Cellphones are probably the favorite targets of thieves and pick-pockets these days. They’re easy to snatch, and almost everyone of us carries at least one where ever we go. And once they’re snatched, cellphones — more so for smartphones, can easily be disposed through the grey market and direct transactions to private individuals. That is why cellphone manufacturers and app developers are creating smartphone apps that will let us trace our phones in the event that they get stolen.
With this said, a Filipino mobile app developer announced his very own take on mobile security apps, called the Theft Apprehension and Asset Recovery Application or simply TARA. The developer is none other than Mr Rodolfo Noel Lozada, or better known as Jun Lozada. The name will surely ring a bell, as Jun Lozada rose to fame back in 2007, as the main whistleblower during the Philippine National Broadband scandal or the NBN-ZTE deal involving the administration of the then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
The main concept of the app is that it functions basically like a “kill switch” for smartphones. Unlike other smartphone security and tracking apps like Apple’s Find my iPhone, TARA does not require an active data connection for it to work.
Once installed and your phone gets stolen, you can trigger the app to lock down your phone by simply texting your unique six digit code to your phone or by calling TARA’s hotline numbers. The app’s servers will then transmit a signal to your stolen device and it’ll trigger a loud “Magnanakaw” alarm that will continuously loop until your phone’s batteries die. Removing the battery or even the sim card wouldn’t help the thief activating your phone, as the alarm gets reactivated when the device is turned on again.
The only way to deactivate the alarm is through the TARA command center. The app can also help the owner locate the phone.
Another feature TARA offers users is a panic button that when pressed, will alert the TARA command center as well as pre-defined loved loves, in an event of an emergecny.
The developer is already coordinating with the PNP and other authorities to help users apprehend thieves with the help of the TARA app.
Lozada shared that the idea of developing TARA came into him after he heard a story of a young boy stabbed to death because he refused to surrender his mobile phone 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.
On a very positive note, the Department of Justice (DOJ) earlier expressed their support for Jun Lozada’s effort in developing the TARA app, as long as the TARA framework will be secured from hackers. A bill on the other hand authored by AMA Party-list Rep. Lorna Velasco, has been filed in pursuit to requiring all mobile network providers to equip all mobile phones with a “kill-switch” software.
Currently, select myPhone devices comes with TARA out of the box for as low as Php 1,998 and is expected to roll out to other devices soon.
“Hindi mo mapipigilan yung nagnanakaw pero at least mapipigilan mo yung purpose ng pagnanakaw, yung economic gain na hinahabol nila (You can’t stop the thief but you can prevent him from cashing in on your phone),” Lozada said in a statement.