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Jeepers Jammers! Illegal to use immobilisers to block handphone calls

06 Jun 2002, The Malay Mail, Eddie Chua
They may have the best of intentions, but many business houses and Government offices are illegally using jammers to block handphone calls. Done primarily to counter the handphone menace, the use of the cellular call immobiliser is gaining ground. But the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) is expected to crack down on it. It is learnt that a study in the past few months showed that among the users is the Prisons Department. Other users include private and Government hospitals, banks and petrol stations. In these places, handphone signals can disrupt sensitive equipment and wireless transactions. At present, hospitals and petrol stations bar the use of handphones in their premises. However, few bother to follow the rule. Yesterday, the MCMC issued a stern warning and ordered the jammers to be removed or action would be taken against the users. A source said the commission's study found that the Sungai Buloh Prison was among the users. "The usage of such equipment to disrupt totally the communications and activity of the cellular telephones is against the Government's intention to ensure free and easy access to the communication network," said a commission spokesman in a statement. He said they are concerned that such devices will be used for criminal purposes, thus endangering the security and safety of individuals and society. "Such devices can interfere with emergency services communications networks such as the ambulance service and the Fire and Rescue Services Department." The spokesman said the use of equipment to hinder cellular network operations and inter-operatability of other network is illegal under Section 182 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998. "We will act against those violating the act." Offenders jamming the cellular network frequency in their premises can be fined a maximum of RM500,000 or jailed a maximum of five years, or both. He said it is also an offence to distribute, sell or possess such equipment. "Anyone caught contravening Regulation 16 of the technical standards of the same Act can be fined up to RM100,000 or jailed for a maximum of six months, or both. Australia, Hong Kong and the United States also have similar laws to prevent the use of such jammers. Device not available at local shops The cellular call immobiliser or jammer is not new in the market. It has been around since 1998 and is imported mainly from Israel and South Korea. The equipment, priced from US$500 (RM1,900) upwards, can block signals in a room or an entire building. It looks like a cordless phone base, sends out a low-power, encoded radio signal or modulated radio wave. Jammers work in one of two ways. Some devices set their signal to the same frequency as pagers and mobile phones, cutting off communications between handsets and base stations. Others work as electronic filters that fool mobile phones into thinking there are no frequencies available to make or receive calls. Manufacturers of the devices said the jamming only affects the designated area and works only on cellular transmissions. A handful of companies make jammers, including Israel-baesd NetLine, UK-based Special Electronic Security Products, Taiwan-based Hubgiant, India-based Uptron, and the Intelligence Support Group, based in China Lake, California. The latter company says it only sells the devices for export and to select US military groups and law enforcement agencies with special exemptions from the Federal Communications Commission. Except for Israel and Japan, cellphone jammers are illegal in most developed countries, including the United States, Britain, Canada, Switzerland and Australia. The Malay Mail checked several electronic goods outlets in Jalan Pasar, Pudu, yesterday but could not buy the device. Some of the shop-owners knew nothing about the device, while those who did said they did not sell them. However, one of the shop-owners said: "We have heard of the devices being sold underground in the Klang Valley. They are also available via the Internet.
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