Murphy's Law: Cell Phone Shutdown Stymied Again

Archives

May 1, 2010:  For the third time, Pakistan is attempting to shut down cell phones owned by anonymous users. This time, over eleven percent of 88 million SIM cards have been blocked. Last year, this effort was stymied because, in the tribal territories, dealers are not obeying new rules that required them to get positive ID from cell phones buyers. Two years ago, the government blocked the use of 10.5 million unregistered (anonymous) SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) cards for cell phones. But the bad guys figured out how to get around that.

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. 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.

Two years ago, 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. The cell phone companies also resist these government crackdowns, as it is bad for business.

 

 


Article Archive

Murphy's Law: Current 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 


X

ad
0
20

Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close