What is IMEI?
IMEI stands for International Mobile Equipment Identity. It is a unique identifier, or serial number, which is linked to a smartphone (and mobile phones). It is usually 15 digits long and allows devices to be tracked and located should they be stolen or used in criminal activity.
In other words, an IMEI number can let one’s device be tracked and traced back to its origin (location or device owner), which can be bad for one’s privacy.
Purpose of Changing IMEI of a device
While cybercriminals and hackers tamper with IMEIs for unethical purposes (e.g. scams, to evade criminal investigation and arrest, and for purposes like burner phones used in crimes), this post describes ways in which the IMEI number in Android devices can be changed for legitimate reasons, which can be particularly useful for reasons, such as:
- Mobile penetration tests to generate a dummy IMEI value for testing devices
- Maintaining anonymity, which is essential for certain high-risk individuals like whistleblowers and news reporters
- Privacy activists, who don’t like to be tracked by government and spy agencies
- People conscious about their privacy and being tracked
- Getting around IMEI blacklists to have a new clean IMEI for the device.
Often, this also needs to be done for other perfectly legitimate purposes like,
- In case someone buys a pre-owned device from eBay and for some reason, the IMEI was blocked or, blacklisted by the provider
- If, due to any reason, the IMEI belonging to that device was blacklisted by the network provider - this serves as the easiest and most effective workaround, before reaching out to the network provider for more clarification and resolution
Ideally, IMEI blacklists should, in general, be checked through 3rd party services before purchasing used devices for this reason.
Also, in certain exceptional cases like,
- When the IMEI number was exposed previously through a malicious mobile application (Android malware), which was able to identify the device and link it to the owner’s identity. Changing the physical IMEI number of such devices could help secure their device, to some extent, from further attacks from such malware.
How to locate the IMEI number of any device.
Locating the IMEI of any device is easy. The IMEI number is usually mentioned on the,
- Body of the device itself, on its back, in the form of a small label
- Sticker on the box, in the form of a label in the original manufacturer box (or packaging) of the device,
- If any of the above aren’t available, it's usually retrievable by dialing or, entering *#06# in the Phone app, or, calling app.
Image: Finding IMEI number of any device
This is how one can know the IMEI number of their device. There are of course more ways to know it, but these being the easiest and simplest to follow.
Using Xposed Framework to Change the IMEI number
The Xposed Framework is a popular tool kit for hacking Android devices. It also includes various useful features, one of them is IMEI changing. So, one needs to install the Xposed framework on their device first. This can be done easily by following their official guide, which is out of the scope of this article. The Xposed Framework needs a rooted device, so the reader is advised to install it from Xposed’s official channels so that the Installer can run on the device and make necessary modifications.
Installation with the Xposed Installer App
The Xposed Framework needs to be installed with the Xposed Framework installer app and needs a rooted device, to begin with.
After installation, it shows a green tick mark, saying it’s Active, as shown in the adjacent screenshot.
Image: The Xposed Framework Installer App
Downloading IMEI Changer Pro Xposed Module
Image: Xposed Installer module download and installation
One needs to download an additional Xposed module that is, IMEI Changer Pro from the Download section in the Xposed Installer app.
In the Download section, as shown in the adjacent picture, one can search for, download, and install modules.
Installing and Activating the IMEI Changer Pro Xposed Module
After Downloading the IMEI Changer Pro module, one needs to go to the Modules section of the app (by clicking on Modules from the sidebar) and click on the IMEI Changer Pro option if it’s not already selected.
Image: Xposed IMEI Changer Pro module installation
Doing so will enable this Xposed Module.
Reboot the device
The next step is to go to the main menu of the Xposed Installer app and perform a reboot, as shown by clicking on the three dots in the top right.
Doing so will complete the installation of the IMEI Changer Pro module.
Open the IMEI Changer Pro App
After the reboot, if the installation was successful, the IMEI Changer Pro app appears in the apps menu. From here, the app allows a user change or randomize the IMEI of the device after each reboot (effectively changing the IMEI of the device each time it restarts).
Thus, the device is now untraceable, with changing IMEI numbers!
To verify the change, go through the same steps in the Locating IMEI number, to find the changed IMEI number (i.e. dialing *#06# to see the changed IMEI number).
Watch the video tutorial here: https://youtu.be/Z5PKVG2f8gg