Murphy's Law: Untraceable Cell Phones Prevail


February 19, 2009: Pakistan has failed in its attempt to halt the use of anonymous cell phones. In the tribal territories, dealers are not obeying new rules that require them to get positive ID from cell phones buyers. Late last year, the government blocked the use of 10.5 million unregistered (anonymous) SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) cards for cell phones. These SIM cards are the type favored by gangsters and terrorists. In most parts of the world, you can move your cell phone service from one phone to another by simply removing the small (25x14mm) SIM "card" from one phone and inserting it in another. SIM cards can also be bought just for the minutes stored on them, and these "anonymous" SIMs are popular with gangsters, and terrorists. Police have long noticed that terrorist bombs are often set off using a cell phone with an anonymous SIM card. It's not uncommon to raid a terrorist hideout and find hundreds of anonymous SIM cards.

But by the end of last year, there was already a thriving Pakistani black market in SIM cards that were registered with phony information. The Taliban and drug gangs know of their vulnerability, and cannot run their operations without these communications tools. Gangsters in other parts of the world have developed ways to lessen SIM card vulnerability, and the terrorists are learning as fast as they can. In the meantime, it's getting them killed or captured when they use easily identifiable SIM cards.

It was believed that, with anonymous cards more difficult to get, it would be easier to track down bombs that use cell phones for detonation. But Pakistan is a very corrupt place, and merchants were able to circumvent the new regulations by simply bribing any police who came by to check SIM card registration.





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