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Telcos ignore security alert in mad rush for profits

Despite repeated warnings from security agencies, telecom companies are throwing all norms to the wind in offering pre-activated prepaid Sim cards to new subscribers without checking their credentials.

Sanjay Singh | March 3, 2012 | Updated 08:06 IST

Trying to beat competition, telecom companies , despite repeated warnings from security agencies, are throwing all norms to the wind in offering pre-activated prepaid Sim cards to new subscribers without checking their credentials.

Security agencies have issued letters to operators informing them about the extensive use of pre-paid mobile numbers by anti-national elements and terrorist groups active across the country. There has been a large-scale use of pre-paid mobile phones even by terror networks in Naxal-affected areas outside the disturbed states of Jammu and Kashmir and Northeast.

Poor checking of the subscriber's credentials has helped these groups to strengthen their activities, said a top official with telecom ministry. "You can go to any mobile recharge outlet and get a pre-activated pre-paid Sim.

I got a Sim of Bharti Airtel recently. The shopkeeper asked for a photocopy of my identity proof and did not cross-check it with the original one. There is every chance that the photocopy of the ID provided by subscribers could be fake," said Asim Manchanda, a Delhi-based executive.

 Wrong signal

  • Extensive use of pre-paid mobile numbers by anti-national elements and terrorist groups active across the country
  • Poor checking of the subscriber's credentials has helped terror groups to strengthen their activities
  • There is every chance that the operator will not get to know the true credentials of its new subscriber
  • Security agencies had sent letters to telecom companies warning them of the misuse of pre-paid connections by terror networks

Operators deactivate the Sim, in case, they find something wrong in the credentials submitted by the subscriber but only after two-three days. There is every chance that the operator will not get to know the real credentials of its new subscriber due to lack of proper check done for post-paid customers.

Post-paid subscribers account for less than five per cent of total mobile subscriber base of 92 crore. The pre-paid customer section is vulnerable to misuse for illegal activities. "Most crime cases are solved based on mobile phone details. It is a boon as well as a curse. Operators need to ensure that connections are not misused by antisocial elements. Mobile phone companies should properly verify details of new subscribers. We have been regularly stressing the issue through regular meetings and letters we send to telecom companies. We need to have an effective mechanism where action can be taken against operators for violating norms," said a Delhi-based senior security agency official.

Operators, on their part, express helplessness. "We add almost over a million pre-paid subscribers in two-three months. It is practically impossible to verify details of every new subscriber. We do not have enough manpower," said a senior official of a leading mobile company. Pre-paid subscribers have also complained about prepaid Sims with life-time validity being given to another customer without even notifying them, nor do operators refund money in their prepaid accounts. Many operators are fleecing pre-paid customers. There is no proper verification of new customers either.

In some cases, signals emanating from Indian mobile operators are transmitted to Pakistan and China. This issue is yet to be addressed by operators. The new National Telecom Policy 2011 has given preferential treatment to local manufacturers leaving a large section of western and Chinese telecom gear-makers fuming.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) too has suggested giving preferential treatment to made-in-India products as the government fears that Chinese equipment might have spying technology embedded to intercept sensitive government communication.

Trai has floated a consultation paper for reviewing the tariff policy which could regulate mobile service and data usage service. Officials claim that this will help them track both prepaid and post-paid subscribers.

Courtesy: Mail Today 

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