security measure is separate from an initiative announced in April, through which U.S. carriers are cooperating with the Federal Communications Commission to create a database of stolen mobile phones. The goal is to curb the theft of expensive, contract-subsidized smartphones like Apple's iPhone by reducing their value once stolen.

AT&T's new security feature will go beyond smartphones, however, and would also allow customers who may lose their 3G-enabled iPad to also block that device from accessing AT&T's network.