Biometric SIM Card – An Emerging Trend of Biometrics

The more mobile marketplace continues to grow, the more it becomes the target attack for illegal identity thieves. According to a survey of telecommunications fraud and security experts, global fraud loss in the industry for 2013 is $46.3 billion, a 15% rise from 2011. The primary reason for the increase was fraudulent activity targeting the wireless industry through new ways of stealing identities, devices and network access. Biometric subscriber identity module (SIM) registration which is described as a process of identifying the personal information of a subscriber by using their biometric characteristics has been recent Governments’ efforts in fighting crimes and curb possible terrorist attacks.

Biometric SIM card - an emerging trend of biometrics

Mandatory registration for prepaid SIM card users emerged after the introduction in Brazil, Germany and Switzerland in 2003. Since then, an increasing number of governments have introduced mandatory registration requirements prohibiting mobile operators from selling or activating prepaid SIM cards unless the purchaser presents a proof of identity and registers the SIM in their real name. Each civilian who purchases a SIM card is required to register through the major telecom providers to avoid having a third party obtain the card in order to commit a crime. Governments believe that the lack of any registration of prepaid SIM users is linked to a greater risk of criminal or terrorist activities; and by mandating the SIM card registration requirement, criminal activities will be reduced. Moreover, in order to strengthen the registration process security, more and more telecom authorities are adopting the biometric recognition. Biometrics which is known as person measurements is at the forefront of many authentication solutions for government, financial, enterprise organizations due to the fact that biometric attributes are unique and hard to be forged. With just a simple check, an operator can determine in less than 10 seconds if a person matches the presented identity. In essence, it helps preventing fraud before it happens during an account applicant’s or purchaser’s identity verification process. In addition, biometric-enhanced authentication system also brings out benefits such as: operational efficiencies, lower fraud rates and reduced charge-offs.

In one of the “world’s largest and fastest efforts” to collect biometric information as stated by Washington Post, Pakistan has ordered cellphone users to verify their identities through biometrics for a national database being compiled to curb terrorism which is prompted by concerns about the growing of illegal and untraceable SIM cards. In December 2014, Taliban militants killed 150 students and teachers at a school, officials said the six terrorists who stormed the school in Peshawar were using cellphones registered to one woman who had no obvious connection to the attackers. “SIM is not a primary source of crime but a useful tool for investigation,” said Aslam Hayat, corporate affairs VP at Pakistani mobile service phone provider Telenor. Almost 27.5 million over 103 million active SIM cards (26%) have been blocked due the absence of authorized information. After the implementation, several crimes carried out by the police were discovered through registered SIM cards.

Biometrics has proved to be an effective and optimal choice in the SIM card management. As many crimes triggered by mobile phones threatening the nation security, an increasing number of Governments has urged to look for a more secure and convenient way to monitor those. In the future, there will be more and more countries realize the advantages of biometrics and adopt its use in the telecommunication to reduce mobile phone related crime such as money laundering, cyber terrorism, and prank calls.