SIM-less GSM communications set to end SIM card theft and fraud

The recent theft of SIM cards from remote monitoring devices in Johannesburg’s traffic lights cost the city over R8m – but new SIM-less communications technology is set to close off this particular avenue for crime.

“SIM card theft has been a problem for years,” says Rean van Niekerk, MD of cellular technology and communications integration company Metacom. “Many utilities, municipalities and companies around the world use the GSM networks and SMS messaging technology to monitor and control remote devices. There are SIM cards in everything from water meters to traffic lights to ATMs and electrical substations.”

Unfortunately, continues Van Niekerk, “a SIM card is as good as cash and an irresistible target for thieves. Cracking the security on a SIM card is trivial – and once you’ve done it you can make thousands of rands an hour selling stolen airtime.”

Metacom often indemnifies its clients against the costs arising from these thefts, says Van Niekerk, but adds: “The cost is not just financial. These systems wouldn’t have SIM cards in them in the first place if the ability to communicate with or monitor them in real time wasn’t important. Our clients can’t afford to lose business-critical communications, often to the detriment of entire communities.”

The solution, Van Niekerk says, is to get rid of the SIM card entirely. “New technology has been developed which makes it possible to build the SIM functionality directly into the circuitry of our devices. This makes a huge difference: with no SIM card, there is nothing to steal.“

Metacom has completed its testing of SIM-less GSM modems and routers and has already put the new technology into production, says Van Niekerk. “Our strategy has always been to bring the most innovative technology to market first, and in this case the benefit to both our customers and ourselves is huge. We believe this will go a long way towards eliminating device tampering and SIM theft.”

Metacom’s new SIM-less GSM modems and routers are just the latest in a long list of security measures. “We have developed major computer systems that connect directly into the cellular network providers’ servers every hour and download usage data. This means we can stop fraud very quickly – but a lot of money can be stolen in that hour, let alone the cost of replacing or repairing damaged communication devices.”

Metacom also has the ability to tailor SIM packages to provide both optimal use of the service and minimal opportunity for fraudsters. “We can, for example, disable the sending or receiving of SMS messages on our SIM packages. That’s especially useful for stopping fraudulent content subscriptions, among other things.”

“We have multiple layers of protection for our customers,” concludes Van Niekerk. “Our new SIM-less devices are just the latest of many interventions, and we will continue to scour the technology landscape for new ways to prevent fraud.”

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SIM-less GSM communications set to end SIM card theft and fraud